At almost every family event, my aunt asks me the same question: “still want to teach?” As I smile and say yes, she wags her head in disappointment and adjusts her hand on her hip. Here comes the “lecture.” I keep my smile on my face as she starts the same rant of how “I’ll never find a job”, or how “the world doesn’t need more teachers.” I want to bring up the fact that only one out of her three grown children have jobs associated with their degrees, but I bite my tongue and nod my head. “You don’t want to teach,” she says loudly, right in my face. But I do want to teach, I really do.
I remember the exact moment when I decided that I wanted to become a teacher. I was sitting in my seventh grade English class learning about adverbial phrases, of all things, and thought to myself, “this is actually really cool.” I wasn’t the type of kid who was interested in solving equations in math class or the kid who got way too excited for science experiments, even if it involved setting something on fire. What interested me was learning new words, diagramming sentences, learning how to write different types of papers, and analyzing literature. I can feel some of you readers cringing already, but bear with me. As much as I loved, and I still really love all of those things, I couldn’t wait to learn new aspects of reading and writing, and when I did learn new things it just clicked with my brain. Other subjects took a long time for me to get a hold of, but this stuff I could actually get a strong grasp of, as if it came naturally. I fell in love with the content of my seventh grade English class, and that’s when I had that A-HA moment to become a teacher.
I wanted, and still want, to give my students a strong and challenging curriculum. Not many English teachers focus on the fundamentals of reading and writing, and I see the effects in college students. I see college students of all ages struggling to form a cohesive sentence, and it really disappoints me, in fact, it makes me livid. And then there’s me- someone who was given possibly the best English education that I could have ever asked for- and I am able to remember the little grammar techniques and rules to guide me in the “write” direction. I want to be able to give my students the education that they deserve- one that is so strong and challenging enough that they have to work hard to remember the little things so that those little things stick and are expanded upon in the years after they walk out of my classroom for the last time.
As important as content of a course is and how much I want to give my future students material and knowledge that will last them a very long time, I want so much more for my students. I not only want my students to learn more things about English, but I want them to learn more about themselves. I know I won’t be able to change the life of every student that sits in my class, in fact, I already know that some of my students will hate me, and that’s perfectly fine. But I want my future students to realize that I want nothing more than for them to take something from my class that can’t be taught in a textbook. I got lucky by finding my desired career path at such a young age, and I don’t necessarily need my students to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives by the time their time in my class is over, but I do hope that they learn about themselves in that crucial moment in their lives. What type of students they are, how they approach a problem or a new task, how they treat each other, how they view the world and the issues that surround them and so much more. Content is important, but to be able to change the lives of others, of young people who are open to endless possibilities, is what I strive for as a teacher.
“And that,” I tell my aunt, “is why I want to teach.”