I never wanted to be a teacher. In fact I wanted to do anything but teach. As the child of lifelong, dedicated teachers, I saw my parents deal with the day-to-day challenges and the pure exhaustion of teaching. While I knew teaching was also very satisfying for them, I did not want the teaching lifestyle for myself. I thought about several other options: Could I be an artist? a psychologist? a writer? something vague but interesting and mysterious with the United Nations?
My life very literally changed one night when I was living at home after college. I had moved home to save money to travel to France, possibly to live for a year and perfect my French. My mother took me to see author Jonathan Kozol speak about education. His lecture flipped a switch in me, and as we walked out of the auditorium, I turned to my mother and told her that I knew I needed to teach after all. My mother convinced me to still go to France, which I did. But when I returned, I moved to New York and looked for teaching jobs. Without a Master’s degree, teaching certification, experience, or even one education class under my belt, I was lucky to get my first job teaching French at a private all-girls’ school in Manhattan. My strict old-school French supervisor and the Head of School took a chance on me. It was a great school to begin teaching: with small classes, few discipline issues, a lot of financial support for professional development, and some fine mentors and colleagues, I came into my own as a teacher.
We moved to Amherst after I was offered a Spanish teacher position at the local middle school. I had an average of 120 students a year, and with 2 preparations and 5 different sections, I learned to manage my time well and I hoped I was becoming the kind of teacher I wanted to be: empathetic, holding high standards, fun, and providing meaningful instruction to students.
I teach to try to be the kind of teacher I needed (and I was lucky to have some). I teach because my ELL students need someone who will advocate for them. I teach to impart my love for learning. I teach because I believe I need to get my students to think critically and to learn about social justice. I teach with the hope that my students will get excited about learning and see the value in it. I teach because I love the subjects I teach and I want my students to love them as well. I teach them to write because I know how important it is to know how to write well and I hope that it is a skill they will develop and love. I teach to show other worlds and possibilities to my student. I teach because in an era of high-stakes testing, top-down administration, and teacher-blaming, when I see the smiling faces of my students, nothing else matters.
Why do you teach?