This blog has become a place for me to be reflective both personally and professionally. My friends who are language arts teachers are probably appalled by my grammar, my family is probably appalled at the personal things I share, others may just generally be appalled. But, the truth is that I have found great comfort in these blogs and in the response that I have received from those who read them. Over the last few days I have had the urge to write about what the Iowa legislature is doing (actually what they aren’t doing) to education in our state. I’ve also had the urge to write about all of the things that are on the plates of those of us who teach these days. Instead, I’d rather talk about my profession.
My father wanted nothing more than for me to follow in his footsteps and be a banker. Those who seem to know are quick to say that my Dad was one of the better bankers in the business. His specialty was taking troubled banks and turning them around. He really wanted me and my brother to follow him into banking. I often wonder why I didn’t. I am sure my Dad would have been able to pave a path to a very comfortable career in banking. Yet, I could never see myself doing that.
When it came time to looking at a career I considered several. I considered being a journalist, a lawyer, and even a priest (shocking I know) among other options. So, how did I end up as a teacher. It’s actually pretty simple. Teachers were (and are) my heroes. From Ms. Protzmeier (I think that’s how she spelled it) in 3rd grade who told me I was a very good reader and gave me some really interesting differentiated projects (when I’m not sure that was in vogue) that made me feel special to Mr. Jones in 6th grade who was the first male teacher I ever had. Mr. Jones seemed really honest and I liked that about him. My junior high social studies teacher Mr. Krull was a hero because he was so passionate about his subject area. Ms. Quint, my junior high vocal teacher, was a hero because she was silly and offered me opportunities to be a leader. Mr. Wiser and Mr. Gartz, my high school music teachers, were heroes because they always demanded that we were not only good musicians but that we were good people. Don Marcouiller, Bob Meunier, and Jim Cox were incredible mentors at Drake University. There are so many more.
It is a noble profession. On any given day I get to create art with my students, I get to see a student overcome a challenge, I get to see students take on leadership roles, I get the opportunity to interact with incredibly talented and bright colleagues, I get to see students learn from their mistakes, and mostly I get to see young people grow. It really is a great profession. With that being said, part of what makes the profession noble is that it is challenging. There is no finish line. While I love a good commencement ceremony (OK, that’s not true, I’m not a fan of commencement ceremonies), I always tell my students that commencement isn’t the end of anything. Certainly for teachers it isn’t the end. There is always a new challenge to be taken on in our classrooms.
I encourage my young colleagues to embrace the nobility of our profession. Don’t sweat the petty stuff and don’t pet the sweaty stuff. Focus on being a hero for those kids who need one. Any day that you create a true moment of learning, that you give a student new confidence in themselves, and any day that you make a student smile you have been successful. I am not sure that I have had any perfect teaching days, but most days I can walk away from my room with my head held high.
My veteran colleagues know that the job doesn’t get any easier with age. I have found that the more I learn the more I find myself questioning the things I thought I knew. But, with experience also comes the knowledge that we are impacting so many lives. I had the pleasure to watch a former student give a graduate flute recital via a webcam in the last week. I literally sat and cried for quite a while as I watched it. I was able to watch this incredibly smart and talented young lady demonstrate just how smart and talented she is. I was able to watch and feel that I played a very small part in that beautiful performance. I am able to watch former students now in the teaching world impacting their own generation of young people; it gives me great joy.
So, my reflection today is that I am proud of my chosen profession. Just like the students who show up in our rooms, we aren’t perfect, but we come to school each day hoping to do a little better than the day before. After listening recently to a politician who wasn’t a big fan of teachers it wondered if this person thought there was an army of more qualified or more passionate people beating down the doors of our schools to take over our profession. I don’t see that army. We are the army of professionals who are doing the work of teaching young people. It is noble work and I am proud to be a teacher now more than ever.