I probably became a teacher for the wrong reasons. I’m not a nurturer. I’m not especially patient. I’m pretty awkward and bad at impromptu conversation, so it’s often hard for me to explain how to fix something or why something is wrong if I can’t write it down. My introverted, nerdy nature makes me forget that kids are obsessed with socializing, and I often get irritated when they talk too much.
I became a teacher because I love reading and writing, and it was a good excuse to live in the world of words. I wanted to teach high school because I enjoyed being in high school, the coursework is difficult enough to stimulate my mind as I prepare lessons, and it’s exciting to see teenagers get ready to enter the adult world. I also figured summers would be a good time to do the things I really wanted to do with my life: write, have adventures, and spend time with my loved ones. I’m pretty sure that one of my education professors told my class that these weren’t good enough reasons to pursue teaching, not powerful enough to get through the days when you’re about to burnout.
I’ve gone through 3 school districts in 5 years, and I’m finally at one that is highly reputed, at a school that is selective and picks only the most passionate and dedicated teachers. I have never been around so many people who are True Teachers, who genuinely enjoy learning about learning and connecting with students, rather than just claiming to do so on their resumes and teaching philosophy essays. I’ve caught a bit of their bug, and I’ve grown as a teacher because of it. But I think, considering the True Teachers that surrounded them, my students were probably disappointed with my answers when they spontaneously asked me about my career choice last week:
Student 1: So why did you decide to become an English teacher?
True Teacher Answer: Words and stories are the key to communication and human connection. I love the chance to guide young minds to express themselves and empathize with one another.
My Answer: I love books! I love reading and I get to live it every day!
Student 2: What’s your favorite thing about teaching?
True Teacher Answer: Connecting with students and watching them grow, not just as scholars, but as individuals and citizens.
My answer: Creating activities that are fun and meaningful. I’m a creative person. I love making things.
Student 3: What’s your least favorite thing about teaching?
True Teacher Answer: No such thing.
My Answer: When I can’t make a kid stop making bad decisions.
I’m pretty sure they judged me with each response. I thought about giving them the sappy teacher answer, but I don’t like being fake with my students. Now that I’ve been teaching for a few years, I’m just going to embrace the fact that I’m not the perfect True Teacher. Unlike many of my past and present coworkers, I will never drink coffee from a mug bragging that teaching is my superpower. I know I’m too much of a grump to be everyone’s favorite teacher, although I do dearly love the few kids who understand “get” me every year. I know I’ll never get a teaching award, which is fine by me because I don’t like that kind of attention. I do know that I will always work my ass off to do the best I can for my kids, though, so I think that’s good enough.