Our head asked if any of us would like to write something with the title “Why I Teach” for our school’s weekly newsletter “The Sunshine” which went out earlier today. Of course, there are a number of reasons why I teach, but here’s what I wrote:
The date was 9/11/2001, and I was awoken by a phone call. Bleary eyed, I was instructed to turn on the news. To my horror, I watched the twin towers fall. Many thoughts rang through my head that morning. What would I say to the children? How would they react? It was my first week at Epiphany. I arrived at school, and prepared for the day. Parents, faces pale, dropped off their children. I rang a bell signaling the students to gather around me on the floor. I told the children that something terrible had happened, but we would have a normal day of school. I also assured the class that, no matter what, they would be safe.
The backdrop of this tragedy made the importance of what I do clearer than ever. In the rhythm of the classroom, emotionally devastating news gave way to the ordinary business of learning. Creating age-appropriate teachable moments gave me a renewed sense of purpose in teaching. It reminded me that learning never ceases, and that every day I too could learn something new from my students. It also gave me hope that these children had the opportunity to shape the future of the world.
In order to learn, we all must feel safe. That day taught me that creating a safe environment, not only for the children’s physical needs, but also for their social and emotional needs had to come first. It is only after those needs are met that children can feel safe to ask questions, challenge the status quo, and possess the freedom to think for themselves. I teach because I want my students to feel safe enough to voice and assert their ideas and opinions while being able to defend them respectfully.
I teach in hopes that I can foster and develop my students’ empathy, so that they feel secure in themselves to recognize when they make mistakes and to understand the point of view of others. It’s often the ability to grapple with conflicting ideas that allow students to come up with novel ones. I also strive to foster collaboration, have students learn to work well with others, engage in civil discourse, and respect that diverse ideas and cultures enrich our own lives.
Jean Piaget once said, “The principal goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done – men who are creative, inventive, and discoverers.” I work towards inspiring all of my students to be innovators in the spirit of Piaget.
Teaching is where my heart is. When I hear the phrase, “Those who can’t, teach,” I shake my head, because I think of all the talented and caring colleagues who chose to spend their days in the classroom. I prefer another saying that begins, “It takes a village….” I am humbled by our own community, and the caring environment they provide for these children. It is clear where all of our hearts lie.
I teach because it gives me hope – hope that these young minds will lead us toward a better world.