Reasons to be teaching

The two most important days in your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out why. - Mark Twain.

Discovering that above all other things, you want to be a teacher, is one thing.

Seeing that long and sometimes tortuous journey through to its conclusion is another.

When my graduands leave university each year, they embark on a career that will be highly rewarding, but also physically, emotionally and intellectually challenging. They are full of energy, creativity and vision. Within a short time, many have become deflated. At the start of the year, it is more evident than ever. As the schools reopen after the festivities, many teachers drag themselves out of their homes and make their way reluctantly in the cold and dark, back to the classroom, knowing that another hard term is ahead. It will be a term filled with preparation and paperwork - lesson plans, resources, reports, assessment, attendance records, letters to parents, risk assessments, possibly even an Ofsted visit (school inspection) - and all the other seemingly peripheral work that accompanies the actual teaching of children. It will be a tiring time, keeping up the momentum, finding the extra energy required to keep children engaged for so many hours each day.

It is easy to forget the initial zeal when you are weary, stressed and knee-deep in behaviour management issues, shortage of resources and time, and a classroom full of children who are not fully on task. It is then that many teachers question their presence in a school, and wonder if some other profession might have been easier, or less taxing.

And yet, at this time of the year, when reserves are low, and the festive holidays are now just a fading memory, the time is right to reflect on what it actually means to be a teacher. Being an educator of children is one of the most noble callings anyone could answer. Choosing to educate means being a professional learner. How you learn often reflects how you teach. If you select the most appropriate pedagogical approaches, you portray learning at its best. Children learn to learn, and this provides them with the chance to make a lifetime of independence, resilience and success.

How you behave while in view of the children teaches them something else. Your demeanour conveys to them how they might also behave in similar situations, later in their lives (Lunenburg et al, 2007). Like it or not, a child's teacher is her role model, who she will either studiously copy, or deliberately avoid, depending on the teacher. Most importantly, teachers can inspire children to achieve far beyond what they might be capable of achieving on their own. The best teachers spur children on to do their best, or even to excel in their learning. Children who are inspired and motivated are often more creative and imaginative in their work (Jeffrey, 2008).

So, if you ever doubt why you are a teacher, stop and think. Remember your initial calling - that moment you discovered why you were really meant to be here. Think of those special moments when children show you how they have learnt something new. Consider the excitement when they are in the zone and nothing else matters but what they are learning. And then think about the part you played in that achievement. Then you will know.

I wish you a very successful new year of learning and teaching.

Jeffrey, S. (2008) Creativity Revealed. Kingston, NY: Creative Crayon
Lunenburg, M., Korthagen, F. and Swennen, A. (2007) The teacher as a role model. Teaching and Teacher Education 23, 586-601.

Photo from Public Domain Pictures

Creative Commons License
Reasons to be teaching by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


Kevin said…
I like to think of "that moment" as the "bounce and tell". When students make the connection, when the light comes on and they show you they understand, can apply, can extrapolate and can challenge it provides so much energy. It is this energy that makes you bounce out of the room and tell others (if you still have a staff room that is).

Great piece and written from the heart.
Steve Wheeler said…
Agreed, Kevin. I love seeing the 'aha!' moment when a student gets it. It makes all the difference to the day and certainly energises me.
Jon Temple said…
Seeing a child progress during the year is rewarding. Always think back to what they knew at the start of the year and what they know now as that will be satisfying to know how much your input has helped children progress.

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