I was taken a-back by the query. I haven't taught in over three years. Then I remembered a couple of pictures I had posted earlier in the day from the book, Multicultural Teaching, that I was reading. It all made sense and, after a moment, I realized this was a question I desperately wanted to answer. I shared my answer publicly on tumblr, but since I know most readers of Rivera Runs Through It are not also followers of my tumblr page, I thought I would share the answer with you here. I know it is not a post about writing, or books, but it is a post relating to a story: the story of me. Whoever you have come to know me to be as you have read my posts here on RRTI, it would be hardly representative if it did not include some understanding of my passion for teaching. And so I give you my answer (so far) to the big question:
What Do You Love Most About Teaching?
Let me preface this first by saying that I, quite regrettably, am no longer teaching due to a rare disease that reconstructed my life brick by brick. I tell you this because it should be understood that part of what I say is coming to you through the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia for a passion lost. However, that passion, even when I was in the throws of some difficult days in the front of my classroom over the course of twelve years in the New York City public school system, was always overflowing within me.
I loved nearly everything about teaching. It was what I was born to do and when one is lucky enough to fall into realm of what they were placed on this planet for, well, there is really nothing that can compare to it. It sounds almost cliche when said, but this is true: teaching is very rewarding. I think the only thing that may be able to hold a candle to it is raising your own child (something I will, hopefully, be lucky enough to do soon as well). These are broad statements and don’t come close to answering your question, so let me try to answer it quite directly.
Teaching is a profession in which you have the power to design your own day, with your own little audience, to share. You share with them, they share with you, and together you learn more about each other, yourselves and the world. In teaching, you can dip into the creative wells within your soul on a daily basis to not only present lessons, but to make it an art form. I have always been a believer in the constructivist method of teaching, therefore, I do not believe it is the teacher’s role to thrust information upon students to gobble up, but instead to present situations and environments in which students can discover their own paths to learning. This is one of the most magical things to witness. When you are a teacher, you get to fully understand humanity’s unending potential.
What do I love most about teaching? To teach is to live within a world of hope. Sure, there are knuckle-heads and kids who will drive you nuts from day to day, but each one holds their own miracle. Every kid performs for someone. Every kid has the potential to surprise you, to teach you and to grow right in front of you. I loved (and desperately miss) the students.
I taught high school math for twelve years. I began my undergraduate career as an elementary education major. I graduated college with the intention of teaching middle school. I ended up teaching in high school and college classrooms. I loved every second of it until I got sick. If you are looking for my advice, I have a bunch (I was also a teaching coach for many years working with new and pre-service teachers), but I’ll just start you off with this:
- stay positive (this is not as easy as it sounds)
- forgive yourself your mistakes (you will make SO MANY)
- take advice of your administrators, but remember when you close your classroom door, THAT IS YOUR CLASSROOM, NOT THEIRS
- get to know your students (I really don’t see the point of getting into this profession if you don’t)
- stay curious
- keep learning
- be professional
I can go on like this forever, but I am sure I have already over-answered your question. If you have any further questions, or ever want to teacher-talk I am always willing (as you can probably already tell). The glorious Internet has given me my last quiet classroom. Here I share with whoever stumbles by, they share with me, and together we learn more about each other, ourselves and the world. It’s what we were made to do. :)I will add this: If you have ever had a thought of stepping in front of the classroom, I say do it. There is nothing in the world like it. It is not for everyone, that is for damn sure, but if you think it might be in you, embrace the beautiful insanity of it and don't look back!
To my fellow teachers out there:
What do you love most about teaching?
Share your answers in the comments below!