This week’s topic: What are the things that make you proud to be a teacher
I’ve had to think about this one for a while. The question is usually phrased: what are the things that make you proud of your students? I am trained to think about learners I serve and what makes me proud of them.
Many of my fellow teacher friends had family members who were also in education. But, I did not. In fact, my mom is one of 100 cousins and none of them are in education. So, during my first year of teaching, I learned quickly that teaching was different than the other jobs – the jobs I was surrounded around when I grew up. My dad was an investor and my mom was a purchaser. They were business people.
In the business world, you shop, you bargain, you return, and you find the best. This where education is vastly different. In the business world, you can return parts if they don’t meet code or standard. In education, we cannot. No matter what a student’s circumstances are, we must educate all and we cannot return any “parts.” We are individual parts that are all necessary for the wheel to spin.
On our best days, educators are passionate. We are excited to help others learn. We want to make a difference. We are creative. We are renegades. We swear. We don’t follow a set of rules. We are cheerful. We are learners. We love our jobs. At the best, we set the world on fire. We watch the world glow.
At our worst. we are burdened by tests. We are buried in paperwork. We drink too much coffee. We gossip. We are burdened by the incessant demands rules place on us. We are downtrodden. We are broken. At our worst, we leave education behind.
I’m sure many will say it’s the students who make us proud to be educators. It is them, of course. But, it’s so much more than that. It’s also about who we are as people that make me proud. When we focus entirely on the students, we lose the uniqueness that brings us to the classroom. Focusing entirely on the students (“I do this for the kids”) can lead to burn-out. Though it sounds counter-intuitive to say “I do this for the kids,” but I don’t, it’s the truth. It’s what makes me proud.
I’m proud to be in an industry where I can be creative. Where I can be a renegade. Where I can break rules. If I focus all of my energy on students, I lose what students enjoy most: passion, creativity, care.
I’m proud to be a teacher. I’m proud to be a learner. I’m proud to be surrounded by constant growth.
So, while I don’t do it just for the kids. I benefit greatly from them. I prefer to say: I’m proud to be surrounded by kids.” Even in high school, there is optimism in students. Though they may come to class and put their head down, there is still optimism. They still have their future ahead of them (and if they don’t see it, it’s my job to guide them to that place) and there is optimism in knowing they have time to become what they want to be. They are always learning. I taught Huck Finn for five years and every year, I still learned something knew. I’m proud to be surrounded by people who challenge me.
I didn’t get into teaching because of the kids. I got into teaching because I knew students would help me. And, in turn, I would pass along the favor. Perhaps it is selfish. But, it’s what has kept me in education (now my 10th year!). It’s what makes me continually challenge education. And, it’s what makes me become better.
As the students come back over the next couple of weeks, I remember that I do this as a learner.
I am not only proud to be a teacher; I am proud to be a learner.
I’m proud to be among learners.