Strangely enough, I don’t hear this question very often. I hear a lot of “oh, you’re a teacher? That’s awesome! (Awkward silence),” and “oh I could never do that, you are a special person…” Not sure what that says about the profession.
Responding to this question is difficult. It’s not because I don’t love teaching, but I think this says something about me as a person and a professional—I don’t celebrate what I “love” very much, and I don’t think about what I “love” concerning teaching very much. That’s not to say I don’t come home and report back to my husband the good (and bad) things that happened during the day, but I have never pin-pointed what I love about teaching. Weird, right?
So instead of picking what I love most, I’m going to list what I do love:
1. The adrenaline. For the first two years, that adrenaline came from the challenge of engaging a seemingly unengageable student, all the while managing a fight that is about to break out on the other side of the room. Each day was like a strategy game, played out in real life: How many students can I get engaged today? I saw many students’ lives literally saved by becoming connected to our school. I see it in my current position too. I don’t think you can get a rush like that anywhere else.
2. The relationships. Teaching builds relationships with students and staff. With staff, there is a solidarity that exists because you all know the struggle, and you are all, to (shamefully) quote High School Musical, “in this together.” The team mindset has totally changed my preconceptions of teaching, starting with a fantastic cohort from college that still stays in touch on our Facebook page, to my current team of teachers who are there for each other when we need help and feedback. With the students, however, is where I feel most impactful. It is pretty awesome (and scary) to see how much influence I have on them, and vice versa. Between the ‘ah-ha!’ moments and the come-to-Jesus talks (figurative well-known phrase in teacher world), developing that student/teacher relationship is probably my best skill at this moment in my career—and I’m OK with that.
3. I wouldn’t be an English teacher if I didn’t say it: the lit-tra-chuh. Teaching the power of stories and the power of writing is challenging work. I have a long way to go to become excellent at this, but let me tell you: sitting outside reading King Lear in the Colorado sun, cracking up with my students at their unimpassioned reading of death scenes (“Oh I am slain!”), seeing their anger at characters, and watching thinking brains: it doesn’t get much better than that.