There’s more to teaching than you may think.
If you ask any teacher why they got into teaching, some may find that question difficult to answer. They might not even be able to answer within the first five or ten seconds. There’s more to that question than you think.
After you ask, they’d most probably get into a trance and watch a trailer of their lives from the very first class they taught, their worst day in a class, that unbelievable student, and those priceless moments when students share their stories about where they’ve gone in their careers, let alone, their lives. Even after seeing all that, the answer to your question may still not be what you expected.
I have been teaching for about ten years now and sometimes I’d ask myself why I began in the first place. I’ve taught in pre-school, grade school, junior high, senior high, cadets at a military academy, college students at a university, and professionals who want to start a life oversees. I never intended to teach and didn’t expect it at all.
It isn’t an easy profession — sleepless nights, endless paperwork, thinking of your students half of the day almost everyday, thinking of how to creatively survive the day feeling satisfied that you pulled off that strategy rather nicely, and other nitty-gritty amusing details that are better left unsaid… the list goes on. But I have come to love teaching mainly because of those who sit at their desks. Being part of their lives, however small and momentary, is my reward.
The reality is teaching is not a job. It is a way of life. A teacher can’t help but teach and those whom they have “taught” are ten times more inspired to learn. The infinitive “to learn” is the very reason why I teach and why I have fallen in love with it and all it stands for. What renowned musician Phil Collins said is right,
“In learning, you will teach, and in teaching, you will learn.”
Being a lifelong learner is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because you become wiser than you were five months ago after acquiring new knowledge or learning a new skill by study, experience, or by teaching itself. This feeling of knowing fuels you to keep sharing what you’ve learned to the students in the classroom.
It is a curse because you will never be satisfied with what you know. You end up being even more voracious for things unknown to you. This constant discomfort may lead to perfectionism which affects how you teach. You begin to set impossibly high standards that can affect how students perceive learning and how they perceive you as a teacher.
Striking the balance to those opposites is an art. It also spells the difference between being an inspiring teacher and a mediocre teacher. (I’d even add being an “impossible” teacher to that list.) I have been all three at certain phases in my career. There are days when I’d feel like a rockstar and there are other days when I’d want to throw in the towel. But, at the end of the day, I’d always ask myself, “How can I do better?” So, the next day, I’m at it again, over and over, until years have passed.
If you are at a point where you are considering a career in teaching, you might be asking yourself, “How do I know if I’m cut out for teaching in the first place?” Let me tell you, I understand. Although I am still in the running towards becoming a veteran teacher, there are things I have learned, felt, and experienced that can answer that question.
3 Ways to Know that Teaching May be For You
#1: Conversations do not bore you and you are thrilled with hearing sentiment and insight and not just facts or expositions.
The Cambridge Dictionary states that sentiment is a thought or idea based on a feeling about a situation or a way of thinking about something, while insight is a clear, deep and sometimes sudden understanding of a complicated problem or situation. It is these two that make conversations worth listening to and being part of.
Teaching is all about meaningful and thoughtful conversations. As a teacher you facilitate such exchange and being able to carry a conversation with students for more than an hour, and still have them interested, is a pretty good indicator that teaching may be for you.
If you are the type of person who always wants to get into other people’s heads and try to understand what they are saying from their perspective, then you might want to consider being a teacher. If the art of questioning interests and intrigues you, again, you may have what it takes.
#2 You make sure you are taking care of your relationships with people. You have a way of making them feel important and cared for.
Whether it’s running errands for the family, volunteering to go overtime at the office, writing a note to a colleague, or going out of your way to finding the perfect gift for your best friend, as long as it makes those in your tribe feel that they matter to you, you won’t mind the hassle.
You take the initiative and would go the extra mile because taking care of others is second nature to you. People describe you as thoughtful and they know they can talk to you anytime about anything. You are the go-to person to have a cup of coffee with or simply be with.
As a teacher, being available is non-negotiable. You have to be involved in the lives of the students, their parents, and your colleagues. This takes dedication and a whole lot of love. Even if others fall short of your expectations, it is your moral obligation as a teacher to never give up on people.
#3 You find fulfillment in seeing other people succeed. You are genuinely happy for them.
Some become resentful upon knowing that a certain Mr. or Ms. So-and-So got the promotion, traveled the world, got married, had a baby, or finished a Ph.D. To this, I ask, why? Why. be envious? The measure of success is different for everyone and if this idea of success is something you understand well, there is no need to be green with envy.
Being happy at the success of those close to you takes maturity. As a teacher, being emotionally mature is important because you will be an influence on the lives of your students. The question is, what kind of influence would you have on them? You may either break or make them as a person. If you come out like a sour grape you will never be happy in the teaching profession.
The greatest reward you get as a teacher is seeing your students finally fulfilling their dreams, getting that job they’ve written essays about, and going even further than you in life. You find confidence in yourself in knowing that you are part of their journey, part of their success whether they acknowledge it or not. Point is, for a time, there they were in your class. You shared something valuable to their lives, something beyond the lesson plan.
The whole point of teaching is to open that door for students and bring them closer to accomplishing their personal goals. We teach the best way we can to give them what they need to thrive in the real world. We give and give until we feel that they don’t need us anymore. We know we did right by them when we reach that point of having nothing more to give.
I remember what Thomas Carruthers said,
‘A good teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary.’
Being a teacher is worth all the fuss.
So, if you find yourself agreeing with what you have been reading, then I encourage you, teach. It is a profession that matters so much more now than before. Who knows, you might be someone’s last hope to a better future.