Why I Became and am Still a Teacher #sol18

awesomeWhy I Became and am Still a Teacher #sol18

March 25, 2018

Sunday OpEd  SK style

Today my fellow blogger and spiritual younger brother though we have never met, Darin Johnston posted the following OpEds on his twitter feedMamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Teachers.  Both posts are seriously thought provoking.  I’ll let you form you own opinion about them, but thinking like this is important.  In our challenging profession prone to hyperbole from the outside, we need to know who we are as practitioners and why we continue.   If we don’t know what we stand for, what we believe as educators, and how we see ourselves in the greater good,  it will be difficult to not be downtrodden by the myriad of trials mostly external that weigh on us in our changing field.

This prompted me to consider my own circuitous path to my current dream job.  I say that without any sarcasm.  This job is the highlight of my career.  I love it, even on its worst days.  But I’ve begun at the end.

I went to college with the plan of becoming  a human rights attorney.  I majored in Economics at the University of Illinois and until my junior year had every intention of continuing.  In that year, a series of events drew me to reconsider my trajectory.  How else could I contribute to society and the world without that plan?  Through a crazy notion of reading the entire undergraduate program catalog, a feat no one could do today,  I changed my major to child development, the cousin of early childhood education, with a speciality in special education.  Honestly,  I never looked back.

I’m not one of those people who dreamed of being a teacher since childhood or held school with her cousins or dolls.  I’m the child that was dreaming of changing the world.  I met Angela Davis when I was in elementary school.  All of my early childhood memories are rooted in community activism.

My parents didn’t want me to become a teacher.  My mom, aunt, and grandmother were nurses.  They had particular feelings about mostly feminine careers.  As early feminists,  they didn’t want those experiences for me.  I remember when Bob and I attended a cocktail party once in the late ’80’s,  another professor asked me what I did,  when I told him I was working on my masters in Child Development and Family Studies, while teaching at Head Start,  he was overtly dismissive.  Many have been.

I proceed on  from  teacher to administrator to reading teacher to literacy coach.  In that move from administrator to reading teacher,  I spent eighteen months working in an insurance company as a personal assistant to the president.  He had never really known a teacher and I had never worked in an office.  What I learned about who I was,  the transferable skills we have as educators, and what work looks like for many other people, was invaluable.  My ability to multi-task, view a problem systematically, prioritize, and problem solve were gifts I had learned from education work.  To read something quickly and synthesize, summarize, and apply were things I had learned and taught.  The experience also taught me what I knew even when I was administrator,  I am fueled by interactions with children.

So in our climate of change,  I  see evolution.  In our climate of expectations, I see a stronger application of brain theory.  In our climate of assessment,  I see the potential to think like scientist, differentiate, experiment, activate.   I see a place to continue to change the world.

So,  I am not giving up on teaching.  I had a teacher ask me to chat with her about her career arc this past week.  My advice,  just think about the next five years.  Not because I think she will want to leave, but because it’s a brave new frontier.  I told her that time in that classroom with those kiddos will teach you so much about yourself, about children in general and specific,  it will build your toolkit for whatever next step you want to take.

Will I recommend teaching to the next generation?  I would ask someone,  do you want to be on the ground floor of world changing?


Slicing daily in March as part of the Slice of Life Story Challenge. Inspired daily by the slices of my fellow bloggers.  You may be inspired at Two Writing Teachers. 

14 thoughts on “Why I Became and am Still a Teacher #sol18

  1. The past few years I’ve thought a lot about the ways teachers undermine our profession through narratives that tellrge world not to be a teacher. I think about students’ reasons for choosing education when they do choose it. The choice is often for the wrong reasons. I think about teachers who immediately start looking for gigs in education that take them out of the classroom before they’ve honed their craft. These days I think about my long career and what teaching will mean inretirement compared to others’ career paths. It ain’t a pretty picture. Still, I’m trying to help my students see all the reasons for choosing a career in teaching.

  2. Even on the worst days, I feel like I am doing important work and in a position to help make this world a better place. Like you, I started on a different path, but now I am an educator for life.

  3. I would absolutely recommend teaching to my kids if they wanted to be on the ground floor of changing the world (LOVE THAT LINE, BTW). It’s a good career. Like any career, it has its good and bad points. I think the way we view education as a career depends on the way we view the world (I.e., glass half empty or half full).

  4. Like many other commenters, I love this line: I would ask someone,  do you want to be on the ground floor of world changing?

    Teaching has always been my dream job. It still is.

  5. Yesterday I spent 3+ hours being interviewed by a former student who is in a Foundations of Education class. She asked many thought-provoking questions but the one that stuck with me was ‘why do you keep teaching?’ I looked right at her and said, ‘I make a difference.’

    I also told her that teaching is hard. There are days I am not sure I can keep going and then I remember that there is a little person counting on me to show up and love them. And I keep going.

    I want to be on the ground floor of world changing.

  6. >spiritual younger brother Will I recommend teaching to the next generation? Do you want to be on the ground floor of world changing?<
    My college daughter would say that's exactly what she's doing with her engineering work, and I can't argue that. My other daughter would laugh at me because she sees the stress we are under. She watches the papers come home and sees the computer, open all the time. They both know we love our jobs, and as I told my high school students in Washington DC, the second that I don't love coming to work will be the day I start looking for a new job. I do make a difference, but each year, it's a little bit harder to do so with everything else involved in my job.

    Yes, my opinion seems to differ than those who've commented above me, and that's ok! We all love our jobs, and love the students we teach or we wouldn't do what we do.

    Yet, we can agree to disagree about our profession as well! 🙂

    • It’s all in the place you currently stand. I think we all feel the conflict. You teach older kids. That can be different too. I don’t think your opinion differs, it just has a heavy dose of the realities you’ve faced.

  7. Loved this post and the OpEds. I think all careers are difficult to predict right now … it is a changing world for sure and this generation is on the ground floor. I agree with Darin – if you are lucky enough to love what you do that is pretty incredible! My husband and I both do and it makes such a difference in our lives.

  8. Pingback: 31 Favorite Slices: A Bonus Slice of Life #sol18 32/31 | the dirigible plum

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