Why Be a Teacher?
“Most teachers choose their career because it is a helping profession. [Teaching is a] commitment to making a difference in children’s lives.”—Teachers, Schools, and Society.
ALTHOUGH some teachers make it look easy, teaching can be a marathon of hurdles—coping with oversize classes, excessive paperwork, overbearing bureaucracy, unresponsive students, and inadequate pay. Pedro, a teacher in Madrid, Spain, put it this way: “Being a teacher is not at all easy. It demands a great deal of self-sacrifice. Nevertheless, despite the difficulties, I still consider teaching more rewarding than a job in the world of commerce.”
The challenge can be overwhelming in the big-city schools of most countries. Drugs, crime, lax morality, and sometimes parental indifference seriously affect school atmosphere and discipline. Rebellious attitudes are commonplace. Why, then, do so many qualified people choose to be teachers?
Leemarys and Diana are teachers in New York City. They work with children from kindergarten level up to ten years of age. Both are bilingual (English-Spanish) and deal mainly with Hispanic children. Our question was . . .
What Motivates a Teacher?
Leemarys said: “What motivates me? My love for children. I know that for some children I am the only one supporting them in their efforts.”
Diana said: “I tutored my eight-year-old nephew, who was having difficulties at school—especially with reading. It was such a great feeling to see him and others learn! So I decided I wanted to teach, and I quit my job at the bank.”
Awake! asked the same question of teachers in several countries, and the following is a sample of the answers received.
Giuliano, an Italian in his 40’s, explained: “I chose this profession because I was fascinated by it when I was a student (at right). I considered it creative and rich in stimuli. My initial enthusiasm helped me to overcome the difficulties I experienced early in my career.”
Nick, from New South Wales, Australia, said: “There was a lack of job prospects in my chemical research field, but there were plenty of opportunities in education. I have since found that I enjoy teaching, and the students seem to enjoy my teaching them too.”
Parental example has often been a major factor for those choosing to be teachers. William, from Kenya, answered our query: “My desire to teach was influenced to a large extent by my father, who was a teacher back in 1952. Knowing that I am shaping young people’s minds is a factor that has made me hold on to this profession.”
Rosemary, also from Kenya, told us: “I always had a desire to help less fortunate people. So it was a choice between being a nurse or a teacher. The offer to teach came first. The fact that I am also a mother has increased my love of the profession.”
Berthold, from Düren, Germany, had a different motive for teaching: “My wife convinced me that I would make a good teacher.” And it turned out that she was right. He added: “My profession now gives me great joy. Unless a teacher is convinced of the value of education and is also interested in young people, it is impossible for him or her to become a good, successful, motivated, and satisfied teacher.”
A Japanese teacher, Masahiro, from Nakatsu City, said: “What moved me to become a teacher was having a wonderful teacher in my first year of middle school. He taught us with real devotion. And the main reason I have continued in my profession is that I love children.”
Yoshiya, now 54 years old and also from Japan, had a well-paying factory job but felt he was a slave to it and to commuting. “One day I thought to myself, ‘How long am I going to continue this life-style?’ I decided to seek a job that had more to do with people than with things. Teaching is unique. You work with young people. It is humane.”
Valentina, from St. Petersburg, Russia, also appreciates that side of being a teacher. She said: “Teaching is the career of my choice. I have been an elementary-school teacher for 37 years. I enjoy working with children, especially younger ones. I love my work, and that is why I have not yet retired.”
William Ayers, himself a teacher, wrote: “People are called to teaching because they love children and youth, or because they love being with them, watching them open up and grow and become more able, more competent, more powerful in the world. . . . People teach . . . as a gift of oneself to others. I teach in the hope of making the world a better place.”
Yes, in spite of difficulties and drawbacks, thousands of dedicated women and men are drawn to the teaching profession. What are some of the major challenges they face? The next article will consider that question.
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Suggestions for Teacher-Parent Communication
✔ Get to know the parents. This is not wasted time. It is a mutually beneficial investment of time. It is your opportunity to establish a rapport with those who could be your best collaborators.
✔ Speak at the level of the parent—do not condescend or patronize. Avoid teacher’s jargon.
✔ When talking about the children, accentuate the positive. Commendation does more than condemnation. Explain what the parents can do to help the child succeed.
✔ Let the parents talk, and then truly listen.
✔ Get to understand the child’s home environment. If possible, visit the home.
✔ Fix a date for the next consultation. Follow-up is important. It shows that your interest is genuine.—Based on Teaching in America.
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‘My father was also a teacher.’—WILLIAM, KENYA
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“I enjoy working with children.”—VALENTINA, RUSSIA
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“Teaching is unique. You work with young people.”—YOSHIYA, JAPAN