Global protests about education occur on a daily basis, exacerbated by issues like media spin. Politicians use their authority to investigate colleges about gainful employment, alleged misuse of federal student financial aid, cheating, and a purported lack of teacher accountability. Students and others decry the very real problem of excessive student debt and the education bubble. Meanwhile schools are asked to be the world’s panacea—even providing for national security—while their budgets are hacked away.
The brunt of this war on education falls squarely on the bulging briefcases of overworked and discouraged faculty, many of whom will start and leave the profession within five years. Most teachers, especially contingent faculty at the postsecondary level, do not make the money or enjoy the status that similar professions enjoy. Many part-time faculty live at or below the poverty level.
And yet, this, dear readers, is the perfect time to be or to become a teacher!
When most decide to go into teaching, they have dreams about how wonderful it will be to work with students at any level. New teachers hope that they will be able to impart the love of a subject, the joy of lifelong learning, a positive influence on students, etc. I have yet to hear any aspiring teachers say they are going into teaching to get rich. Most of us realize we will not earn millions as a teacher, and we are fine with making a comfortable living.
Experienced teachers rarely reflect on the amount of dollars they made in teaching as the chief reward of our profession. Rather, we tend to reflect back on the “a-ha moments” in which we were able to inspire a student, impart a new understanding, witness as a student applied knowledge learned in our course to an actual concrete project to benefit their community, and reach other noteworthy milestones.
Certainly at no other time in human history have teachers had the wealth of opportunities to teach as they do today. Aristotle had Mieza, Laura Ingalls Wilder had the little schoolhouse on the prairie, but teachers today have a multitude of different options for plying their trade. Not only are there face-to-face (F2F) courses, hybrid classes, and eLearning options, but there are also technological innovations every day from which to choose. Teachers can flip a class, involve disruptive technology, take students on virtual field trips, connect with people and places nearly anywhere in the world for collaboration and exploration. The possibilities seem endless.
Given that a teacher’s classroom is no longer bound by time or space or modality, why would anyone settle for the limitations of an office cubicle?
Chance to Shape the Future
The first paragraph of this post is only the tip of the ice cold reality of life. Yes, there are problems inside and outside of education. Diseases, poverty, war, rights abuses, and other horrors often seem to monopolize the human experience. However, in what other profession does a person have the opportunity on a daily basis to inspire and spark ideas that may lead to solutions to these problems and a better life for us all?
For example, in my composition courses, I have seen students learning to become better writers/communicators, discover something unique in themselves that they can carry forward into a community project that solves a problem. I remember well the student who had spent a year homeless with her husband and small children and her idea that our city needed to centrally locate services to assist people in this situation rather than have them spread miles apart as they were. She learned to write, research, and present her ideas in a variety of formats to different audiences so successfully that she did in fact inspire the local government and non-profit organizations as well as two colleges to relocate services to what had been an abandoned building near the center of town.
As an educator, I could share many examples of how the ideas tossed about in my classes took concrete form as initiatives that have helped shape the future. Had I not become a teacher, I would not have had these experiences.
Who Better Than You?
I think the best response to the question, “Why become a teacher?” is “Who better than you?” In spite of the media’s negative portrayal of teachers and the assaults of politicians against us, the reality is that most teachers tend to be intelligent, caring, altruistic, hardworking, and generous. They tend to be self-less and confident enough to lead even in the most difficult of circumstances; to find solutions where none appeared to be; and to inspire even in times that seem hopeless.
Our students know this. They know that if they vent, most of us, we will respond by teaching them a better way to share their feelings and to apply their energy. They know we won’t hold it against them but that we will help them turn negativity into something positive. We’ll help them process their thoughts and ideas into a solution. Not everyone can do this. Not everyone cares to help or work hard enough toward resolving a problem as educators do.
If you consider that those who bash education and teachers are like frustrated students venting in the classroom, you will realize that they are doing so because in reality they know deep down inside that the answers they are seeking will come from a teacher and those a teacher once inspired.
It truly is the best time to be or to become a teacher!
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