Teaching at any level is one of the toughest jobs out there. Today, teachers are increasingly faced with challenges that may bring one to question whether they should even consider entering the profession at all. Whether it is the ongoing need for substitute teachers as the pandemic persists, controversies over curriculum, the ebbs and flows of school policy and practice, or the day-to-day working conditions that impact teacher life, there is certainly no shortage of issues that confront the field.
These conditions can leave an educator asking: “Should I even teach at all?” “Is it worth it?” “Will these larger challenges impact the quality of my experience as a qualified, credentialed, and dedicated classroom teacher?” For example, will I, as a teacher, be able to use research-informed pedagogical approaches that I have been taught in my teacher-preparation program? Will I be able to inspire and mentor students and even use my own educational journey to engage students in the classroom?
While these concerns certainly bring a series of potential challenges, I often think about the powerful role that educators and teaching play in our society, especially in the context of the last two years. For example, we know that vulnerable communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic were already marginalized by social, political, economic, education, and health-related disparities before March of 2020. These realities make the promise of education and the role of the teacher and teaching so much more significant in today’s context, especially for our nation’s most vulnerable.
It is in this context that I developed 25 reasons to teach. Rather than allowing the possible obstacles to teaching cloud our perspective on why the profession is so vital today, let’s focus on the opportunities that teaching brings every single day to the classroom. I think this is particularly relevant for teachers starting a new school year, future teachers currently in teacher education programs, and future teachers who are considering the field of education.
As a current or future educator, your teaching will likely provide you with opportunities to do the following:
- Build a meaningful connection with a student.
- Prioritize a student’s humanity.
- Allow students to reinvent themselves every single day.
- Exercise maximum flexibility, especially as we continue to navigate the pandemic.
- Recognize the collective trauma from No. 4 and its ongoing impact on just “being,” not only for students, but for teachers and families as well.
- Be a teacher who gives students second, third, and fourth chances.
- Reduce past systemic harm once the student enters your classroom by promoting equity-driven practices.
- Build community with your fellow teachers in your school, district, and/or community.
- Establish a partnership with families, especially those who have struggled to build such partnerships in the past.
- Spark an interest in learning for the seemingly disengaged student.
- Recognize the leadership qualities in that one student who needed to hear the words, “You are a leader.”
- Provide students with an intentional space for hearing their voices in the classroom.
- Inspire students by showing them who they were, who they are, and where they are going.
- Show students their community’s excellence.
- Redefine what educational excellence looks like in students’ various communities (peers, families, communities, society).
- Reflect back to your students their historical, cultural, and community contributions.
- Be the one teacher who your students look forward to seeing every day.
- Provide your students with instruction that validates their life experiences.
- Create pedagogical activities that (re)position students as teachers and facilitators of learning.
- Redefine “knowledge” with your students; students are indeed creators of knowledge.
- Model equitable practices in the classroom; equity is more than a principle but is also an action.
- Center cariño (care) within the educational endeavor.
- Forge hope for students in your classroom every single day.
- Wake up every single day knowing that you will make a difference in the life of a student.
- Realize the promise of public schooling every single day through your teaching and dedication.
While it is understandable that teachers and some prospective teachers may be questioning—or even doubting the teaching profession—my hope is that current and prospective teachers realize that they are in the right place and that our students, families, and communities need them. Teachers cannot do this important work alone and our leaders, policymakers, and teacher development professionals play a critical role in ensuring their success, especially in the context of all that the profession is.