Teaching is a not a profession for the arrogant. Working directly with students takes so much humility that we make a big deal of the small, meaningful encounters, and try to minimize the awful, harrowing moments we consistently witness. A kid whose mother is in the hospital from over-exhaustion at work can barely stay awake all class and finds himself in a swirl of trouble by midday? Comes with the territory. Getting him to get through this set of problems with only a small amount of interruptions? Our day is made. A kid comes in cursing up every and anything in her path and barely lets the teacher get through the lesson with her outbursts? There’s always the next class. Her turning in her homework that you thought she wasn’t even paying attention to? Thank you very much.
These consistent moments where we learn to overcome the personal and professional adversities we face with our students and find the humanity within them is often what makes or breaks our teaching careers. We can go about our business collecting paychecks, learning the latest jargon, flicking tech gadgets at each other until the next one comes out three months later, but until we see the humanity in the work we do, I don’t believe we can truly be effective. We have to approach the job with a love for the people you work for; that tends to overcome the other nonsense around your job.
Even in my position, I come with a firm understanding that I’m not doing this for my administration or any kudos; if anything, I’ve gotten more humble by being a younger staff member helping more veteran staff members improve their pedagogical thinking. I get the chance to see more kids more often, and get a better understanding of how they learn firsthand, and often find myself wanting to help out in any classroom I step into. However, my passion is drawn from the students I directly teach every morning, and fighting against the negative aspects of their lives. I’m living with them through this learning and this experience, even as they don’t see it directly.
Love is a better teacher than duty. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that much out.
Jose, who wonders where your passion lies …