This article was written while I was exploring the teaching profession.
Vol 5 No 5
I Choose Teaching - A Meaningful Career
“You want to be a teacher?? They don’t make any money!" “Kids aren't like they used to be.” “Are you CRAZY?” These are some of the comments I have heard since I announced my decision to teach. Does this change my mind about wanting to teach? No!
by Donna Streetenberger
New contributor to the Gazette
May 1, 2008
“You want to be a teacher?” “They don’t make any money.” “I sure couldn’t do that.” “My own kids drive me crazy.” “Kids are not like they used to be.” “They have no respect for you.” “Are you CRAZY?” These are some of the comments I have heard since I announced my decision to teach. In addition to all of this negativity, the job market hasn’t been as “wide open” for teachers as I had previously heard. Does this change my mind about wanting to teach? No, in fact, it makes me want to do it even more!
My reasons for wanting to teach are obviously not for the money, or the fact that some kids are not as sweet as others are. It’s a personal choice that I have come to realize can be more fulfilling than anything I have ever done. Any of the previous jobs I have had were exactly that, a job. When I was first starting out, I needed a job to support myself. After that, I wanted a job that paid more money because I wasn’t making as much money as someone else was. Then, I needed a job to supplement the one I had because the more money I made, the more money I spent. Keeping up with the “Joneses” had become a way of life.
Things were not very satisfying. Then I came across a question somewhere that asked, “If you could choose any career in life, what would that career be?” As I pondered that question, I began to evaluate my current situation. I realized that I never really had a job, much less a career, that I could be proud of. Not that I didn’t take pride in my work, I just wasn’t particularly proud of the fact that my job had some status and paid me a lot more than it was worth. I was in the telecommunications industry and it was not very exciting or challenging. However, there was one thing I did in that job that was enjoyable. Part of my job was teaching or “training" as it’s known in the corporate world. I trained people to use web-based software that I had helped create. Teaching in an elementary school couldn’t be that different could it?
I decided to substitute teach to see if my idea of teaching children was similar to the real thing. I can honestly say that my experiences as a substitute were more exciting than I had ever thought they would be! It was more meaningful than any high-paying job I had ever had. One of my first jobs was in a pre-kindergarten class. There was a little girl who couldn’t remember my last name, “Streetenberger.” She needed to go to the restroom and was obviously nervous about addressing me. “Miss…Um… Mrs. Burger.” “Um, I mean, Mrs. Hamburger? Can I go to the bathroom?” “Yes, you may,” I said, as I tried not to laugh. I told the afternoon class, which came in later that day, that my name was Ms. Donna.
Another assignment I had was teaching at an intermediate school. I was looking over the lesson plans for that day as a 5th grader came into the room. The first thing he told me, after his name, was that his mom had died of cancer. As we discussed his life with his dad and new stepmother, I realized that I wasn’t the only one in the world that this had happened to. I told him that I too had lost my mother to cancer just before 4th grade. I told him I completely understood his situation and he knew I meant it. Later that afternoon when the class got a little rowdy, he said, “Hey! Give her a break. She’s cool.” Then, the class settled down. These are kids I will never forget. I can’t imagine getting to have my own classroom with more kids like these that have so much to learn, and so much to offer.
Teaching, to me, is not only educating a student, but also learning about life as we live it. It means making a difference in a child’s life by doing the simple things like giving them respect. The kids I have seen in my short time as a substitute have made a bigger impact on me than any CEO I ever met. Through my past job, I found out that money doesn’t equal happiness. Hopefully, in teaching, I can make a positive contribution to society. The next time someone says, “You want to be a teacher?” I’ll say, “More than anything!”