Blog post by Kelly Dougherty, PTAC Member
“I would never want my child to become a teacher.”
This phrase hits me like a sucker punch to the heart. It is one of the saddest statements I hear, and I hear it much too often. I cannot explain logically why teaching is the greatest profession, especially when outside forces with agendas cast our profession in such an unfavorable light.
So, I am not going to explain it logically at all. The things that bring us the greatest joys in life usually aren’t logical.
Instead, I’m going to share the joys of teaching with irrational abandon and unreasonable sentiment.
If your child finds joy in befriending the lonely new kid at lunch, in rescuing house spiders, in spending a cold morning helping an elderly neighbor shovel a snowy sidewalk, and in making tiny but significant differences in her small world, then a teaching career might bring her a lifetime of unquantifiable, completely illogical joy.
These are the qualities we want in our children. Happiness doesn’t come from chasing money, prestige, status.
Helping others. Spreading love. Sharing inspiration. Teaching is one of the few professions that allow these particular personal fulfillments in such a rich way.
Teaching is not a path to fame and fortune. You likely won’t hear about the child who grows up, finds a teaching position in a school where he’s needed, creates an inviting, safe classroom for his students and spends his evenings preparing exciting lessons. You won’t hear about her when she designs global projects for her students and connects them to experts and children in faraway places. You won’t hear about her students’ charity drives and his students’ movie festival. And, there is a reason you won’t hear about these teachers.
They are not unique in this profession. They are the teachers who silently close their doors against the outside noise, and quietly do amazing things for their students. Teachers, as a group, are terrible self-promoters. Most people drawn to this profession are not interested in becoming celebrity teachers or in gaining a big Twitter following. They shine at what they do because teaching kids gives them joy and purpose.
These amazing teachers are not the exception. They stay quiet because they don’t believe what they do in their classrooms is noteworthy. Chances are, they are surrounded by equally amazing teacher colleagues who also are also hesitant to share the incredible things happening in their classrooms.
How do I know any of this? In my elementary school, I teach among the most dedicated and talented teachers. None of them are famous, although they are local celebrities in the eyes of their adoring students and school families. They are too humble to brag about themselves, so I will do it for them.
My school’s art teacher inspires her primary-aged students to stretch beyond their limits and grow as artists. She spent months preparing a school-wide art festival for families to enjoy the students’ showcased artwork. EVERY student was featured in this festival, and many parents expressed the positive effect it had on their children’s self-esteem. But you won’t read about this teacher in the newspaper or see much of her work on Twitter, but she is one of the many gems in my school.
Our kindergarten teachers turn their classrooms into hibernation dens, jungles, and gingerbread houses. Their students put on elaborate shows and start the important journey of becoming readers. All three of these teachers stay long hours into the evening, creating hands-on activities for their wee ones. You won’t hear about these three teachers on the news or see much of their work on Instagram, but the parents in our community love them like family.
Our first-grade teachers are miracle-workers at helping children become confident readers - a constant source of inspiration and encouragement. The second-grade teachers create opportunities for students to pioneer technology through project-based lessons and inspire their students to become writers. The third-grade teachers create media projects, transform their classrooms with flexible seating, and encourage their kids to become math wizards.
Our Spanish Immersion teachers spend hours translating materials, teach lessons exclusively in Spanish to English-speaking students and create classrooms of bilingual students who excel on standardized tests year after year. The instructional assistants in our schools teach intervention groups, volunteer at school events, and organize community outreach programs during the holidays.
My school’s physical education teacher designs and runs an annual school-wide Field Day event, the music teacher creates and directs multiple musicals a year, our librarian organizes author visits and community events, and our enrichment teacher and tech facilitator design breakout projects and create daily school newscasts.
Our Reading Specialist unlocks literacy for kids and is a national expert in her field. Our principal, a former teacher, creates service-learning opportunities, knows every student by name, and makes house visits to families. Our guidance counselor, our Math/MTSS teacher, our ESL teacher, our learning support teacher and every one of our staff members knock it out of the park on a daily basis…but you have never heard of them.
You may never know the names of these teachers, but their names are known by the children they joyfully inspire, love, and give so much of themselves each day.
Someday, you may hear a child - perhaps even your own - tell you that she wants to be a teacher. You will get to choose whether to give encouragement or rejection.
If you believe that we need more people who give of themselves to make the lives of others better and who are committed to making the world a better place, you’ll know what to do.
Because that child who is asking the question may very well end up joining the multitude of teachers who anonymously make a difference in the lives of so many.
Your words of support may help her or him decide to join the world’s most important profession.
As we teachers know so well, sometimes a kind word at the right time can change someone’s world.
Pennsylvania Teachers Advisory Committee