To best explain why I teach, I need to go back to the beginning …
As I sat in front of the TV in the early 1990s, it was clear to my young mind that school was going to be incredible. Fun, games, play time, friends, and so much more awaited me behind the tan colored doors of my local elementary school. When it was finally my time, I waited on a chair, at the end of my driveway, for nearly 25 minutes for the bus to take me to paradise. I arrived and was met by many different children and teachers. Upon entering my classroom, it was immediately time to play as I dove my hands into the water table and began to explore with my new friends. School was a joy; little did I know that joy was going to decline, and decline significantly.
I began to grow frustrated with the education system, as I progressed through school, getting older and supposedly wiser. There was less emphasis on fun and movement, and more on sit down and be quiet. My voice seemed silent in my classrooms despite the fact that it was, in fact, quite loud. The further I went along, the more I grew to dislike school. I only achieved well because I knew my parents held high expectations for me so I did not want to disappoint them. While I was not in school, I needed an outlet for my pent up energy and that is where sports became my passion. There was just something about having fun and working with different people that resonated with me, like my early years in class.
I believed I was destined for a career as a pro athlete, but in October of 2008 when I tore my ACL. Scouts decided to stay home and the letters never came. The dream of Pro athlete stardom had vanished and now, only 8 months to graduation, I needed to come up with a new plan.
Through the advice of a respected teacher, I began to connect the dots and shaped my new career path. I was going to become a teacher! Even more so, I was going to change how students viewed education. I wanted them to view education exactly as the day they arrived in the system, as a fun and engaging environment. I thought it would be relatively easy to achieve this. Until my first practicum host teacher said, “You are going to fail as a teacher…”
Why? Was I too unprofessional or chronically late? Did I assess poorly or not care about my students?
No, I was having “too much fun in the classroom”.
I had a choice at this point, to give up on my goal of reshaping education or to push forward with it. Now, for those of you who do not know me, telling me I cannot do something is not the best deterrent – it is a motivator! Those words, which still echo is my head today, only added further fuel to the proverbial fire. This “mentor” was the epitome of why I believed schools needed change.
I believe every teacher should have to teach at least one year in an elementary class, because it will really open your eyes to the excitement and love of education in children that is normally lost later in life. Schools recognize, and even cater, to this by infusing a lot of play, imagination, and creativity in early grades. Sadly, and this is where my main goals arose from, as schools beyond the early years subsequently begin to remove the lessons focused on creativity and shift, rather suddenly, to educate for the standardized test scores. This leads me to the big question – why do I teach?
I teach because I believe the system is both archaic and broken. Education should be about fun because when you are having fun, contrary to popular belief, you are in fact learning and engaged. Fun and play are innate in us! I want to re-engage our youth by infusing play back into our education system! Less sit down, listen, be quiet, do this worksheet, and more get up, get moving, get exploring, and get thinking.
I teach because I believe, although some argue it is not measurable, that education destroys creativity and promotes a system of like-minded thinkers. Looking at the problems we face in the world today, we do not need more like-minded thinkers, but out of the box, boundary pushing thinkers. Thinkers who look at problems through a lens we have not discovered yet. Not simply matching column A to B but trying to find that hidden column C that is out there. We need show students that their creativity is not only valued, but encouraged! We must grow and foster a sense of pride and meaning in the school system.
I teach because I believe there is too much emphasis on grades when, in reality, they do not tell the whole story. I want to show students that I see them more than just a numeral or letter based grade that sits beside their name on the report card or grade book. I want them to know that I understand them and that I will be there for them to help them become the person they dream they can be. I want my students to know I recognize their struggles and will help them through it.
So why do I teach? I teach because I know the system needs to be changed and our students need a voice. I teach because I was once a student and will forever be a student.
This piece is part of a series from Inservice entitled, ‘Why I Teach’, where we asked teachers from various backgrounds and years of experience to reflect on their why. Check back every day this week to read from other teachers as they write about why they’re a teacher.