Those who can…teach!

A couple of days ago a respected colleague approached me.

“Melissa, I hear you went to the school where you are now teaching as a student.”

“Yes,” I responded, wondering where this was going.

“And I hear you did really well in Year 12.”

“Yes,” I said, feeling a little bashful. But there was no point in being too ย shy about it, she obviously already knew. “I was Dux.”

My colleague looked at me, puzzled. “Then why did you choose teaching?”

There it was. A question that I find troubling to hear from anyone, but particularly from educators. And it’s not the first time I have heard it, either. I know the question was not intended to be negative, but at the core of it lies an mindset that says: “You could have done anything, but you chose teaching? WHY??”

This upsets me greatly. It begs the question, do we as a profession really have such a low opinion of ourselves that we don’t understand why someone who is academically inclined would want to be an educator rather than work in a more highly esteemed, higher paid profession such as medicine or law? Teachers hold lives in their hands as well. Of course, in a different way from doctors, but lives all the same. Whilst academics do not make up 100% of schooling – there are many other factors – there remains a very sad irony to that question. There still seems to be this misconception that the tertiary entrance ranking required to enter a course is indicative of the level of intelligence needed to do that job. If I’m not mistaken in that perception, that mindset seriously needs to change!

It is my experience that teaching is a career – more than that – a vocation that draws to it a wide range of highly intelligent and compassionate people who care deeply about students both as learners and as human beings. Teaching is a huge responsibility that we need many types of people and their diverse talents and experiences to carry out.

The question reminds me of this great clip from Taylor Mali, an American teacher and slam poet:

Mali reminds us that our profession is something to take pride in and to value.

So, why did I choose teaching and why do I choose to stay in teaching? There are a number of reasons:

  1. I LOVED school. Loved it. And whilst I understand that not everybody enjoys it as much as I did, I want to help students learn to value learning and enjoy the experience.
  2. I am passionate about languages, literature and writing and being an English and LOTE teacher allows me to work within my interests every day.
  3. I was inspired by some fabulous teachers as a student, and continue to be inspired by great colleagues and mentors. I could only hope to repay that through my own teaching.
  4. Being in the classroom is rarely boring. Students can be so entertaining and every day is different In response to the question, “How was your day?” my accountant partner always offers, “It was okay. Same old, same old. Did one tax return, then another.” I, on the other hand, always seem to have a story to tell at the end of the working day.
  5. I’m not going to lie – the holidays are appealing. I do quite a bit of work during my holidays, but after a term’s worth of planning, teaching, marking, meetings, and all the highs and lows working with teenagers brings, two weeks to work to my own schedule is a very welcome break.
  6. Teaching is challenging but rewarding. Whilst it doesn’t always feel like it, teachers touch the hearts and make a difference in the lives of so many students, and their actions or words can resonate and have influence for years to come. Is there anything more powerful than that?

If you’re a teacher, what drew you to this amazing career? I’d love to hear from you! ๐Ÿ™‚

8 responses

  1. Well said, Mel. I love teaching and can’t imagine anything that I would rather do with my life. I, too, was influenced by some pretty outstanding teachers when I was at school, which made my decision to become a teacher the most logical choice. Every day is so entertaining and such a rich learning experience. I am constantly amazed and inspired by my students and what they can achieve.

    1. Thanks Laura! As frustrating as teaching can be, it is also incredibly rewarding and satisfying. Sometimes it seems to be one step forward, two steps back, but ultimately, teachers are always working to make a difference in lives! And you’re right, the students are the ultimate source of inspiration!

  2. It’s so true, teachers are absolutely amazing!! I think that what we do is incredible, and I don’t just say that because I am a teacher, but because of the amazing things I see my colleagues do!

    Teaching is a job with so much depth and the term ‘job’ just doesn’t really cut it. For me, it feels more like a calling, like I’m in the right place, doing what I’m meant to be doing! The bond we have with our students is amazing.

    I became a teacher because I too had amazing teachers (& the most amazing teaching mentor! Bless you Steve)…but also because I could combine my two passions -Art & Design (…and all things creative!) and helping people! I love it!!! It is these two things that are at the core of my teaching.

    The guy on the you tube clip is so right…the things that we can achieve in a day can be amazing and the smallest of achivements for one student can lead to big things! The amount of smiles we receive in our daily interactions can’t be measured; there’d just be way too many smiles to count!

    1. Hi Jodi. Thanks for your comment. Teaching is not just as ‘job’ as you say…it is so hard to separate self from work in our position. Actually, it’s impossible!
      Steve remains forever in the thoughts and prayers of all at the school. His absence is still felt by many students and staff whose lives he touched.

      Peace ๐Ÿ™‚

      P.S. Taylor Mali, the slam poet on the clip, has some other great ones. Do a YouTube search on him…I particularly like ‘On Girls Lending Pens’…reminds me of my own possessiveness when it comes to my stationery!

      1. Hi Mel! Oh fantastic, I’ll have to look it up! That is so true, as teaching becomes such a huge part of our lives! Speaking of, I’m still up & marking ;p

        I am so incredibly blessed to have been mentored by Steve. He was the most amazing man with such a gentle soul. Our values on teaching were so on par, especially with building positive student teacher relationships, & so I’m sure we were always destined to work together! He taught me so many amazing lessons. I have no doubt that it is still hard without him, however, I’m sure his spirit is with you all each day…& I’m sure it’s alongside me when I teach!

        Keep sharing your passion for teaching, it’s wonderful! Teachers are special people ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Samantha Phillips | Reply

    While I am a pre-service teacher, throughout my life I’ve wanted to become an early childhood/jp teacher. Unlike you I did not do too well in year 12, so had to find another way to get into my desired career. Okay I could have done better in year 12 and it would have made it easier, but circumstances in year 11 and 12 led me to not applying myself as much as I could (partly due to teachers feedback about being just like my sister, this gave me the desire not to do so well!) In saying all that if I had gotten the ter I needed to get into teaching I would nit have come down the path of special education teaching. My desire to become a teacher came from some very inspirational teacher I had throughout my school. The special Ed bit came from my friendship with a girl with down syndrome, and then other students in the schools special Ed unit.
    During my placement I continue to be amazed by things my students achieve and being able to assist them in their learning.

    1. Hi Sam. That is very much my point. TER is not indicative of one’s ability to do a job. It is about the person’s character first. As much as year 12 is focused around the TER (or ATAR now) for those who want to attend university,it is not a measure of someone’s social and emotional intelligence or their resilience. Nor is it necessarily an indicator of their academic abilities. Somebody with a high academic score could still potentially struggle as a teacher. Someone who got a middle of the range score could make a great teacher. There are many other factors.

      1. Mel is so right! An ATAR (or TER when I was in school!!) is only a small glimpse of the picture. Sure, there are so many qualities which are important & come hand-in-hand with the academic side, but a truly important part of teaching cannot be taught…& that is the ability to nurture & be heart-felt. It’s amazing to see how
        far kindness & respect can go, & it still amazes me when kids open up to me about their lives. It is then that I really know they trust & respect me, & feel safe in my classroom. Teaching isn’t just about teaching academics…we teach about life, values, morals, being a good person. I think it’s hard to really measure just how much impact a teacher has on the life of a student. Just think…look at how many students you teach over the course of a year, times this by the number of years you have been teaching…& then think of all the people with whom those students will then go on to influence in a positive way throughout their lives…that’s a pretty large domino affect!!!! ;D

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