Why I became a teacher and am one today!
|I have known since I was a young child that I was meant to become a teacher. It is a career that runs through my family. About eight years ago I thought that I should try something other than teaching. That pursuit did not fulfill me the way teaching did and I learned from the experience that God designed me to be a teacher. I get the most joy from teaching those students that most adults shrink from: pre-teens and teenagers. When I was a beginning teacher with my first class, I could scarcely believe the trust society, parents and the students had in me. I am still humbled by it, and rely on the fear that I may lead someone astray to keep me on track as an educator. I want to give back to the system that gave me such a hunger for knowledge. And I want to live out the lesson that I most hope to teach my students: we each make a profound difference in the lives of each other.
One of my greatest moments as a teacher came in 2002 when my eighth grade class was inspired by the work of Heifer Project International to raise $5000 in five months to help strangers in the world. This project was their idea, one about which I must admit I was skeptical. We carefully prayed about it and considered our commitment to the idea before we began. The students convinced me that they could accomplish the feat that would enable them to purchase a gift ark through the organization that would provide farm animals and livelihoods for thirty families. As they held school raffles, collections and door-to-door solicitations, my role was banker and cheerleader. My mantra became, “If not you, who? If not now, when?” The closer they got to their goal, the more they realized that individually they did make a difference. I began to see the knowledge that I always prayed they would gain take root. There were several students who left my classroom that year knowing they did and can make a significant difference in the world. Their eyes shone brightly and they stood humbly proud of being the best that God had created them to be. I take joy in knowing that I helped plant that seed of knowledge, and I am eager to see what they do with their future.
In the winter of 2005, I had another humbling experience that has reminded me in a profound way that I do make that difference in my students’ lives. One morning, as my eighth graders were discussing their ideas on death and the afterlife, one of the young men in my class began choking on a lollipop. As Jeff’s choking and fear became apparent I recalled my training over the years in CPR. I remember calmly thinking that everything would be okay as soon as I forbid food in my classroom again! I followed the steps and got Jeff’s permission to perform the Heimlich maneuver on him. While I stood behind his fourteen-year old, six-foot frame, I exerted the necessary pressure with my fists on his diaphragm twice and he heaved up the candy. His purple face returned to normal as he breathed freely. All was well. Later when Jeff thanked me for saving his life, I told him that someone once saved mine, I saved his, now he must do the same with his life. He promised he would.
The experiences with the Ark Project and with Jeff have brought home to me what I hope to get out of my teaching career. I most want to make a difference in a positive and lasting way in the lives of my students. Thankfully, not every student presents me with such a dramatic opportunity as Jeff did. And not every class responds to “If not you, who?” But these two experiences remind me of the joy and the enthusiasm I strive to tap into each day in the classroom. My students know that I care about them, that I believe they are good and capable, and that actively celebrating their faith and pursuing knowledge can only lead to great joy in life and a world of adventure.