Are the Payoffs Worth the Challenges?
Let’s be honest. In many ways teaching is more challenging than ever. It has always been a profession which demands a person accept a salary which doesn’t reflect the amount of education, dedication and preparation it requires.
However, it used to be a profession that earned the esteem of parents, community members and the public at large. That is no longer true. Today’s teachers are blamed for, and at the same time required to heal, all the country’s challenges…test scores, broken homes, illiteracy, hard economic times, school calendars, the increase in disabilities and second languages, drug dependency, unemployment, latch key children, and hunger in America. They are maligned by politicians, billionaires, and celebrities. That is the teacher’s new reality.
So Why Teach?
If you look at just the dismal numerical facts and current public opinion, it can’t be explained. However, I have been retired from full-time teaching for three school years now. I do still work with student teachers at the college level, so I am in and out of schools all throughout the school year. I feel so “at home” whenever I’m in a school building. Each one has its own unique personality. Listen to some things I am experiencing right now.
Yesterday I was invited to the wedding shower of a college grad whom I had taught in high school. Four years after she left my classroom I am still important in her life. She turns to me for advice with frequency. She values the role I have played in her life and the opinions I have. She tells me so.
- Not a week passes that I don’t hear from at least a half-dozen former students. They share their successes, life milestones, and challenges with me.
- I received a beautiful thank you note this past week from a former high school student who is now a college graduate. Four years later, she thanked me again for being her teacher.
- A week ago I noticed a plastic container in a corner of my bedroom. I couldn’t remember what was inside. When I looked inside I discovered dozens of thank you notes from students. Three years ago when I first retired I decided to put thank you notes from students and their parents in a notebook. I filled a three-ring binder that was three inches thick. These (that I rediscovered in the corner of my bedroom) were the left over notes. I had run out of steam before I finished the job. I decided to finish the task. I took another two-inch binder to complete the job.
- When my former students change jobs, (and sometimes even careers) they write and ask for my advice. Many times they solicit input from me that they won’t accept from their own family members. That’s not exactly true. When they were in my classroom, we became a family.
- My retirement years may not be flush with funds, but it is a wealth of appreciation and valued relationships. I can live contentedly with that.
TEACH…To Change Lives
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