A few weeks ago, along with many of you and millions of other members of the LDS church, I had the opportunity to watch the missionary leadership training meeting put on by church leaders. Wasn’t it such a wonderful meeting? As a future teacher, I paid especially close attention to President Packer’s talk on teaching in the church. As he related his experience of sitting on a cliff on a postage-stamp sized island near Okinawa as a young man, trying to decide what options lay ahead of him, I reflected back on my own decisions that led me to this career path. While I’m sure none of them were as glamorous as sitting on a beach overlooking the ocean like President Packer’s was, and I’m not even sure I could pinpoint a specific moment when I decided to be a teacher, I could relate to his desire to influence young people and improve the lives of the youth through education.
Obviously, because you and I chose to be teachers, we appreciate education and the art of teaching. It turns out, though, not everyone feels this way. You may have seen this article floating around the Internet, which counters the argument that teachers are simply glorified babysitters. The article shows that teachers make significantly less money then an actual babysitter would make if they had the same hours. In my secondary education classes and in my observations of current teachers, I’ve seen first-hand that teachers are overworked and underpaid.
If this is true, then why would someone as brilliant as President Packer decide to devote his life to teaching? Why would a bunch of bright, well-educated students such as ourselves decide at the beginning of our adult lives to enlist in what the world sees as a thankless cause?
I don’t know about you, but I’m doing it because I love teaching.
Like I mentioned earlier, I can’t pick out a specific moment when I decided I would dedicate my life to grading hundreds of essays and teaching the finer points of English grammar. I can, however, tell you all about the teachers that made a huge impact in my life. I can tell you about the English teacher who was so enthusiastic about her subject it was contagious. She was so interested in our success, I felt like I could do anything she asked of me, even with her high standards. I can tell you about my sophomore high school advisor who was incredibly invested in making sure her students were gaining the skills and experience they needed to change the world, because she truly believed we could. And I could tell you about my orchestra teacher who constantly pushed us to become better because he saw potential in each and every one of us to be our very best.
None of these teachers were simply a glorified babysitter. They didn’t sit around and lecture us just to pass the time. I’ve realized that each of these teachers that made an impact on me had a few things in common:
They loved their subject and were constantly learning more. My English teachers were always looking for new, great literature, and my music teachers were attending conferences and taking us to competitions to learn from outside clinicians. What a great opportunity to sharpen their skills!
They truly cared about their students. I know each of these teachers took an interest in me personally and didn’t just see me as one in a crowd. My high school advisor was constantly keeping up with our extracurricular activities and giving us tips for how to succeed in other areas of our lives. She provided us with service opportunities to strengthen our resumes and encouraged us to follow our passions.
They were interested in progress, not just assigning a letter on a page. I remember my English teacher once challenging me to achieve a perfect score on an AP essay. For weeks she pushed me to reach my goal, and when I finally got back a paper with the perfect score on the top, we had both achieved something.
This is the kind of teacher I want to become. Not just a glorified babysitter who gives kids a place to be for eight hours a day five times a week, but someone who inspires others to love learning. I want to give students the skills they need to be successful and achieve their dreams. I want to encourage young people to reach their full potential and become the best they can be.
I’m doing it for the love of teaching.