What does it mean to be a teacher? To me it means everything. If I would have known three years ago, that giving up my fourteen year career as a social studies teacher would mean three years of trying to find another teaching position, I would never have given it up. To be a teacher means that my life is complete, it means that I am doing what I was born to do, it means that I matter. Teaching goes well beyond the classroom walls. When I am not actively engaged with students, I am still thinking about my students and their learning. Lots of people see teaching as a cushy job, you get all major holidays off and two months off in the summer with a decent paycheck and benefits.
If you are only thinking of all the time off, the pay check, and the benefits, then you will not make it as a teacher. See, teaching is a 24/7, 365 profession. I know this from personal experience. Not a day goes by that I am not thinking about teaching, technology in education, teacher professional development, what’s best for learners in our ever-changing digital world, how can I better convince administrators that I am the best prepared, most passionate teacher they could ever desire. I wonder what my students will be like if I ever get hired again. I think about ways that I can utilize their natural curiosity and their passions to make learning authentic and let students know that they matter, that they can make a difference in the world right now.
Teaching is not for the faint of heart because a teacher can literally go through the whole spectrum of emotions in an entire day. Kids do not just drop their personal lives at the classroom door and become consumers of knowledge. Even with their own emotions and those of 25+ students, a teacher has to put the needs of the students first. I may need more support in my classroom, or be upset that I cannot attend a particular technology conference, or dealing with personal relationship issues, but that all needs to be put aside for the good of those precious students.
A teacher does more than just teach a particular subject like social studies, or math. A teacher really has to be a specialist as well as a generalist. No, we can’t know it all, but we do need to be familiar with a lot. A teacher needs to be a guide to students. We need to guide students to ask the proper questions and not be so concerned with the one right answer. I was texting with my thirteen year old daughter during lunch a couple days ago. She was home with strep throat for the second time in a month. I would ask questions and she would continually reply with one word answers. I finally started asking the right questions and got paragraphs about the new book she was reading. It was like pulling teeth, but the payoff was worth it. A teacher has to be able to hang in there with students until they can get them hooked into learning.
Teachers need to be able to differentiate instruction, provide quality lessons, and allow for student choice in matters of research and assessment. A teacher needs to be able to handle challenging students and to challenge students all at the same time. No one knows what the world will be like when our students graduate from high school or college so teachers need to make sure that they keep up with changes in technology as well as changes in the workforce. This means that a teacher needs to become accustomed to change and not get set in their ways. Being flexible and adaptable must be a part of a teachers repertoire, because students will need to learn these same skills.
Being a teacher is so much more involved than just the physical act of teaching. Being a teacher means being involved as a learner. Being a teacher means being a life-long learner and a curious soul. We need to serve as models for our students and if a teacher is not continually learning and adapting then they cannot expect the students to just acquire those skills.
Teaching is a lifestyle. When I became a teacher I wanted to have an impact on kids lives, I wanted them to love history as much as I did. After 14 years of teaching I have learned that I can be an expert in history but that isn’t going to make my students love history. I now want my students to love learning and be able to select proper ways to locate the information they need when they want to know it. Kids will see that I am passionate and knowledgeable about my content area and some may come to enjoy that content as well, but the best benefit of all is that they will become curious learners who will also become passionate about what they do.
I want to be a teacher so badly that I feel separated from a part of myself. I want to teach so that I can fulfill my destiny. I want to teach so that I can live my life fully and happily. All it will take for me to teach is for one, just one administrator to have faith in me and truly want what is best for the students in his or her district or school.