Twenty Reasons Why I Love Teaching

February 14-22 is #LoveTeaching week, a social media campaign designed to change the narrative about teaching and focus on the overwhelming and abundant positives about this job.  For the last four years, I have been involved with an online professional learning community with three other teachers: Stephanie Smith, Austen Reilley, and Amy Gilliam.  Between us, we cover elementary, middle, and high school classes.  When I heard about the #LoveTeaching campaign, I immediately posed the question to my posse, and here are the twenty things we love most about teaching in no particular order.

  1. When I get my roster for the new school year. I love to pull up our school’s internal directory and check out the kids that will be coming to me in the new year.  Hey, I know that kid from Tardy Table. That kid looks adorable. That kid looks sad.  That kid needs a hug. I have brightness, I have diversity, I have challenges. I have a room full of potential.
  2. The energy of the first day of school. There’s nothing like it.  Everything is possible.  It’s a clean slate.  Teachers and students strive to make the best impression. Everyone is fresh and new, looking and feeling their best.  The pencils are sharp and abundant.  Spiral notebooks crisp and ready to be filled.
  3. My classroom. I love my room, and I want my kids to love it.  It’s warm, inviting, colorful, clean, organized, and there’s always a pot of coffee brewing. I love the three wide windows that let in the morning sun, and I love the energy when kids come in before first block to hang out, joke, gossip, or talk about sports, news, and movies.
  4. My colleagues. Teachers are some of the coolest people I know.  They are tough, sassy, and curious. They are wise to human nature yet eternal optimists.  Always hopeful, always enthusiastic, always learning.  They are my witty, wonderful tribe.
  5. The teachable moment. I have written before that there are few more transcendent moments in a teacher’s life than when she’s standing in front of a group of students, explaining something, and everyone in the room is sitting on the edge of the seats. It’s a beautiful moment of showmanship delivered by a professional, without a lesson plan, without a standard.  It’s the zenith of a teaching life. It’s as good as it gets.
  6. When the light goes on. This is similar to the teachable moment, but it’s more profound because it’s a singular moment of revelation when a kid finally puts it all together. The clouds part and the angels sing.  The ah-ha!  The eureka! When the creases fall out of the kid’s forehead and the eyebrows go up, and she says, “So that’s what you’ve been talking about all year!!” Bingo.
  7. When the lesson plan beat drops. Some days the lesson you’ve planned is interrupted by a fire drill or you run out of time for the lab or there’s a full moon.  But then there are days… Oh, those days when it all comes together.  When the copier, the stapler, the projector works, when your bell ringer is on fleek, when your mini-lesson slays, when they inhale the reading selection, when everyone kills it during the activity, and the socratic discussion nears sublimity, and you have just enough time for the perfect exit slip which they finish with relish and reflection, and then the bell rings.  Oh, and you have planning next.   #GOLD
  8. That kid. You know the one. He’s the shy kid in the back who never does well on tests, but he’s the only one in the room who knows the answer to some deep, existential question about the human condition.  She’s the quiet girl in the corner who shares her poetry with you one day, and its ferocity tears your face off.  He’s the kid who never remembers his homework, but you hear him play the cello at the coffee shop around the corner, and you are transported.
  9. That other kid. She’s so mad at the world.  He’s angry with everything and everybody.  She’s raising her eight brothers and sisters in a double-wide trailer. His parents are in jail. She has no quiet place to read or do homework. He’s moved eight times in the last school year. Help me, this kid is saying to you, but he’s not using those words.  The words she uses are “this is stupid,” “I hate this class,” “you’re the worst teacher in the world.” This kid will break your heart.
  10. Oh, and that other one too. He’s the class clown.  She’s wise to all the futile exercises of the adult world.  And you can barely keep a straight face when you say, “That was completely inappropriate,” because you know in any other circumstance what that kid just said would have been the funniest thing ever in the history of funny things.
  11. When you are more than a teacher.  Maybe it’s the unity of the team or the club, maybe it’s the competition, or maybe it’s the out of classroom experience that draws you closer, but your relationship changes and deepens when you share in their lives outside the realm of your classroom as a sponsor or a coach.
  12. When they seek out your counsel. There are few better moments than when a student seeks out your opinion on a non-school matter.  When they respect your opinion and value your judgement enough to ask your advice on their future, their relationships, or their jobs, that is one of the highest callings.
  13. When you call parents to tell them how proud you are of their child. There’s no better phone call to make then calling a parent, especially one who may never have had a positive phone call from the school before, to say their child stood up for someone less fortunate or their child made good choices that day or their child improved by a letter grade or their child turned in all her homework for the six weeks.  Those calls are the life blood of our work.
  14. When parents tell you how much their kid loves you and your class. My friend and colleague Elizabeth Beck calls this kind of comment “a teacher paycheck.” There is nothing more rewarding than knowing you have made a positive difference in the life of a child.
  15. When students come back and tell you how much they loved your class. Ditto from #14, but better. Especially when they cite specific lessons, short stories, poems, moments from your class that they remember.  There’s nothing better. Really.
  16. When I read an essay and hear a thinking mind behind it. Yes, that’s the goal, but sometimes a correct essay isn’t always one of original thought. So many kids, like so many adults, repeat the same worn-out adages of convenience, the bromides and platitudes of popular opinion, but woah, when there’s evidence of a whirligig mind—musing, reflecting, speculating—yeehaw, I love teaching.
  17. When your kids leave love notes on your white board.  There’s nothing better than a group of high school kids covering your white board with pictures of pigs and alligators and frogs with messages like “We love you, P-Dog.”
  18. Keeping up with your graduates on social media. I have the good fortunate to have nearly a hundred former students as friends on social media. I love watching them grow, travel, earn degrees and new jobs, new loves, get married, have babies, adopt.  When I see them happy and successful, I am happy and successful.
  19. The energy of the last day of school. Like the first day, there’s nothing like it.  A buoyance in every step, a lightness in the air.  Celebrations are soon to follow. The graduates look so pleased, the parents so proud, the teachers so ready for summer. The ocean calls out your name like a lover.
  20. Summer. I’ve never met a summer I didn’t like.  Time to take classes, read books for pleasure, rejuvenate, plan, escape, and come back for the next exhilarating year.
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