Why do you teach? Some days I wonder, because some days it seems as though it’s too easy to forget. It’s hard to remember in the midst of writing and grading benchmarks, mailing out failure notices, trying to find a way to teach math concepts with letters and no numbers, putting together RTI paperwork and attending four or five meetings a week that cause you to miss your one planning period a day.
It’s hard to be a teacher. In fact, I have discovered it has changed me entirely. While my love of art has never faltered, everything else has to some extent. This job has led me to become the queen of questioning and, on some occasions, self-doubt. Am I capable of teaching clay to thirty-five students at the same time without losing my mind? Am I weak for getting frustrated and yelling at my entire class when the source of my anger was a rough night, or the same three students that always know how to push my buttons? Am I a shining example of what a great teacher ought to be? Do I represent my school in a good light? Am I a role model to my kids? Am I someone they can be proud of, look up to, be inspired by? Am I someone I’m proud of? Am I aware of the concept of patience? Am I able to implement it? Am I always at 300%? Am I always “on”?
The answer sometimes is no. Most times, in fact. I’m only human. But regardless of the difficulties, teaching has been the most rewarding career. It has become my most prized possession; it is the one thing I can never again go without.
Why do you teach? I teach because it is the easiest and most fantastic way to continue learning. I teach because it gives me an opportunity to see the same world through 143 different pairs of eyes every single day. I teach because I believe students deserve to have educators that teach them and love them because they choose to, not because they have to. I teach because I had three incredible instructors in high school; two of them were artists and one a history buff. I teach because it’s the perfect opportunity to encourage our younger generations to think for themselves, challenge themselves and to remind them that even if no one else believes it, I think they are capable of doing gorgeous, powerful things while they exist on this earth. I teach because my students make me a better woman: they make me kind, patient, thorough, responsible, brave, fair, empathetic, a better listener, a team player, a fighter and a peacekeeper, a mother, and a leader. They make me feel like a girl on fire.
A friend of mine recently asked me if I had a Sistine Chapel: a work of art that has deemed my career as an artist successful, a work that everyone would identify as mine. While I believe myself to be an artist, I do not consider my works masterpieces. My answer was this: my kids are my Sistine Chapel. If I can teach thirty years and inspire one student to teach, to be an artist, to look at this world in a new light, to be an optimist and a realist, to believe in themselves, then they are, in fact, my greatest masterpiece. I will be able to witness their greatness as it unfolds during their lifetime. What could be more beautiful or moving than that?
Why do you teach? In case you have forgotten, here are a few ways you have changed my students’ lives:
“Although I don’t talk, he made it his mission to get some form of response from me every day. He would say something to me and I would always laugh and never really respond. Now that I look back on it, I kind of regret not talking to him.”
“She doesn’t judge me. She makes me feel like she cares. She’s so positive and supportive. No one is better than her and she may not know it, but she saves us. She believes in us even when we can’t believe in ourselves.”
“Y’all have made such a huge impact. You guys are the reason I have stayed in school.”
“The standards he sets for me pushed me to try harder and do my best. He uses his failures to inspire my success.”
“I’m glad she didn’t give up on me like my other teachers.”
Kaitlynn Mockett is a first-year art instructor at Alcovy High School. She graduated from UGA in 2014. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org