Hope. That is why I teach. I want to keep hope alive. Each student that passes through my classroom will face a pile of troubles in many aspects of their lives. Without the ability to write, communicate, think critically and make connections in the world around them, without an education, the hope for the future, the dream of a better life becomes a distant and unreachable goal, especially with the constant news of increasing unemployment and financial turmoil. When I see the faces of those kids in front of me, I know that most are not mentally or emotionally equipped to think about the future. They are in the moment, concerned about their appearance, their friendships, their relationships with their families. Some are even concerned about where they will sleep that night, or whether they will eat or not. The future is too far off for most of them. As a teacher, I have to think and act upon that unknown future. I know that by being one of the responsible adults in that child's life, I have a responsibility to model, guide, teach and explore a world of possibilities. It is my challenge to get each student to take their minds to places that are entirely foreign to them. They don't know it now, but farther down the line they will look back and understand why we push them to exceed the standards they set for themselves. I teach because I know how education changed me. I think back on the teachers that kept me afloat, when I was about to go under. I think of the professors who convinced me that all of the hard work was worth it. I think of the hopeless situation that I was in, on welfare, divorced, with four young children and no child support from the father, fearfully trying to figure out how I was going to build any kind of a life for them alone. I was urged to go back to school by a friend who convinced me that it was better than just sitting at home all day. Within three months, I realized that education was my hope, my shining light. I became driven to get through it, not even realizing how all of the learning was changing me, making me more tolerant, patient, and passionate about the world around me. My children grew up in that environment, adventuring through that education with me. I became bold and applied to a distinguished private college and was accepted. I remember the Financial Aide worker telling me that I was the only one that she had known of that was on welfare and attending their school. "You are a brave woman" she told me. I didn't agree with her. I knew that I was there because of the professors and teachers from the public school system that had been my emotional support. I knew I was not doing this alone. Eventually, my children were present as I walked to receive my AA in Liberal Arts, again to receive my BA in Biology and once more to receive my MA in Education. Now that they are grown, as they feel the drive, excitement and HOPE that comes with an education, they are urging me to go back to school. We are a family in- love with education. We are a family of people who are grateful to those who shared their passions with us. I strive to take this love and passion to my classroom with me each day. Sometimes, my passion is hampered by what I feel is demoralization of the teaching profession. The deflation that one feels when some of us realize that there are many in powerful positions that do not truly value what we do. I know that that most will agree that teachers are necessary in our society. But do most people realize that we are called upon to be so much in a person’s young life? In any given hour, aside from curriculum and lesson planning, grading, collaboration with parents and other teachers; circumstances can necessitate my being called upon to be a nurse, mentor, mediator, disciplinarian, inspirational speaker, counselor, a shoulder to cry on, and even an emotional punching bag. Not to mention that students come to us for spare change, food, help with college applications, advice, and comfort. Do most people realize that we are not paid for the days we are not here? No, summers and winter holidays are not paid vacations. They are non-paid days in the life of a teacher. Do most people realize that the average teacher spends hundreds of dollars on their classroom décor, equipment and materials which the students use every day? Yet many of us face lay off, cuts in hours and in some cases even pensions are under attack. There has to be love for this profession that teachers bring to school with them each day. Most of us keep a smiling face on for our students despite these concerns. As for me, it pains me deeply because I feel so much gratitude to the system that helped me rise out of a hopeless situation in my own life. I am happy to see my tax dollars spent on education. I can’t think of a better investment. So, back to the question ‘why do I teach?’ I teach for the many young lives that they may find hope despite all that the world has to toss at them. Hope that they may find a way to contribute to and be considered a valuable member of their society. That they may find passion and joy in learning about this amazing world we live in. They all deserve this, rich or poor, regardless of color or culture. Thank you for paying attention to my words.
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