Why?

by Jessica, 3rd grade teacher

Why?

It’s a simple word, a question, that we usually encourage our students to constantly ask. Why do you think that? Why did that character act that way? Why does that pattern exist? Why did the author make that choice?

Why?

Why do you teach?

I had a second grade teacher that changed my life forever. At the age of eight, I was given the opportunity to read to the entire class. While seemingly small, it was monumental – a day I have never forgotten. I felt empowered, as if I could really make a difference, holding that book up to 29 other eight year olds, staring back at me. From that day on, there was no question, absolutely no doubt – I was going to teach. Just watch me.

Why?

Fast forward to college. I spent more time in a classroom than out of one. Any opportunity I could get my hands on, I was around children, teaching. I learned from the best. Why? Because it was what I was made to do. Teach. It was all I had ever known.

I was so close to having my own classroom – I could see it. Bright colors, anchor charts, little sponges waiting to learn anything I could teach them. It was right there.

Why?

Fast forward again – this time to my dream school, in a small, quaint town. A principal who saw more in me than I could ever imagine and gave me a chance to finally live out my dreams. It was finally here. Everything I worked for for all those years was finally here. Finally.

Why do I teach?

When I told people I was going into elementary education, the common responses usually involved one of the following:

  • Aw
  • That should be fun
  • How cute

When I told people I was moving to North Carolina to teach third grade, the common responses usually involved one of the following:

  • Aw
  • That should be fun
  • I heard it’s beautiful there

Why?

Children are sweet. Teaching can be full of sunshines and rainbows. North Carolina is beautiful.

But teaching is so much more than that.

Why?

Teaching is full of everyday opportunities for growth – not only for my students, but for myself as well. Teaching pushes me to become a stronger, better individual on a daily basis.

Teaching is full of everyday challenges – which story to believe, which choice to make in a moment’s notice, how to squeeze in a large amount of content into a very small amount of time.

Teaching is full of excitement – seeing a concept click within a student, watching students grow academically, socially, behaviorally, and emotionally.

Teaching is full of assessments – not only those that are state/county mandated, but tests of integrity, tests of character, and tests of strength.

It excites me to find innovative, research-based techniques that will captivate my students, that will engage them in inquiry and thinking critically in order to problem solve.

It excites me to work with a team of people that think differently and yet feel the same way I do about students, about teaching, and about improving our craft.

Why do I teach?

It is a question that occurs in most teaching interviews. It is a question that many family and friends will ask. It is a question that keeps returning over and over again.

But I never thought it would be a question I would find myself returning to, over and over, throughout the years.

Yes, I have an absurd love for school supplies, for reading, and for learning.

Yes, I relate better to eight year olds than I do to most adults.

Yes, I love a great read-aloud to a class of sponges, waiting to soak up all the knowledge they can get.

But it isn’t always that simple. And so, I return to my original question:

Why?

There are days that are tough. Days that are tougher than I could have ever imagined. My integrity is tested, my character is judged, and I am often blamed for things I can neither control nor had anything to do with.

But with each tough day comes an encouraging one. A smile. A thank you from a struggling student. A grateful parent. A successful lesson. A principal and family members that could double for cheerleaders.

But it is on the toughest of days that I find myself wondering, why do I teach? Between the demands of testing and the time constraints that I can never escape, I start each day fresh. I often tell myself and my students a quote from one of my favorite children’s books, Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, on the toughest of tough days:

Today was difficult. Tomorrow will be better.

Why?

Why do I teach?

I teach so I can read to an entire class.

I teach so I can finally have my own classroom.

I teach so I can make a difference.

I teach so I can light the fire of learning.

I teach so that one day my students will be able to become independent, critical thinkers that will question the way of life, rather than just go through the motions.

The reason has changed over the years, many times.

I teach so that one day my students will feel empowered to stand up for what they believe in.

I teach so that one day my students will follow their dreams – wherever that may take them.

It is very easy to lose sight of priorities. It is very easy to lose sight of where you are going. It is way too easy to be bogged down by politics – both state wide and within your own school.

What takes true strength is to stand up for what you believe in and stick with why you teach, why you are there, and why you keep coming back day after day.

If you feel yourself slipping away from that initial spark, do something. When something did not work in a lesson, you are to reflect and make changes accordingly. The same principle applies in regards to the career and craft of teaching.

Why?

Because there are children everywhere craving knowledge, craving to be taught, and needing to learn.

So why do I teach?

I teach so that I can learn.

I teach so that I can empower curiosity.

I teach so that I can motivate.

I teach so that I can be there for my students, even when nobody else may be there for them.

I teach because I have had teachers, principals, and family that has stood by me no matter what – encouraging me to be me and to follow my own path.

Why?

Why do you teach?

Share your “Why do you teach?” story here or include your story in the comments section.

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