Teaching is not an easy job. Teaching can actually be quite an extremely difficult job. My fellow teachers out there know what I’m talking about. Maybe some of those of you whom think teaching isn’t that difficult, I dare you to try it for a day.
Sometimes, you can find me complaining about how much my students, all of whom I only see an hour during the week (you wouldn’t think that would be long enough to drive me crazy…but alas, they find a way), make me want to pull my hair out sometimes. Sometimes, I give lessons that are a total failure, and I just get dead, blank stares back at me while I stand there thinking of the best way possible in the fastest way possible to recover the lesson. Sometimes, I really really fail at it. Sometimes, I come home from work asking myself if I even accomplished anything at all. Sometimes, I wake up some mornings dreading going to work, and I only work 12 hours a week. (Can you imagine what it’s like for those teachers that teach 40+ hours a week? Kudos to all of you!) Sometimes, I know that some of the students that I’m teaching really couldn’t care less.
So, why do I do it? Why do I teach? I have asked myself this question before, and I have gotten asked this question before. After mulling over it many times and thinking about other career possibilities that I might be interested in, I came to the conclusion that this is where I want to be despite the stress, despite the days of failure, despite the fatigue. So, I thought it was time to really dig deep within myself to find the answers to that why. Here’s what conclusions I came to. I choose to teach…
Because I believe in education. In my opinion, education is one of the most, if not the most, important aspects of any given society. You may ask what about medicine/health, science, the arts, social services, etc.? I have been asked this question before. I am not denying that those things are extremely important in addition to education, but we first have to be educated in order to have those things, n’est-ce pas. How do people become nurses, doctors, scientists, social workers, composers, writers, teachers, translators, etc.? They didn’t get there without first being educated. It starts there, and that’s why I choose to teach, because if we allow ourselves to start off with bad or even terrible education, we are affecting the future of our society as a whole. I want to be a part of making education, both academic and social, the absolute best that it can be. It just so happens that the aspect of education that I have a particular strength in is language education.
Because I believe everyone needs to learn how to be the best version of themselves that they can be. As a teacher, yes, our job is to educate our students on our given subjects. Yes, that’s technically our main job, but in addition to teaching them our subjects, we teach them how to function in society. We teach them how to work together, how to think critically, how to appreciate all aspects of society and education, and how to be the best person that they can be, both in school and, just as importantly, as a person, living as a contributing member of society. I enjoy being able to help my students along that path, even if I don’t always make a huge difference, which let’s face it, isn’t most of the time, and even when it appears that I’m not making any difference at all.
I want to tell you a little story. When I came back to work from Christmas vacation there was an upcoming holiday in the States that I decided that I wanted to teach my students about: Martin Luther King Jr. day. I wanted to teach my students about this holiday because it’s an extremely important one in my country, and he was a very important man whose actions and teachings changed my country for the better. Talking to some people about it, they thought that it might be a little too strong of a lesson for my students, because after all, if I wanted to talk about MLK Jr., I would have to talk about the Civil Rights Movement, segregation, and, indefinitely, racism. *gasp* I should never really bring up racism. It’s too strong of a subject, right? (To be honest, talking about MLK Jr. was a little tough for my students but not because of the subject matter but rather because of the level of language, in that my lesson was flawed, not in what I chose to teach about.) Perhaps, but I think it’s important to talk about especially with all of the shootings going in the States that are creating uprisings about how racism is still alive and well. What about the flood of refugees from the Middle East and Africa both into Europe and into the United States? Maybe it is a strong subject, but I believe you can talk about this subject in a very objective manner. I taught my students about MLK Jr. because subjects such as racism and prejudice are important for them to learn about because, in my opinion, they are alive and well in society. And societal issues such as those affect societies and cultures and people etc etc, all subjects that teaching language eventually give way to.
I want to know that what I’m teaching about helps form a better society. My job isn’t just to teach language but to teach language that is applicable to their every day lives, language that can help them on their paths to adulthood and to becoming more open-minded people, and if I’m going to teach them language, then I have to teach them about culture. If I’m going to teach them about culture, then I have to teach them about society, and that includes the not so pretty sides of society. Well, I suppose I could ignore all of that and just teach them academic language, but well, in my opinion, academics are only good for so long without eventually applying them to real life. Also, does it really make sense to not apply language learning to where we actually use language, you know, in society? So, I can’t honestly bring myself to ignore all of that.
Because it connects people together. As a teacher, I get to know my students, learn about who they are and where they come from. Then, I get to teach them about myself, who I am and where I come from. While I teach them about language and culture, I get to learn about their language and culture. Through this, I am connecting with them. I am creating cross-cultural bridges. I am connecting with them as fellow human beings, and I am teaching them how to connect with each other and hopefully giving them tools to connect with people in the future.
I am not a very patriotic person because I believe this earth is ultimately not ours to claim, so country borders don’t really mean much. I believe that we are all equal and that we are all meant to connect with one another and live in harmony with one another. I can admit that as I’ve gotten older I’ve become more proud of where I come from and how that makes me different from other people, but not in a patriotic sense. What I’m proud of is who I am individually, which partly comes from where I come from, but I also want to respect and enjoy the differences in others as well. This is what I want to be a part of, creating those bridges, connecting people, creating a world where it’s not just okay to be different but a world where our differences are seen as important and beautiful and as methods of connecting with one another. If we were all the same, we wouldn’t learn and grow from each other. We can be equal in our differences and beautifully so. This is another reason why I choose to teach.
Because it’s honestly what I’m good at and it brings me joy. Most people don’t know this, but when I first started university at my young 18 years, I originally enrolled as a French education major. I thought that I wanted to teach French to high school students. However, the idea of teaching American high school students really dissatisfied me, so I dropped the education part of it. I went through the rest of university solely focusing on learning more about the French language and culture and in improving in it, not really focusing too much on what I wanted to do with it. So, I studied abroad, I tutored on the side, continued to study hard, and then I graduated. It wasn’t until the summer after graduating while I was teaching English to adult refugees that I realized that I was right all along about my calling. Maybe teaching French to American high school students wasn’t exactly my calling, but teaching language to make a difference in how people connect with one another in this world is. I must be honest. I never imagined myself teaching English to high school students. In fact, I eventually want to teach adults or university students, maybe through a nonprofit of some sorts, like for missionary work or maybe in helping again with refugees’ transitions. I’m still trying to figure out the details. I’m just trying to get as much as experience as I can right now. Though teaching high schoolers is not my ultimate goal, I do know that my spirit absolutely lights up when I’m in that classroom and I can see those connections being made, those differences being made in my students lives. Even if those moments can be few and far between, they are the moments that make all of the other crappy stuff worth the struggle. It is these moments I teach for. It is these moments that get me through those really rough days.
Yes, teaching can really suck sometimes and even make me question my entire life (okay maybe that’s a little dramatic but it’s kind of the truth). Teaching is tiring and stressful and not for the weak spirited. However, teaching is what I choose to do, and I choose to teach because it keeps me learning, growing, focusing on other people, and becoming a better version of myself each and every day that I do it. I choose to teach because it’s how I can personally make a difference in this world. Maybe it’s small, but it’s something. And I think that’s what ultimately matters in the end.