This post originally appeared on Real Chalk.
Do you want to know what I am fighting for?
On Thursday, a student in my 8th period class was in tears…she was afraid of the looming weight and rigor of the work that she had coming this year in her classes (she is taking all honors classes and two AP). When the bell rang, I walked her to her next class, her hands covering her face as she kept telling me how scared she was. I looked her in the eyes and told her I believe in her. That she is a fantastic writer. That no matter what obstacles are in front of her this year, whether it be her struggle with English as a second language or anxiety of failure, no matter what…I told her that I would be there for her to make sure she succeeds. She smiled, and although she wasn’t completely at ease, it made her feel better to know she wasn’t alone in this fight. She later stopped by after school, and another teacher and myself spent around 30 or 40 minutes after school talking with her and affirming her limitless capacity for success.
This is why I teach. I came into this profession because my teachers that I had, most notably Curt Maslanka and Peter Gagliano, took time out of their own lives to invest into mine. These teachers did not receive raises or commission for each student they reached. I didn’t get paid for that extra 40 minutes I spent with my student after school helping her realize her potential for greatness. It was something that came out of the goodness of our hearts, and it’s something that calls us to become teachers: the desire to make an impact in someone’s life.
If you know any teachers, you know that we don’t go into this profession for the money. And yes, the summers off are nice, but it is never the incentive. The incentive is what happened to me Friday morning when that very same student came to me with a big smile on her face…ready to take on the world. She ultimately decided to keep her Honors and AP classes the way they were, and she told me that she never felt more confident to take on the challenges that awaited her.
Hopefully you have had a teacher in your life that invested in you, believed in you, or inspired you to become who you are today. We are fighting to keep inspiring students and to continue doing what we love. If our rights are taken away (if we work for an unjust system that works us to the bone only to get rid of us when we become too much of a financial liability) then I am afraid we will never get the chance to make an impact in anyone’s life. Ultimately, we are fighting for what is right; if we can’t teach our students that if you find something that you love, and you believe in it with all your heart, then you should do everything in your power to fight for it…if we can’t teach them THAT…then we will have missed out on the single greatest impact that we could ever make as educators.