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Why I teach

If I wake up early on a weekday, I love to pop onto Twitter and follow the #BFC530 15 min “spark” chat. This is one of the most interesting professional development (PD) communities I’ve found. Organized by Scott Capro and run by Jessica Raleigh, the mission of the community is to: “Empower participants to make a difference in education by engaging in consistent reflective practice in a supportive community that inspires and challenges one another.

I enjoy this community because of the diverse voices I hear from around the world as they tackle a variety of questions about teaching and learning. Sometimes the conversations are light hearted and fun. Other days someone will ask a question that launches deep reflection and drives the conversation well past the 15 minute time allotment.

Thursday’s conversation was such a question for me.

Sarah Winchester asked, “Who / What inspired you to get into education?” – 19 Feb 2015

So many of the answers were what one would expect.

AJ Bianco wrote, “knew I wanted to be a teacher at age 13! Had a love/passion to teach and coach. I also had some great influences in my MS years. #BFC530″ – 19 Feb 2015

Some, like Emmanuel Andre, wanted to change things: “HS for me wasnt great. I didnt like other kids or 1/2 my classes, I didnt get involved. Had to change that. #BFC530″ – 19 Feb 2015

My Twitter friend, Ritu Sehji was inspired by an ad, “watched an ad on TV 0800TeachNZ aftr immigrating 2 NZ,found myself enrolled for Ts degree & teaching following yr. Passion lives on #BFC530” – 19 Feb 2015

As usual, it was a great chat full of diverse and honest responses. Still, I found it hard to confess that I never really wanted to be a teacher. Given the choice, I would have become an anthropologist or an artist. When I was saw the movie 'Gorky Park' in my 30s, I was fascinated by the forensic sculptor and remember thinkng, “THAT would be an AMAZING job! However, at that point in my life, I felt it was too late. I was already invested in a career that I had come to love. Although I will admit that I still find watching the 'Bones' TV character, Angela Montenegro, highly enjoyable as she glamorizes the career path I didn’t take.

So why did I become a teacher instead of an anthropologist or an artist?

Growing up in Salt Lake City, Utah -- in the 70’s -- there were only three choices for females besides getting married and becoming a mother. I could either be a teacher, a nurse or a secretary. Looking back, it seems hard to fathom such limited choices, but don’t underestimate the power of cultural norms. Teacher became my choice through the process of elimination. Being dyslexic, even though I didn’t have a name for it back then, I knew I would make a lousy secretary. I was not interested in following my mother’s path as a nurse. That left teaching as the only viable way to make a living. My saving grace was that I genuinely loved working with kids.

Since there was nothing noble about my decision to become a teacher I believe the important question is why am I still an educator? I guess, like Emmanuel Andre, I committed myself to change things. I wanted to find ways to make learning relevant for all students and to create the kind of learning space I would have found engaging as a student. In my first post, Confessions of a dyslexic teacher, I shared how school taught me I was stupid. It was a rare teacher who could see past my academic struggles and find other methods to engage my intelligence, curiosity and creativity. I strive to be that teacher for my students. I want every student in my care to have the opportunity to find their passion, recognize their strengths and learn they have the capacity to do whatever they set their mind to do.

What about the dreams I left behind? It turns out that I kept up with my art. I’m an accomplished potter, life artist and sculptor. I have taken heaps of courses over the years and taught myself the skills required accomplish my goals. I even studied anatomy! Somehow, I found the best of both worlds!

Bonus outcome: It actually better prepared me to create spaces in school for students to pursue their own passions.

Study from an anatomy course I took in 1999



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