Why I Love to Teach

I got into teaching purely by accident. My husband is the one who felt called to teach. I was not interested. I spent all my days home schooling our girls, which I loved. But I had no desire to attempt to capture and hold the attention of more than, say, two students at a time.

My husband applied at a few schools between 2004 and 2006 and had no takers (his desire was not matched by classroom experience). Then, last summer, God led us to move many, many miles from home in order to be a part of a brand new school in Colorado.

The thing is, since it was a brand new school, it needed lots of new teachers. So, as a favor to the school and an act of solidarity with my husband, I signed on to teach a few English classes. I was anxious, sure I’d fail, horrified that I’d scar these kids for life. And absolutely positive that I’d hate every minute of it.

(Great attitude, I know. Don’t you wish your kids were in my classes?)

I’m still not sure whether I’ve scarred anyone for life, but I knew from the first half hour in that classroom that I most assuredly did not hate this teaching thing. Even when the kids were squirrelly little terrors (one class was chock-full of seventh graders), I was energized and pretty much full to the brim with joy.

I have two reasons, both simple.

First, I love kids. Head over heels, over the moon, I love them. I love to hear them say they “can’t” write and then show them that they really can, even though it never gets easy. I love to see their surprise when they realize they’re enjoying a book that was written in the 19th century, set in the 18th century. I love it when a parent emails me and tells me that she’s afraid her son won’t be able to get through the book he’s chosen for his book report; and I tell her to sit back and watch him triumph over what he (and she) thinks is impossible; and she does; and he does. I’ve got chills right now, just sitting here remembering.

Second, I love words. Put them in poetry, prose, essays, or transcendent, brilliant books like To Kill a Mockingbird, Gilead, Peace Like a River, Light in August or even The Velveteen Rabbit. I don’t care where I find them, read them, hear them, or write them, I love words. There is nothing quite like the feeling of finding precisely the right word. Unless it’s reading someone else’s precisely-right words. Words can be brusque, brutal, harsh, cruel. They can soothe, comfort, heal, inspire. Some words are inherently hilarious. Like flibbertigibbet. Come on, you know you just laughed.

So, now I spend my days with fabulous kids and marvelous words. It’s the very definition of a happy accident.

4 thoughts on “Why I Love to Teach

  1. Bless you for taking on the task of educating the next generation of writers, essayists, poets and communicators. I fell in love with English in ninth grade…when I developed a huge crush on my English teacher. She took me down the coveted path of expressing through writing and I’ve never stopped. By the way, “Peace Like a River” is a brilliant first novel. Glad to see you’ve got your kids reading that one!

  2. I taught my first class in four years yesterday. I was so absolutely exhausted I crashed on the couch, out cold, at 6:30 in the evening. I never really woke up after that.

    I know that by the years end, I’ll have won over even the most difficult child. Better said, he’ll have won me over. And I know that teaching will energize rather than exhaust. Meanwhile, I’m totally enjoying the younger siblings of some of my previous students.

  3. I know what you mean when you talk about loving words, and I’m growing more and more convinced that understanding that is a bit like understanding “Southern,” because I hear that that is something you can never fully “get” unless you were born in a particular place or raised in a particular way.

  4. Pingback: Hold On Tight to Your Dreams « for better, for worse, for life

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