You teach your children some fashion sense
And they fashion some of their own
- Gordon Downie

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Why I Do What I Do

I was looking back though my posts and the themes are fairly consistent. I write about the things that are most important to me because they are easy things to write about. Some of my earliest posts like Lessons in Film and Take Time talk exclusively about what I do for a living. My life as a teacher and school administrator is evident in most of my posts, but I have yet to explore why I am so content with the career path I have chosen.

My name is Ted and I am a teacher. I wear lots of hats and occupy many different roles in my life. When I think very carefully about all of these roles, there is no doubt that teaching is at the heart of most of them. As parents, my wife and I are my children's primary and most important teachers. As a coach, I believe it is my job to teach my players the skills and tactics necessary to make them a better member of the team. As a school admininstrator, I get to teach adults how to make our school the best place it can be. As a university instructor, I got the chance to teach pre-service teachers. The absolute best part of any day at school is my time in the classroom. Here is why...

One of my favourite things is that teaching is a creative process. I am always trying to think of a better way to help kids learn and that takes careful thought. For the last four months of this school year, I got the opportunity to teach grade three for the first time. I had to really think about how to approach my new class and it was absolutely refreshing to me. I also had the chance to teach math for the first time in my career, so I was forced out of my comfort zone. I had to work hard, not so much to understand the concepts, but to understand how to best present them to the kids in my class.

I love what I do because I get to play around all day long. My teaching style is not conventional. On the first day with a new class, I always tell them that I hope my class is the best one they have ever been in.  I get to tell jokes and make terrible puns. I come up with nicknames for my students, stand on desks, lay on the floor, and use different accents depending on my mood, the day and the subject matter. I have fun and I try really hard to ensure the students have fun, too. I know that no single teacher is perfect for every student in a class and I respect that some kids think I am genuinely weird. Overall, I'm OK with that. The teachers I remember best were definitely the ones who marched to a different beat. I have a poster of purple sheep in my classroom that says "I was normal once. I didn't like it." That poster has hung in every home room I have taught in because it says a lot about how I approach my job.

Though this seems like stating the obvious, I love to teach because I love to teach. By teach, I mean that get to directly influence how other people do things. I'm not big on quotes, but Henry Adams once said, "A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." When you think about it, this is a massive responsibility. Any teacher who does not realize what a significant influence they have needs to give their head a shake. I love the "lightbulb" moments of teaching, the moments when a child's eyes widen and smile creeps across their face because they have just made a connection that did not exist a moment earlier. I love it when 20 hands simultaneously shoot skyward to answer a question because every one of them know the answer to my question. More than anything, I love it when grown men and women come up to me in public and take the time to tell me much they enjoyed having me for a teacher. The ultimate compliment came from a young lady who now teaches in our school district because, in her words, she wanted to be just like me.

Another thing that keeps me coming back year after year is that every day brings something different. You never know who is going to walk through your door or what is going to happen next. The unpredictable nature of teaching does make it difficult at times, but I can recall very few days in my career where I was bored to death and waiting for the day to end. Time flies in a school and before you know it, the school year has ended and you get to start all over again. 

Teaching may not have huge financial rewards, but it has profound human rewards. I hope that I am making my world a better place. It gives me great pride to see my students succeed. I have been in my community long enough that I am now teaching the children of former students. There are very few places in Red Deer where I do not run into someone I know due to the work I do. To be honest, I would not have it any other way.

At the end of the school year, I usually get gifts and cards from students, and this year was no different. Two of them stand out to me. One was a chocolate bar from a little girl whose family was not happy with our school and will be moving to another school next year. She attached a small note using a piece of scrap paper, thanking me for being her teacher. I'm quite certain she either bought it with her own money or snuck it out of the house, but I was touched that she took the time to acknowledge me. My favorite, though, was a card from a boy who must have been listening carefully on the first day of classes.

That, folks, is the essence of why I do what I do.

1 comment:

  1. I like what you say about teaching. I had the same feeling. Keep on being weird. Some kids thrive on it and some don't get it.
    Have a great summer.