As I See It
Why Teachers Teach
By Jill Chapin
Jun 3, 2007 - 1:37:00 PM

UNITED STATES—We all know people who seemingly suffer through the workday with conditions that make us wonder why they tolerate it. But we probably don’t get the whole picture. We might only see a horrific 70-minute commute to work but don’t appreciate the relaxed dress code and great co-workers who make it all worth it. We hear of low pay but aren’t privy to the free masters program the company offers. That surly boss would drive us mad, but maybe not if we knew that he gives phenomenal bonuses.

As so it is with teachers. We hear a lot about what they contend with and wonder why they don’t throw in the towel and give up. I imagine that not too many of us could endure the seemingly endless public wrath over low test scores. How many of us would put up with unreliable heat in the winter or no air conditioning in the summer? Would you last long with the excessive discipline problems that slows down or stops your job from being performed? And like Dilbert, would you be tempted to pull your hair out over the endless forms and paperwork that eat away at your real job?

To better understand why teachers teach and why many get an almost dreamy look on their face when asked this question, you need to get a peek behind all the nonsense, red tape and harassment they suffer in order to discover the answer. Those are the teachers who connect strongly with their students or at least to some of them. Because through all of that very nonsense, red tape and harassment, they do what they do best; they instill not only knowledge in their students, but a passion to learn, which is a lifelong gift.

I will never forget my daughter’s senior year trig final. She simply loved the course and her grade point average leading up to the final was so high that she was told she didn’t even have to bother taking the final because she was definitely getting an A. But she so enjoyed the process of working out the problems that she took it anyway—for fun! She was the first one finished, so she turned in her paper and went back to her desk to quietly read a book. A few minutes later, the teacher walked by her, slammed her perfect 100 percent score on her desk and whispered fiercely into her ear, "This is why I teach."

There are countless stories like this, but perhaps none so touching as the one shared by my teacher friend, Elaine DuRoff. I defy anyone to read the following and not be moved by what a parent said her third grade daughter did during her bedtime prayers. After asking for blessings for her entire family, little Callie nestled snugly down into her bed, when suddenly in a state of near panic, she lurched back up to add, "Ms. DuRoff! I forgot to thank God for Ms. DuRoff! What would I be without her?!"

With this kind of job benefit, who needs a fancy office?



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