Monday, April 09, 2007

Why I Became A Teacher

I know why I became a teacher. I often wonder why others have done the same thing. Dr. Homeslice talks about his reasons. His reasons were nobler than mine. I simply became a teacher because I didn't know what else to do with my life. I grew up in the projects of NYC, the eldest child of a family where no one was college educated. My parents wanted me to go to college, but they couldn't offer any guidance. My father grew up in one of the few Jewish families that actually had no use for education, encouraged him to go to a vocational high school (from which he could be found cutting more often than not) and ended up transferring to a local school and luckily graduating. He is a very bright man, and with the right support he probably would have gone to college and became an accountant. My mother's family pushed education but my mom didn't have school in her. The courses were too difficult. She graduated with a general diploma and went right to work. In those days, no one in the projects had a college education. The only people I ever met with higher degrees were teachers so I just followed in their footsteps and became one. Lots of the teachers I had in high school were only teaching to avoid the draft and Viet Nam so they got into the profession in kind of the same meaningless way I did.

I look at the young teachers around me and wonder why they are teaching? Hopefully it is a job that they want to do. Hopefully they want to make a difference and are willing to put up with all kinds of abuse to get the job done. Hopefully they won't get discouraged and quit or let burnt out old timers like me turn them off to teaching. I try to avoid the young ones in my department because I don't want my negativity to rub off on them. No impressionable young soul should be subjected to me for any length of time.

One of the girls in my AP class is thinking of becoming a math teacher. At first, I thought that is what she really wants to do. Now, she asks me all the time if teaching is a good job? Are the benefits good? I keep telling her that those are not good enough reasons to become a teacher. I asked her if she really wants to teach? I would hate for her to become a teacher because someone told her it was a good job. People always told me that I should teach--that teaching was a good job for a girl. Although I like teaching, I wish I had the opportunity to pursue engineering. I took all the pre-requisitite courses in college but girls didn't become engineers in those days.

I know quite a few new teachers that are only teaching until something better comes along. That's okay as long as they are doing their best now. I'm hopeful that some of the good ones will change their minds and stick around.


IMC Guy said...

I often wonder why people go into education. I guess they want to do something admirable. Hopefully, they continue to love the job and aren't pushed out by administration and politics. While the pay could certainly be better, there are worse jobs out there.

Superfly said...

Focus on the positive! Look at how much good you've done, how many young lives you've touched and altered, how many students you've made realize that, with a little effort, success is possible! Would you have come into contact with so many people, left such a lasting, living legacy being an engineer? Who knows, maybe I'm just saying this because I'm young and don't know better yet (although I do tend to think myself much further down on the cynical end than most) or maybe I say this because I don't know what an engineer does, actually, but you change the world every day. What more could you ask for?

Anonymous said...

Always pursue your dream because you will always regret not trying.

CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

I'm of the opinion that it's perfectly all right to stumble into a profession that may not be your passion at first, but that somehow becomes your passion over time. You may be pissed off about many of the inanities of education, but at least you are passionate about your pissedoffedness!

ms. whatsit said...

Great story. I enjoyed reading it.

"People always told me that I should teach--that teaching was a good job for a girl"

I heard a lot of that too, but not from my mother who went from being a teacher to an accountant when I was in high school. She wanted me to join her, but watching her study for the CPA exam and then working such long hours when I really needed her left me disinterested in the business world altogether.