Why We Teach

From time to time, a piece of office humor entitled “You know you’re a teacher if…” circulates on the Internet. The ensuing list of indicators would make anyone wonder why on earth a person would become a teacher. For example, these highlights of the profession:

• no social life from August to June
• high susceptibility to chicken pox, colds, sore throats, and flu
• a compulsion to put grades on grocery lists, telephone messages, and junk mail

Funny…but it’s not the real story. The reason why teachers enter the profession and why they stay on is, quite simply, the kids.

• It’s the young woman whose resume landed her a full-time job–the resume you gave up your lunch period to help her compose.
• It’s the math students you’ve driven to Saturday competitions and the art students you’ve entered in contests so they can test their strengths and hone their skills.
• It’s the “struggler” who didn’t like to read, the one you stayed after school to help, who finally confessed when he finished a novel, “This is the first book I’ve ever read cover to cover.”
• It’s the girl who said, “I didn’t have any friends until I joined your club!”
• It’s the student whose lines you listened to over and over until you could recite them yourself–but the play was a success and the student was a star.
• It’s the ones you’ve stayed up all night for to chaperone at the after-prom.
• It’s the ones you’ve monitored early in the morning on “study table”–it kept them eligible for sports and it kept them in school.
• It’s the ones for whom you’ve written college recommendations and hugged when they told you the good news: “I’ve been accepted!”
• It’s the ones you’ve helped in the library when they “couldn’t find anything.”
• It’s the boy who said, “You made me work. You taught me how to study–and now I’m going to college!”
• It’s the child you agonized about on the weekends and lost sleep over at night because no one at home seemed to care.
• It’s the ones who’ve come back from to say, “You really did know what skills I’d need in sixth grade…or ninth grade…or college.”
• It’s the children for whom you’ve been a stand-in parent on Family Nights.
• It’s the ones you’ve helped with computer problems–students who weren’t even in your classes.
• It’s the ones for whom you’ve paid the field trip charge.
• It’s the ones to whom you’ve given lunch money.
• And it’s the light in their eyes and the lift in their voices when they learn how to read, or convert fractions, or understand covalence, or give a speech, or shoot a basket, or play the clarinet, or fix a car’s transmission…

Ask any educator–as I did. Stories like these are the sustaining force in our professional lives, the compensation for those skipped lunches, sleepless nights, and endless piles of paperwork.

It’s the kids. They’re the reason why we teach.

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