If there is extra time at the end of a workshop, I will take some questions. Last night, a young lady raised her hand and asked, “Why do you do what you do?” No one had ever asked me that, and frankly, it had me stumped. My first inclination was to answer with the standard and safe answer: “I do it for the children.” But anyone who has been to one of my workshops knows that I am anything but standard and safe. So I answered her question with the truth, as uncomfortable as it may be. I told her that "I teach for me."
And as long as we’re at it, I should tell you that kids are not why I became a teacher. I didn’t do it to change the world or shape the future, or any of that tree-hugging liberal stuff. Like I said, I don’t teach for the children. So why do I teach?
I do it for selfish reasons; I teach for me!
I know this doesn’t make for an emotive or evocative ad campaign. It also isn’t likely to be the banner headline on the American Educators’ Association convention, although I think it should be. I would also suspect that you aren’t likely to find “I teach for me!” greeting cards or bumper stickers during Teacher Appreciation Week. But for me, it is my truth.
Teachers are one of the few professional groups that have turned going to work into a badge of honor. Some walk the halls of our schools and the aisles of our community grocery stores carrying the weight of self-imposed martyrdom. They act as if their jobs and their professional lives are such a burden, but as martyrs, they willingly carry it so that others’ loads may be lighter.
Not me! I enjoy teaching. I enjoy going to work in a place where I am challenged on a creative and an analytical level. I like being in a place where I have control and can see the fruits of my labor. I like working with young, energetic people who like to laugh. I like teenagers. I like being the decision-maker and the person who gets to make the call. I enjoy the fact that I work with kids and adults, and yes, if I am to be completely honest, my ego doesn’t exactly mind being the center of attention for four hours a day.
For you it may be different. For you it may be “all about the kids.” But for me, it’s not.
Call me a selfish pig. Call me a jackass! Call me immature! Call me what you want, but I teach because I like to giggle. I teach because I get to do what I want, when I want and how I want to do it. I teach because I get a “do over” every time I walk into a room. I teach because I get to avoid spending large amounts of time with grumpy grownups. I teach because I hate Excel spreadsheets and terms like “360-degree analysis”. I teach because I dislike memos and the some of the people who write them. I teach because my cubicle is 10,000 square feet and I get a standing ovation more often than not. I teach for a paycheck, health insurance, and retirement. I teach for me!
Why is it so hard to admit that? Why do educators go to such great pains to paint themselves and this profession in a light that is less than flattering? Why are we so embarrassed to say that we chose our profession because it brings us joy AND it just so happens to serve a greater calling?
I am not ashamed that I’m happy. I am not embarrassed that I like my job. I am not a martyr and you need not pity me. I chose this work and I enjoy it. I’m happy, and your pity would be better spent on someone who doesn’t get to do what they want to do and that's not me.
I teach because I enjoy it. I teach because it’s what I want to do. I teach because it makes me feel good. I recognize that the byproduct is that I do it for children, but I do it for of me.
I teach for me.
Anyone want to buy that bumper sticker?
Have a great week and stay warm!