Why are you a teacher?

Ever had that questions posed to you?

I have and its often followed by the popular quip: “because of the holidays?”

What do the numbers say?

numbers 1

More often then not it’s the story behind the numbers or data that inspires me and I read such a story recently:

We were truly disadvantaged.

Despite this, our mum was determined to make sure that our situation would not be something that followed my brother and I throughout our lives and she saw our education as a key component of escaping the cycle of disadvantage.

On 11 July 2008, just after my Year 12 half-yearly exams, Mum suddenly passed away after an accident at home. The attitude that she had instilled in me and the resilience and skills that went alongside it immediately became more crucial than she ever could have imagined. We had to find a way to survive and I had to try and complete my Year 12 studies.

I know for a fact that the teachers at my school were deeply concerned about how I would cope for the remainder of the year, as many people were, myself included. It could have been all too easy for those teachers to lower their expectations of me. All too easy to preface every statement, grade or piece of feedback with: “He’s doing so well, considering…”. All too easy to say: “At least you tried”. But those teachers, they didn’t.

They gave me the extra support that I needed, but they never stopped pushing me, they never stopped expecting me to achieve like I had before. Their continued belief in my ability to overcome my challenges was crucial in making that achievement a reality.

High expectations from my teachers gave me the self-belief that I could do something great — not just considering my situation, but in absolute terms. They inspired me and they set me on the path out of disadvantage, to university, to work in scientific research and into the classroom.

The work those teachers did to support me during that incredibly stressful and turbulent time has had a lasting impact on my philosophy of teaching and how I carry myself within my school. They were caring and giving. They went beyond what was required and they were inspiring.

The whole story is worth reading on the Huffington Post.

I’m interested to read other people’s stories if they would care to share theirs. I’m busy working on mine now.

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8 Responses to Why are you a teacher?

  1. Tim Bowman says:

    At the risk of being labelled a grumpy old cynic I’m very….cynical of these numbers.

    What people SAY and what people DO is often very different.

    What people fill out on a survey and their REAL motivation X number of years ago can be as different as night and day.

    I became a teacher, because I felt I had very few other options. My parents in fact kinda “pushed” me into it.

    I had great, inspirational teachers when I was a kid…but I never wanted to be one of them.

    I’d studied Performing Arts and it was either become Leonardo Di Carprio…or get a real job. After failing to become Leo II I needed a real job.

    I decided on teaching because the holidays were good, money was ok, the skills were transferable and kids were alright.

    I think an interesting indication of why someone becomes at teacher would be their preference from studying teaching. For me, it was a fall-back. I’m sure that’s not the cause for all/many, but it was for me. What percentage of people study teaching as a graduate diploma versus their primary degree? This is very much a generalisation…so please don’t get your back up if teaching is your passion and it was your second degree.

    After being “pushed” into teaching I am now one of it’s biggest advocates.

    I love it.

    The holidays are great.
    The money is ok.
    The skills are transferable (especially to parenting).
    Kids are AWESOME.
    The daily challenges are exciting.
    The feeling of making a difference is…enough to bring a lump to my throat as I type this.

    Basically I see teaching is getting a chance to make a difference…while being paid.

    After being out of the classroom for 18 months establishing a business, I intend to go back next year.

    I am a teacher, nearly as much as I am a husband and father.

    Personally, I think we “market” teaching incorrectly.

    The focus shouldn’t be on lifting the pay rate to attract better teachers, because then we may attract teachers more attracted to $$$…is that why we want/need? I’m sure it’s not that simple though.

    I think we should focus “marketing” to prospective teachers on the opportunity to make a difference, be creative and live a pretty nice life.

    Having said that, if teaching had of been marketed that way when I was young I likely would have become a carpenter…

    • mwalker says:

      Tim, I think not many of us start in the profession knowing why or what drives us. We know its trying to do good in a round about way but its only after and in my case provoked reflection that I came to it. In my case it was both to right a wrong (or a series of woundings) and that I actually enjoyed both the act and spirit of helping (and what ever that entails) young people to learn. So I’m not surprised nor cynical of your initial response but rather encouraged that you came to your imperative after some experience. I would add that $$ help in balancing the position of the importance of the role amongst a range of professions and I think Finland over 30 years have proven that. Thanks for the considered response.

  2. I, Doris Perosin, decided to become a teacher in 1967 when l was 8 years old. I was quite bright and attended a Catholic Primary School. On wet days or if a Prep teacher was ill l was often asked to ‘look after the Preps’ with another friend.
    I LOVED the feeling of making a difference in a child’s life. It was relected in kids’ eyes and warm hugs. I had always felt ‘inferior’ but, in a classroom. l felt loved and felt l could make a difference. I ALWAYS wanted to help kids believe in themselves FIRST as a person………Then as a ‘learner’. Self Esteem is a NUMBER ONE pre-requisite to achieve things in life.
    I have written a number of essays on this.
    KIDS FIRST “the system” last!!!
    Doris )perosin) =maiden neme

    • mwalker says:

      Doris, show care and empathy for others is a prerequisite for teaching. Systems are created by people in fact as a classroom teacher I has a system for students to indicate they were going to the toilet instead of interrupting my interventions or feedback with their peers. Its that the wider society expect so much from schools and evidence to support those expectations that we are corralled into things that take us away from the as Elmore suggests the core – the relationships between the teacher/the student/and the curriculum. So I say lets refocus the systems to the core and applaud the empathic teacher and their students.

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