What made you get into teaching? Why do you continue to teach today? Two very simple questions, but ones that may – understandably, given how much teachers have to do – not get asked as often as they should.
So, for World Teachers' Day, TES is asking teachers across the globe to share their stories using the hashtag #WhyITeach. You can send us your responses on Twitter @tes, via Facebook at our page, or email us on email@example.com. Whether it's a written piece, a picture, a Vine, a YouTube video; we don't mind, we just want you to share the love and joy that you have for your profession with the rest of the world.
If you need inspiration, read below for three teachers' stories of how they became a teacher – and why they've remained a teacher.
Zoe Parker – a classroom teacher
My first year of teaching was in Durban, South Africa. It was 2001 and I was 26 years old. In that year, I taught students from a range of socio-economic backgrounds. Some were parents to their younger siblings as both parents had died from Aids. They taught me that no matter where you come from, if you have a desire to learn, it is an unstoppable force. In that year, I learned that passion and knowledge in your subject can get you a long way as a teacher. You can be a good teacher but not a great one. I learned that relationships with students matter first and foremost as a teacher and getting to know your students, I mean really know them, builds relationships for life.
Since then, I have been to the UK, where I studied at the University of Warwick and taught at Huntington School in York. That time taught me that having an inspirational, generous and supportive head of subject makes your working time both productive and enjoyable, and that too many hours spent planning lessons and making endless resources does not necessarily make you teach better.
Do I have any regrets? I wish I had asked my students at the start of my teaching career how they would like to learn. What projects they would like to do and how they could manage their own learning process with me as facilitator.
I am now in Australia, where I have been since 2012. In the last three years, I have discovered that we are truly privileged to be teachers. I have learned that when students have been told they are gifted or good at something, it fundamentally shifts them.
And I am still learning. Two weeks ago, a mum came to see me because she was worried about her son's learning experience in my class. “He just isn’t connecting with you,” she said. “He thinks your expectations are too high and he says he will never have the passion you have for drama”. Ten years ago, I would found this news personally devastating. Ten years on, I am more resilient and used to failure as a teacher. I am trying different ways of engaging him and have realised this is why I love teaching. I love trying to figure out what works for students in the learning environment. It fascinates me. I know that this student will never have the passion I have for drama, but I do know that he is privileged that I share it with him – and I am privileged to be able to share it with all my pupils.
Bev Veasey – a teacher trainer
Why did I become a teacher?
I tried not to be! I left university with no real plan and the voices of family and friends nudging me towards a PGCE. But no, I was going to prove them wrong and be a businesswoman in Leeds. I tried this for a couple of years before I realised that I got so much more out of teaching my Saturday morning youth theatre group than the whole of the rest of my working week. Looking back, this was my turning point; this is why I became a teacher.
Why I continued to be a teacher...
Like any job, there are good and bad days but there is no other vocation that could offer me the chance to work with young people creating, talking and writing about theatre. With some students, there’s a sense that you’re at the start of an adventure as they learn about a subject that will go on to shape their lives, not necessarily as actors but as theatregoers. I’d like to think that their study of theatre has made them more rounded individuals, aware of the world around them, able to listen to others and respectful of cultural differences. But a lot of subjects can – and I suspect do – take credit for such skills!
One thing I totally underestimated was how important it would become to me. Being a teacher has shaped me as a person. For all my faults I believe that I am a better person for it.
Recently an ex-student wrote me a note:-
“Thanks for being that teacher, the first one. The first one to say ‘you’re good at something, do it, do it some more’. Thanks for inspiring me “
My teaching adventure continues. Needless to say, I count myself very lucky that I’m NOT a businesswoman in Leeds.
Kate Newton – a trainee teacher
Why did I choose to be a teacher? I have known that I wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. I genuinely can't remember ever wanting to be anything else. At the age of 8, I had a dozen pretend registers and a full-sized whiteboard in my bedroom so I could 'practice' teaching with my friends. For me there was never any doubt that when I left school, I would start my teacher training in order to begin my teaching career. This allowed me to work towards this goal throughout my own education. I have always loved working with and playing with young children; I used to look after my younger cousins and the small children of family friends and have been babysitting for families around my local village since the age of 15. However, before my first placement in a school at the age of 14, many people had warned me that it was possible that I may change my mind about teaching. I never accepted this doubt and, as I had imagined, the two-week period only reaffirmed my decision to be a teacher. Since 2010 I have continued to enjoy my time in placement schools and have been lucky enough to spend time in schools that have all been extremely different. I really do believe that teaching is one of the most rewarding and valuable of all the professions. I hope that throughout my career I will encourage and develop the eagerness to learn that young children have – irrespective of their background – and be part of promoting their love of learning as they go through the education system.