Finding the Joy in Teaching (And Keeping It)

As I settle into another year of teaching, I am reminded yet again why I am called to this profession.   I drive to work every day, before the sun crests the horizon, with a smile on my face.  My eyes may be heavy, my mind may be racing, my wallet may be light, but
I am happy with the work that I do.   When I pause to reflect on the source of that happiness, which I don’t do often since we rarely look for the causes of emotions we are content with, I find that I have to dig deep to find its source.  I eventually locate it at the
root of the educational process itself.  In my role as a teacher I reside at the nexus of invention and inspiration.  It is the idea that each day in my class I have the ability to create something to help my students to be more, to do more, to think more than they did before they entered my class.  In reality we travel this path together and I find myself inspired to push the limits of my own potential even as I demand the same from them.

I believe that there are many people who, if they gave themselves the opportunity to do so, would fall in love with teaching.  What is not to love about a profession that offers one the opportunity to better themselves while giving back to others at the same time.  But, it is the practicality of the job that tends to get in the way of its enjoyment.  The public perception of the profession and the priorities we set in our lives conspire against it as well.  Even the best teachers, who feel the calling, can get separated from this root of
inspiration.

For those of us who truly feel the calling as educators, it is rarely the work itself that leads to our feelings of discontent in the profession.  It is the framework we work in.  Working harder isn’t a problem for me.  Peek in my window at 4:00 am and see me grading papers as proof of that.  It isn’t the time demands that are a problem for me.  After a long week of work when the sun rises on Saturday morning you can be sure to see me on the beach picking up trash with the Environmental Club.  It isn’t the lack of resources, equipment or materials that are a problem for me.  I’ll write a grant, I’ll do a fundraiser, I’ll go out with bucket and net to the local pond and get the materials myself for that lab.  It isn’t accountability, standardized testing, or the constant evolution of content and theory.  So what is it?

“It,” is the expectation that we will always agree to do more for less.  There are few, if any, other professions that would expect to operate successfully with such expectations of their employees.  So this provides us with the main avenue of intervention on the educational system.  If we create a structure to allow teachers to do what they love and be rewarded in the process, then we can inspire more talented people to enter the profession and help to keep them there.

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