Why I Teach...

All kids talk about what they want to be when they grow up, but I'd say the majority of them end up doing something very different. In fact, when my students write about this subject, I tell them that whatever they write will probably change before they reach adulthood. (I'm not a dream-crusher or anything, just practical. Also, I'm sure I'll make a terrific parent... "No honey, you are not going to grow up to be a dinosaur.")

Anyway, unlike the majority of the population, not only did my job of choice never change throughout my childhood, but I actually grew up and became what I had always wanted to be- a teacher. You know, as a dumb innocent kid, and even as a naive college student, teaching couldn't have sounded better. Inspire! Mentor! Encourage! Instruct! By the time I was a senior in high school, I was convinced I'd be the next Ron Clark, taking my future classroom by storm and changing the world one English class at a time.

This picture has nothing to do with anything except that I wore this dress my first day in the classroom and it just screams "teacher" to me.

Well, fast-forward a few years and picture a week when I have mountains of tests to grade, I'm avoiding research papers to be corrected, discipline problems abound, and I could wallpaper a large home with the demerit slips I've written, and suddenly that starry-eyed teenager ready to educate the eager masses is looking like a distant memory. I don't feel bad that I feel this way, because I know every teacher goes through seasons like this at least once a school year. (If you're a teacher and you've never been stressed about school, well, you're a big fat liar. =) To quote Princess Bride, "Life IS pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.")

 But when this happens, as it happens to every teacher, I have to remind myself of a few things. I read a post by Molly recently about asking ourselves WHY we do what we do. Now, she was talking about blogging but it got me thinking about teaching. Why do I teach? What possesses me to get up every day and talk myself hoarse about grammar, literature, history, etc. to a bunch of teenagers? Why do I spend a zillion hours working on bulletin boards? (Because I'm stupid, that's why.) Why do I teach?

1. I teach because I'm crazy. (As if that's news to you.) Do you know how many people tell me (sometimes proudly) how much they HATE English? And yet not only do I love it but I love it enough to talk about it for several hours five days a week? Every time I think about not teaching (like when I stay home with my kids someday in the distant future =) I get sad thinking about not being able to talk about grammar on a regular basis. Yes, there are difficult parts to teaching but standing up and explaining noun functions and adverb clauses and misplaced modifiers (I know, I'm speaking a foreign language to some of you)... that's my happy place.

2. I teach because I love the kids. It's pretty funny how even the most exasperating students can worm their sneaky little way into your heart. Recently, I put up a bulletin board with pictures of each of my students, and I surprised even my own cynical self by how nostalgic I felt looking at each one of them.  I talked last year about how my students are "my kids," and they really are. I spend more time with these kids than even some of their parents do, and for better or for worse, they are mine and I love them. All around, they are a group of really fun, bright, sweet kids (and they appreciate my humor, so that's a plus.)

3. I teach because that fired-up high school senior is still inside me (she just likes to hide sometimes!). All my lofty goals and ambitions back then make me laugh a little now, but honestly I am still as passionate as ever about education- more, actually, since I actually have some informed opinions after time in the classroom. (It's amazing what I "knew" at 17 with zero teaching experience.) The reasons I wanted to teach- inspire! mentor! encourage! instruct!- haven't changed. It's just easy to let the day-to-day grind of it all blur the overall objective, which really is to accomplish those things (inspiring, mentoring, encouraging, instruction, etc.) Hence, this post... the "reminder."

4. I teach because it's who I am. When I was in college traveling with the ensemble, Heath Ferguson would tell us every week, "Remember guys, this is not what we do; this is who we are." When asked to described myself, I always include "teacher." It's just written in my DNA (literally... there are a lot of teachers in my family!) I'm pretty sure I couldn't NOT teach (how's that for a double negative, 7-8 grade?). I will always be a teacher, even if it's just educating the general public on proper grammar

5. I teach because it's my calling. No, I didn't have a vision where it was written on the wall. God never soaked a fleece for me or anything. But I know as surely as I know I'm addicted to Mountain Dew that I am called to be a teacher. (You should know how sure that is.) God has made it abundantly clear through the years that this is what I'm supposed to be teaching right now. Now, if a full-time shopping position opens up, then I may sense a shift in God's will for my life, but for now, teaching is it. I'm not going to elevate the position of teacher to that of a saint or anything, knowing my own weaknesses, but the Bible is very clear about the importance of teachers and education AND I feel very strongly about sharing not only English and history with my students but also as much practical, biblical knowledge as possible. (I could talk about this subject for hours and won't for brevity's sake. Yes, the air is fine up here on my soapbox, thank you.) But I do realize the HUGE responsibility God has given me with these kids. Like it or not, some of your biggest influences growing up were your teachers (good and bad.) I owe to the Lord, to my students, and to myself to teach them to the best of my (meager) ability. 

As a high school senior, I wrote my "vocation paper" on "Teaching: Holding the Key to the Door of Knowledge." (Um, minus ten points for the cheesiest title EVER.) And while I certainly had more zeal than knowledge back then, I did have the right idea about one thing- teaching is a calling. It's a ministry. It's the opportunity to touch lives, sometimes with results that I may never see. It's divine appointments with 38 kids (right now) that the Lord has placed in my path. This year has been quite a learning experience for me. I thought that majoring in secondary education would prepare for me, I don't know, secondary education, but there are some things you just can't learn until you are "in the trenches," so to speak. (Hey, middle school is a battlefield, okay?) And on those days when I just want to throw my red pens out the window and run for the hills, I will refer to this list, knowing that God wrote this chapter of my story a long time ago and His strength is made perfect in my weakness. 

How many people are doing what they planned on doing when they grew up? Good thing Young, Naive Ashley and Grown-Up Ashley were on the same page. (Well, about teaching anyway. Grown-Up Ashley does not approve of Young Ashley's wardrobe choices while Young Ashley would be utterly appalled by my current ignorance of baseball statistics.) 

Why do you do what YOU do? I'd love to know. 



  1. Awesome post! I certainly don't teach, but I am struggling with where I am right now, and being thankful for what seems so hard sometimes. Hence my blog post earlier today. Loved reading your insights!

  2. Great, great article. Your writing makes my heart happy!

  3. You look very teacher chic in that first picture!


  4. I meant to tell you earlier but this post is awesome. Thank you for sharing and I'm so glad you were inspired to write it!!!!


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