Why Teaching is Inspiring
It's the end of the school year, so perhaps it's time for an ode to teaching.
In case you haven’t heard, teaching is inspiring, despite what national headlines about education might have you believe. There aren’t too many jobs out there that allow you to do intellectually stimulating work, impact young people (sometimes in life-changing ways) and make a decent living. If you need more convincing, here are five reasons why teaching is inspiring:
- It's cliché, but you really do make a difference
You won’t feel it at the end of every day, and you may not even feel it at the end of every week, but ask any working teacher, and they’ll tell you that, yeah, teachers do make a difference in kids’ lives. No, you won’t stand on a desk, recite poetry, and voila! Your students love poetry! Teachers have more influence than just academic enrichment. You will know, in subtle ways, that you’ve had an impact. You’ll know because some kids linger in your room just a little longer than other students to chat with you at your desk. You’ll know because your room is the de facto lunchroom. You’ll know because they ask for hugs every morning upon arrival. You’ll know because when they write something really cool, they smile while reading your comments. And you’ll know because, occasionally, they’ll tell you so.
- Every day brings something new
This reason may not appeal to everyone, but you’ll never be bored. While the regular routine of teaching is somewhat predictable, you never know what each day is going to bring. Hell, you never know what each minute might bring when you’re in charge of teaching a room full of ten-year-olds how to multiply polynomials while Jack is trying to balance books on his head, the secretary is calling your room to let you know that Ava needs to be dismissed early, Elizabeth is using algebraic thinking even you don’t fully understand, and your projector isn’t working.
- Kids are ridiculously funny, even when they try your patience
Even during what can feel like an epically long day, students are bound to make you smile and laugh out loud. Several years back I heard about urban obstacle course training called parkour. Like any good teacher who's always trying to keep it fresh and engaging, I had my students read an article and respond to a prompt about this trend. Not surprisingly, my students thought this was pretty cool. They responded to a prompt in writing, end of class, end of story. Or so I thought.
The next day during the five minute passing period between classes,I made a mad dash back to my room from the bathroom, walked through my door and saw one of my more squirrelly students, Andre, running on the table tops from the front of the room to the back. “What are you doing?!” I blurted in disbelief. He froze turned around looked at me in the doorway, shrugged his shoulders and said “Parkour!” as he jumped down to the carpeted floor. Maddening as this behavior might be, it was hard not find this completely hilarious.
4. Kids remember you, even if you don’t remember them
If you teach long enough, eventually, you will not remember your former students’ names when you run into them in the grocery store, on the street, at the ice cream shop and at the gym. But they remember you. I know I taught her... Sadie? Samantha? “Hey Mrs. Downey!! It’s Sarah!” Ah. Of course.
5. You get paid to learn
This reason typically goes under the radar, but it’s possibly one of the more important ones. Do you have a passion for birds and love learning more about them? You're in luck! As a progressive teacher, you get to have a room full of small ornithologists conduct research into local bird populations, have students count species from home online, and you get to learn as you go with your students. This is especially true in your first few years of teaching; you will learn far more than your students by researching and designing units of study.
Finally, a caveat: it's important to know that you will only find teaching inspiring if you are willing to be inspired by your students. If you fancy yourself a sage on the stage, and think that it's your job to transfer knowledge from your brain to their open vessels, teaching could be joyless, for both you and your students.
If you are looking to be inspired, there may be no better career than teaching.