I recently had a heartfelt conversation with a colleague about how hard teaching can be. We talked about the current state of political affairs regarding education and how, as public school teachers, we wonder what lies ahead in the future. Part way through our conversation, I paused and had a moment of gratitude — gratitude for the work we do as educators and gratitude for the constant collaboration and growth mindset this profession forces us to have.
As teachers, we are often told that to engage our students and increase their “buy-in,” it helps to explain why they are learning something. In math we might tackle the question, “why does math matter?” We help our students understand the personal satisfaction of being able to solve a problem, or the practical importance of knowing how to figure out real life mathematical problems like, “You have a beginning balance of $150.00 in your checking account. You purchase groceries for $115 on Wednesday. How much money do you have left until your next check gets deposited on Friday?”
It is with this sense of common purpose, especially during this very politically charged time for educators and policy makers across the country, that we take a moment to reflect on why teaching matters. Here are some reasons some amazing educators I have had the pleasure of chatting with have given for the question, “why teach?”:
- “To bring equity and quality to education in our Los Angeles schools!” – Andrea Burke, teacher of 14 years in Los Angeles, CA.
- “I am an educator because I am passionate about educating all children, regardless of ability, socioeconomic status, or any other mitigating factors, because all children deserve a high quality school experience.” – Dana Graham, educator of 10 years in Oakland, CA.
- “I teach because I know it makes a difference.” – Melissa Ascencio, teacher of 16 years in Portsmouth, VA.
- “I teach because I want to help fight educational injustice and policies.” – Vanessa Donino, educator of 3 years in several cities including: Bronx, NY, Clark County, NV and currently in Oriskany, NY.
- “Every day is different, a triumph, a challenge, an accomplishment, and a chance to change the lives of children and their families.” – Elizabeth Isralowitz, special education teacher of 10+ years in Los Angeles and Riverside, CA.
- “Because I want to help enable our future to make better decisions than those from our past.” – Danielle David, teacher for 11 years currently in Fairfield, CA.
- “For the children!” – Connie Lam, teacher of 3 years in Oakland, CA.
- “I see them survive through the inherit grit that they bring every day with them to the classroom – a skill I don’t need to teach them. I see them dream and hope and love and create. I also see them fear and wonder what the future brings. These young people inspire me to be an active citizen – as the saying goes, we will never be truly free until we all share the same rights as you and me.” – Edwina Lucero, Music teacher for 13 years in the Denver Metro area.
- “It feeds your soul and grows others around you.” – Meredith Jacobs, teacher of the arts for 12 years in Plattsburgh, NY.
- “If we don’t, who will?” – Iain Lampert, High School speech and debate teacher for 7 years in Van Nuys, CA.
- “I always hope to inspire other children to teach – mainly other African American children.” – Barry Turner, teacher for 17 years in North Carolina and currently in Oakland, CA.
Why do you teach?
By Jennifer Khadir