Why I love teaching: the reasons why, crazy or not, I enjoy spending my time in a classroom surrounded by teenagers.
When I meet people for the first time and I say that I’m a teacher- that I voluntarily spend the majority of my waking hours in the presence of teenagers- I often get the same reaction: “I could never be around immature teenagers all day.” My response is always something like, ‘Immature people are everywhere. Some of the most immature people I’ve ever met were my coworkers and (adult) customers during the three years I spent in banking. At least with education, the students are expected to be immature. Their hormones are raging, their brains are still developing; they have an excuse for their behavior.”
While that answer is true, it isn’t even a drop in the bucket of reasons why I love what I do. The full answer is much more complex, and would take much more time than a brief introduction allows for. In fact, there are so many reasons I love my job that I decided to compile several of them here.
Why I Love Teaching
For the most part, my students remain unjaded and unfazed by the cruel realities of life. Some might call that naivety, but I think it’s fresh-faced optimism. These kids know hard times; they know abusive parents, they know the choice between buying groceries and paying the power bill. They know what it’s like to suffer, but they still believe there is good in the world. Often, their optimism is contagious.
As a teacher, there are few things more rewarding than witnessing a student’s genuine thirst for knowledge. I’m currently in the middle of a large unit on economics in one of my classes, and I’m constantly amazed at the thought-provoking questions my students ask. They want to know why this happened, how that event changed history, what the world would look like without this.
They really do want to learn, and they want to interact with the world around them. Sure, most high school students have at least three different photo editing apps at their fingertips at any given time, but they also have access to limitless information. They use that access because they want answers to their questions.
I have students who work 20+ hours each week. I have students who are the primary caregivers for their younger siblings. I have students who letter in three sports while maintaining honor roll grades. Grownups like to complain about how lazy “kids these days” are, and, sure, sometimes they’re right. But to make that kind of blanket statement about the entire group of teenagers is a disservice to every kid who knows what he wants and is working his butt off to get it.
It’s easy to label this generation of teenagers as self-centered. It’s easy to say they’re too concerned with perfecting their next Snapchat selfie to be worried about the world around them. But that would be a gross generalization that fails to take into account that, in a world full of ambivalent adults, these kids care.
I currently have a group of students spearheading a district-wide effort to raise money for March of Dimes. They asked to fundraise this year, but I couldn’t imagine taking on another responsibility. “We can do it,” I conceded, “but y’all have to handle everything.” They agreed instantly.
“Y’all have to speak with the principals at each school to see if they’re on board.”
“Y’all have to go into the classrooms to explain March of Dimes to the students.”
“Y’all have to make the posters and flyers at home using your own time and resources.”
These kids don’t remember a world without crowd-funding and grassroots community-led change. They truly believe they have the power to make a difference.
But I don’t say all those things. There’s never enough time, and besides, I know they wouldn’t understand. You have to live it to get it.
Looking for more posts on teaching? Check out What Public School Teachers Want Parents to Know About Education, or visit my teaching page.