The other day, my sixth graders were in the midst of shooting some claymation scenes -- it is painstakingly frame by frame and not the best kind of activity for 12 year olds at the end of the year with little patience and limited focus -- and yet, they were working so hard, moving their clay one small movement at a time.
One of my students, one who has struggled with writing and getting thoughts together all year, came up to me and said:
" I didn't know I could really make my own movie, with my own story, Mr. H. Thanks for showing us how to do it. This is very cool."
Why do I teach? I'm tired of the ignorance of this world.
I know that having children myself is just not an option for me (and don't ANYONE try to convince me differently), and that my contribution to this great big blue marble is to help people learn how to THINK.
I know I cannot make a difference on my own, but if people can actually THINK, then whether they agree with me or not, they'll be able to consider all options to a situation and can make the best decisions. They can also then affect more people to where THOSE people begin to think. Of course their motivation will be entirely their own, but gosh darn it! I'm so tired of travelling outside my own front porch and being faced with pure-D ignorance on so many levels.
If I can reach one kid -- I mean REALLY reach one kid -- every 2 years to leave a lasting effect, I consider myself successful. My grand experiment is yet to come to full fruition, even though preliminary results seem to be hopeful.
But that's why I teach. I put my frustrations into something positive, rather than becoming a tower-shooter to rid the world of ignorance! (that's a JOKE...honestly)
To help the kids that need it most. To work with young people that have their whole lives a head of them. To subvert the system. To work as part of an organization that is an agent of change. Did I mention to help kids? Yeah, that.
Someone has to be in charge of making this world a better place. If I couldn't be the one to change the world, then maybe I can teach someone or, better yet, a few someones to do so. I spent my school years learning about computation, how to dissect frogs, how to diagram sentences, all such useful things. I want my students to...as Ginger says, "THINK". Perhaps I can teach the youth of today how to make the world better tomorrow...to be involved, make a difference.
Plus, I just LOVE watching children "get it". I get excited when they do. After 22 years, I still love getting up in the morning, still love my job. That's worth all the money in the world.
What a great question. What does one say to such a question? I teach because .... well, uh, hmmm. I do like kids and working with them. I do like the moments when someone's eyes light up and a moment of eurika happens. I want to change the world and believe that we have an obligation to change the system as it currently stands and therefore need to be as best informed as I can be about what makes the vast majority of young people tick. I want to ensure we have a world on which I can grow old. Because it's better than being a roofer or drywaller, both of which I tried but didn't like. Because the holidays are so great and I love paying twice the going rate for all my activities. Finally, I get to meet all kinds of wonderful people and explore wonderful, new places and then, at the end of the school day, return to my house.
All these reasons are why incentives like merit pay will never work. The Business Roundtable (who constanly pushes these "solutions") would be baffled by these responses. Love kids? Change the world? A calling? How silly....
Teachers do believe that they are underpaid. But based on this study, it seems that raising teacher salaries by itself won't (and probably shouldn't) radically change who enters the field or solve the problem of staff shortages in urban schools. The pay issue overlooks incentives that are significantly more important to most teachers and would-be teachers. What teachers most want is what they believe will make them more effective in their work: smaller classes and much stronger support from administrators and parents.
Merit pay (or higher salaries) might change who enters (or exits) the teaching field. For while many teachers make do, I've come across enough talented people with a few kids of their who can't/can no longer make do on a teacher's salary and have to do something else. They would like to stay, but they have a responsibility to their family and low pay really affects their job choice.
I teach for the paid holidays and three months off every year, I teach to so I can continue to go to school myself for the next 25 years, I teach so I can daily argue with adolescent teens, I teach so I can sit through glorious faculty meetings that last for hours.... That was fun! I teach because I love math, I love the aha look, I love to challenge students, to push them to brink of mental exhaustion only for them to see their true potential.
Michael: I applaud you for being honest in your answer. Teachers have an incredible life style that is not afforded in other fields. That said, if you go into teaching just for the time off you'll be a miserable person and burn out quickly. If you can't find the joy in your classroom then you don't belong because it can be a long day. In my class time flies. I ultimately teach because I love working with children, computers and also enjoy the life style the profession provides me.