Scholastic asked bloggers to discuss the question “why is teaching important?” Despite all the pushback TFA gets, I can safely say that everyone understands that teaching is important. No one has ever once looked down on me and said “but… why would you want to be a teacher?” For all the discussion of the lack of respect for teachers (and I don’t think they’re respected anywhere near enough as they should be), I have encountered no one who thinks teaching is an unimportant field. We all want to live in a society where people can read, write, do math, invent, think, create, and improve our world. Doing so requires the guidance of these patient, mentoring, experienced beings we call “teachers”.
Despite this agreement that good teachers are fundamental to a good society, I often get the question “but why would you want to be a teacher?”. I wasn’t an education major in college. Although I worked extensively with students in the Chicago Public Schools system and around the world, I didn’t spend much time talking about it. Thinking about the possibility of having kids someday was a recent radical departure from my previous attitudes. But to characterize a teacher as simply someone who loves kids and studies education misses a fundamental point:
Everyone is a teacher. First off, parents are (as a mentor of mine at Institute often said) “your child’s first and best teacher”. Second, everyone who interacts frequently with children – as a friend, doctor, aunt, grocer, neighbor – teaches those children certain skills and attitudes. But on a more fundamental level, most of the things we do in life involve teaching some skill or knowledge to someone else. Doctors explain to their patients how to stay or become healthy, and also play a huge role in training students and residents. Lawyers educate jurors and judges on their interpretation of the law. Businessmen spend their days correcting misconceptions about their products or searching for new avenues to create awareness.
I was going to wind up a teacher no matter what career path I entered. But I can imagine no students as rambunctious, honest, difficult, fun, or kind as the ones I taught this summer and will be teaching this year. Although we certainly had our moments of frustration, I doubt any other kind of students would literally dance into class or sneak up the white board to correct a spelling error in the notes. Everyone winds up a teacher, but few have the pleasure of students as fabulous as children.