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 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:
- 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.
- I am passionate about languages, literature and writing and being an English and LOTE teacher allows me to work within my interests every day.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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! 🙂