Earlier today I posted “The Three Biggest Issues in Education.” I stand by what I said in that post. I truly do believe that our biggest obstacle as a society now is to get back to a time where we respect what is taught as well as those who teach it. However, the entire post left a bad taste in my mouth this morning. I woke up thinking those thoughts, and I spent this morning brushing my teeth and asking myself Why Do I Teach? Why am I putting myself through this each day? I knew what it would be like, so why did I choose this course? Then classes started, and I remembered.
Every day that I wake up, I’m allowed to talk about the things I love for 8 hours straight, and I’m allowed to share those things with young minds that are just waiting to be filled with more than what they had yesterday. It’s rough sometimes, and of course there are days when I feel like I’m not making a difference or I’m not getting through to my kids. Most days, I’ll even admit that I don’t feel appreciated. Sometimes I wonder if I should have gone into business or law or a million other things I once considered. And I realize that this is completely normal. If you’re a new teacher or thinking about becoming one, don’t worry– you will have days like that. That’s okay, and it doesn’t make you a bad teacher if you question yourself. But for every day that you have that is filled with self-reflection and questions, you’ll have ten that are filled with self-reflection and questions. Not from you while you stare into the mirror first thing in the morning, but from your students. And that makes all the difference.
Today, my classes were filled with discussions and questions and new points of views. We discussed To Kill A Mockingbird and how racism has affected our country and individual lives, and how we’ve grown as a culture. We talked about Beowulf and marveled at how centuries have not been able to chisel down the core of what makes a person honorable. We talked about The Great Gatsby and discussed how love can permeate a life and mold it– for better or for worse. We read poems and figured out riddles. We told stories. Of course there were students that didn’t have their homework done and students who weren’t listening. There will always be students who don’t like you or who blame you for their own shortcomings, but they are only small islands in a sea of laughter and heated debates and frantic pencils. Every student that refuses to participate in class will break your heart, but then it will overflow when someone else gives a beautiful, feverish speech on opinions that you’ve never heard them express before. Some of your students may seem lost and confused, but others will finally begin to find themselves and you will help them do that.
Teaching is beautiful. I’ve learned more from my students every day than I think I could ever teach, and no matter how down I get about anything, somehow my students always make it better. My classroom is filled with minds so much greater than what people expect from high-schoolers. We discuss, we debate, and because of that we all grow. Every day. Even the most shy and awkward students sometimes find themselves in the middle of a discussion that makes them truly passionate, and it is empowering as well as daunting. But they all hit it at one point, and they move past that and set their boundaries just a little bit farther away. Their self-confidence and personal bubble grow to incorporate just a little bit more. And the entire time you get the opportunity to see something amazing and wonderful that wasn’t there a year ago. A different mind. A new opinion. A thought process that has added to the world simply by being there when none was before.
So, yeah. There are problems in the education system. You will probably never be appreciated to the extent that you should be. You may never be payed what you deserve. You may still get called horrible names and blamed for the actions (or lack thereof) of your students. But these things, as much as they hurt, are few and far between. And while they cut deep chasms into your life, I have not yet found a chasm so deep that could not be filled each day with the wonders that the rest of my students offer.