Thursday, July 11, 2013

Why I Love to Teach... in Less Than 500 Words

Recently, I was asked to write about why I love to teach in less than 500 words for an online teaching/education resource website, Haystack Edu.  There are countless reasons why I like to teach, but only one reason truly explains why I love to teach.  Here is what I wrote:

I love to teach for one reason, explained below in two personal stories.

Years ago, on the last day of school, a father of one of my students came up to me after I said goodbye to my kiddos.  He asked if he could speak with me about his daughter Angela's math experience that year.  Angela had extreme difficulties in math that she eventually overcame.  At the beginning of that school year, Angela was shy, quiet, and rarely shared in class.  That year, I watched her grow from a reserved child into a confident student ready to take on the world!  As her father and I sat down to talk, he became teary eyed.  He told me that prior to that school year, Angela dreaded school.  She would frequently ask to stay home and cry while working on math homework.  He explained how something changed in her while she was in my classroom.  She started to love school and even love math.  With tears in his eyes, he thanked me and said that I changed Angela's life.  

Just last month, I ran into another former classroom parent at a coffee shop.  Two years ago, her autistic son, Jeffrey, was fully included in my classroom.  After a few rough initial weeks, I had a long chat with my class about autism and why Jeffrey did things differently.  My students asked many questions about autism that I answered honestly and respectfully.  That conversation changed perceptions. Students started seeking out Jeffrey to play and even to engage with during class.  They asked his opinion during writing workshop and became disappointed when Jeffrey needed to leave for occupational therapy or speech sessions.  For the first time in his young life, Jeffrey's peers accepted him.  At the coffee shop that day, Jeffrey's mom hugged me and wouldn't let go.  She started explaining that my open and honest conversation about autism with the class immensely helped Jeffrey's experience that year.  Two years later, she told me about how the kids in class still regard Jeffrey as an equal peer.    With a huge smile on her face, she told me that I changed Jeffrey's life.

Nothing in this world is more important than changing a child's life for the better.  I love to teach because I get to do the most important job in the world.