When I entered college I knew I wanted to be a teacher...nothing else. I began my freshman year with teaching in mind, and four years later I graduated with my educational degree in hand. Yet, there were many times...many many times, when I would be questioned about my decision...things like: “Why be a teacher? June, July and August?” or “If you wanted to be a babysitter for a living why even go to school?” or my personal favorite…”Shouldn’t you pick a profession that pays more?”
I hadn’t even started teaching...yet the image painted by those on the outside presented teaching as an underpaid glorified babysitting position that was really only worth doing because I would have summers off. Such a distorted picture…
Considering just how important our profession is to not only our future, but to the lives of countless individuals...it amazes me just how many people view education in a negative, or lesser-value, light.
Teaching is hard. Multiple subjects with large quantities of content, students with countless individualized needs, many standards written by non-educators, never seemingly enough time, and assessments critiquing our ability to teach/lead. It’s no wonder many educators leave the profession within the first five years of entering it. More importantly...it's no wonder many begin to lose their way, doubt their abilities, and struggle with the idea of even being successful as an educator. Here is a hard truth...while many teachers leave, many more continue on, burnt-out, not trusting in their ability.
February/March is a very difficult time of year for many teachers...In fact, the University of Oregon did a study that showed February also represents the highest rate of discipline referrals in schools. It's the time of year when state testing hasn’t started, the excitement of winter vacation is gone, and summer seems too far away for many students. It’s this time of year when we need to remember...need to remind ourselves of something so very important...why you are a great teacher -
I asked my wonderful team of teachers to finish this sentence: I am a great teacher because…
Here are many of their responses:
“I am a great teacher because I care. I care about my students' personal and academic lives. I care about whether they are groomed, fed, and dressed appropriately for the weather. I care about how they feel about themselves, how they feel about others, and the character traits they represent. I care about their feelings and do my best to help them express them in healthy ways so they can communicate well. I care that they have the skills, materials, and strategies to be able to learn each day. I care about their feelings and making sure that they can identify and sort through them with coping strategies. I care that they walk in the door each morning and are shown love and support until the second they leave my presence at 2:45. Above all, I care because they are important. They are our future and I want to do my best so that they can be their best.”
“I am a great teacher because of my desire to reach all students. I may not reach all of them, but I want them to learn to persevere irrespective of where they may be academically.”
“I am a great teacher because I have a strong rapport/engaging personality with my students and a different teaching style.”
“I am a great teacher because I really love teaching! I love seeing their growth from September to May. I feel like I have good classroom management and run the class where not only are we are all learning, but also having fun. I want my students to be happy while they are with me everyday.”
“I am a great teacher because I eat, sleep, breathe my kids and my job. I take it home with me. I love my kids, and they know it! I love my job and as hard as it is sometimes I am so blessed to be chosen for this career. I enjoy so very much being a part of my school family!”
“I am a great teacher because I really care for my students; push them to work hard, and to show their full potential. I come to school every day thinking it is a new day, and whatever happened the day before, was in the past. I want my students to do the best they can do. When I see that they are really struggling when doing independent work, then I know what I need to work on with them at teacher table. As for my students who are on the higher end, I want to push them to be able to do more than what is expected for the class. I care that their scores/work go up because then I know they will be more prepared for next year. During conferences, I even had a parent tell me I was doing an outstanding job with their student. That makes me feel like I am doing something right and that I am a great teacher.”
“I am a great teacher because I care about the academic and social success of all my students, not just the low, medium, or high.”
“I am a great teacher because…success (I make it happen for every child, build it in) that comes from hard work (they must work hard in my class) builds confidence (they have a bank of strategies so they can “try”).
“I am a great teacher because I am extremely passionate about teaching bilingual education and transitioning Spanish speakers to on level ELL’s and encouraging and challenging them to master the English language in order to increase their academic goals. This will open doors for new growth and better opportunities for them in the future.”
“I am a great teacher because I don’t just care about kids’ academics. Kids are so much more than just test scores. I care that they are making themselves better, and I am constantly rooting for them. I want them to not only be good students, but good people as well.”
“I am a great teacher because I believe in students’ potential to be successful long-term, regardless of their current performance. Based on that belief I push them to grow as much as they can in every area (academic and otherwise) and try to help them understand what success is (it’s such an abstract concept so I define it for them as setting your own goals and achieving them while making a positive contribution to society) and have a positive experience working hard and succeeding in school. I build them up with tons of positive support, and try to bring fun and games into school to balance out the times when it’s just plain hard work.”
“I am a great teacher because I truly have a passion and desire to teach students. I have always wanted to be the best teacher I can possibly be. I am extremely receptive to new ideas, and I enjoy learning about and reading about new techniques and strategies out there to better educate myself and better serve our students. Most importantly to me though, is that I care deeply about each one of my students, and I know in my heart they all know that.”
“I am a great teacher because I have patience and establish relationship with all my students. Once I have the relationship in place, you can take these students to new heights.”
“I am a teacher because I had incredible teachers who challenged me, encouraged me, inspired me, and made me laugh. I was a lucky kid who loved 99% of all the teachers who ever taught me, and after I finished roaming around the world (and even during part of that time) I thought it was the best way I could give back. I thought if I could take my curiosity, energy, and endless amount of questions that bounce around my head, and then turn those things into classroom strategies, then hopefully I could do what my teachers did for me. I try to be excited about each day and each subject, and I try to encourage my students to do their best and never give up on themselves. They have their entire adult lives to doubt themselves and their choices, so they shouldn’t be told in elementary school that they can’t do something.”
“I am a great teacher because I am dedicated to my students and I use the data to help guide my instruction.”
“I am a great teacher because I believe in my students and I never give up on them. There is this feeling I get every time when a student fails and a student succeeds. The moment they fail I immediately encourage them and tell the students it’ll be ok and we’ll have plenty more chances to get it right. Once the students realize the moment they succeed the feeling is overwhelming. I get so excited and pumped and the students feel it too. To me, this is the best part about teaching.”
“I am a great teacher because I care. I will do anything for my students. I want the best for them and genuinely love each and every one of them with all of their individual faults and strengths.”
“I am a great teacher because I never think I’m done. Even when my kids meet their goals, I feel like there is something to improve on. I try each year to do something to round out my game.”
“I am a great teacher because I build relationships with my students. I push my kids to do their best, even when it is hard for them. At the end of the day, they know that I really care about them!”
“I am a great teacher because I am surrounded by great teachers who lend their expertise whenever I ask, and sometimes even when I don’t. I think the thing that I add is letting my class know that I really care about them. I try very hard to make each of them feel special and valued which, in turn, makes them see themselves as overcomers and achievers.”
Finally, and simply put… “I am a great teacher because I bring out the best in all my kids.”
If you are in education...as a teacher, paraprofessional, administrator, counselor, or in any other avenue - one of these statements applies to you. It’s important to remember why you are great, because our job is rarely easy, although it is always worth it.
I am in awe of each and every educator that comes to work each day with a desire to make a difference in the lives of so many. I am truly proud to be one small piece of a very large puzzle that makes our future brighter each and every day. So to all of those who are great, even when you can't remember why sometimes...thank you for all you do.