Updated: Feb 23
Over 20 years ago, I wrote "why teach". We teachers are the ultimate influencers. We are responsible for future lives and our classrooms act as incubators for individual and team growth. Fast forward 23 years later and I still believe every word. It was the introduction to my book, Energize the High School Classroom and still holds true today.
In the movie "Jerry McGuire" (Tom Cruise), his 25 page manifesto changed his life. Mine, although much more brief, still remains very influential to me. Living by these words below has provided me with guidance, purpose and vision. It is my manifesto to all teachers.
Why teach? I remember my friend asking me this very question. At the time, I was working in the banking industry by day and pursuing my degree in education by night. He couldn't figure out why I was shifting from the business world to the education world. As clear as day, I remember the exact words he said next. "You won't become a millionaire!" I wasn't sure what to say so I simply responded with, "Most likely, neither will you!"
That was over a decade ago (23 years currently) and in the meantime, I have earned a Masters degree in Education, am still teaching, and am not a millionaire (monetarily speaking). If I had known what I know now about teaching back during the night my friend was asking why, I would have responded much differently.
My response would have sounded something like this. I teach because I make a difference. I make a difference to hundreds of students who ask hundreds of
questions a day. Questions about current events, the past and the future, problem solving, friendship, family, and countless other topics. In addition to answering student questions, I help them learn. Learn about required state curriculum and "real-world" curriculum. Together, we solve problems, create problems, laugh, cry, share frustrations, and develop relationships.
How do I know that I make a difference and accomplish everything I just mentioned? The proof is in the handshakes, hugs, smiles, cookies, gifts, graduation parties, wedding invitations, family pictures, Christmas and thank you cards I receive. There isn't a year gone by that I regret entering the world of teaching. I truly feel the difference I make is far greater than any million dollar goal I could have set for myself.
I believe that is why I teach. I cannot speak for other teachers but I guarantee that despite the frustrations involved with education, most would provide an answer similar to mine in respect to the optimism and good feeling I speak about. If one cannot respond this way, they should change professions or maybe alter their career to the business world. The only advice I can give is to be careful what business career one turns to, because my friend, he isn't a millionaire yet either!
As I enter the final years of my teaching career, it makes me happy I had this vision of teaching, as a younger version of myself. I am a lifelong learner and am energized to go to work each day. My advice to my future self: continue to keep a positive perspective, be thankful for what I get to do, and be grateful for the path I have been able to forge.