The Importance of Teachers: Why I'm a Teacher & Why I Love Teaching!
May 6, 2009
When I was in high school, for a while there I had no idea what I would ever do with myself.
Oh sure, there were a few pipe dreams I would pull out of my head now and then, of course---I was a very talented artist, so I figured I'd go run off to Manhattan and be the next Andy Warhol or Jim Davis. Because every artist makes tons of money instantly, right? I was a talented actress too, so I'd otherwise dream of running off to Hollywood and instantly taking the town by storm through my overwhelming talents and stunning good looks.(har-har!) Because I was special and had real star quality beyond any other young aspiring actress in Hollywood, right?
It wasn't until I was applying to colleges and had a frank discussion with my mom about these goofy pipe dreams of mine that I got out of my head and back to planet Earth with truly obtainable professional hopes and dreams to eventually pursue. And thanks to her influence((plus her threats of not paying a dime for my education if I was merely content to get a BA just to become a starving artist)), as well as the influence of several art teachers in my past, my true niche in life became apparent:
I was meant to be a teacher.
A teacher?! Where was the glamour and fun of that?? (yes, I asked myself this back then) I hated most of my teachers! Teachers don't star in movies and display art in galleries! Teachers were usually fat middle-aged ladies who did nothing but make us do piles of homework and correct us for simply acting our age and who were seemingly always cranky!
Oh, but how wrong I was then in my simple young mind...
Just because my teachers and I had never really seen eye-to-eye, didn't mean that *I* had to follow their professional lead---for when I finally gave up my starving artist dreams to face my professional educator realities, I realized that instead of focusing on teachers who once frustrated me, I could finally be the sort of teacher that *I* dreamed of being.
And it was liberating when I finally came to such a lifechanging realization.
I finally graduated from my university with a double major in studio art and art education. And I had firmly decided I wanted to be an art teacher, using my own talents and creativity to teach other students about the benefits of art, and I was determined to be the best teacher I possibly could be no matter what.
Never mind my incredibly difficult education program exit interviews I had to pass just to graduate. Never mind the fact that I still haughtilly thought of myself as an "art specialist" as opposed to simply an art teacher. And never mind the fact that it took two hideously difficult years at two tough inner city schools and three tough years stuck in the corporate working world when I once decided that maybe I simply wasn't meant to be a teacher period and left the profession to "find myself".((only to come running back!))
Now that I have spent a good ten years or so both in and out of the world of professional education, I can say without a doubt that the teaching profession is one that deserves extreme respect and kudos for those who choose to follow their hearts and dispel their doubts by further pursuing this career.
Because unlike doctors, nurses, policemen and firemen, we don't exactly get the pay that reflects this respect. And it may seem like an easy gig to some folks, what with the great hours and summers/holidays off, but some folks have no idea what we endure otherwise in order to get such necessary perks:
-Teachers take home work quite often. Extra paperwork, extra supply shopping, extra research and planning, etc. -Teachers endure the risk of inner city violence and deal with behavioral issues on the front lines most days. No one can really understand the true meaning of "stress" until one has actually had to break apart a student fight or soley dealt with 25 loud and unruly middle schoolers all at once. -Teachers also get the added bonus of having to often serve as makeshift coaches, entertainers, psychiatrists, parental mediators, babysitters and more. There is no such thing as "overtime" pay either; our extra time necessary is extra time unpaid. And we do it because it's just par for the course.
Sounds like a great career option, doesn't it? And how am I actually promoting the benefits of being a teacher again?! ;-)
Because as cliched as it truly is, becoming a teacher truly is a calling. And the best part of this calling is the fact that the chance to use your own influence, enthusiasm, experience and ideas to "make a difference" to either one or one-hundred-and-one students is indeed worth heeding that call.
Yes, I could've gone ahead and pursued my dreams of being an artist. I could've moved to LA to pursue my movie star fantasies once too.
But instead, these seemingly buried dreams of mine have only served to enhance my classroom persona. I finally get to teach classes of students to get every bit as excited by abstract art as I do, I teach them how to sculpt using everything from modeling clay to peanut butter, and I have informed them of art history points as varied as the Ashcan School to the Fauve movement. And that's not even including all the other general items and inspirations I've provided daily outside the colorful confines of my classroom.
Even within this faltering economy, I can promise that the one professional area that is never lacking opportunity is within teaching---teachers are always necessary, and school districts are always hiring. And in this day and age, that sort of professional priority mixed with such security is every bit as comforting as most of us teachers are for our students. The ones who begrudgingly like us, that is...
Sure, it's not a glamorous job. And there are days when like most folks, I don't know why I even bother. But then I look at all my students, the joy on their faces when they see me or as they glide their fresh paint over a piece of drawing paper, the purpose I give them to just be happy and escape the general classroom tedium for maybe 40 odd minutes of a day, and I realize, "This is why I do it. I'm needed here. And I really do make a difference to so many lives."
So at the end of the day, this is why I'm a teacher and why I'm so highly reviewing the teaching profession here: because despite everything, teachers matter. And despite my original hesitance, this undiscovered artist/movie star is so extremely proud to be such a valued teacher!
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About the reviewer
An enlightened teacher, artist and pop culture appreciator from afar who simply loves to share her opinions and enjoy those of others here at lunch.com and otherwise!