“I hate this stupid job!”  I cursed after my elementary students left the classroom. It was the end of another agonizing day at work.  The children had brutally taken advantage of me – just like they had the day before, and the day before that, and the day before that.  I’d been a schoolteacher for a little over a year.  I was a fledgling neophyte: fresh out of college, timid in demeanor, lacking in confidence to project an imperious “teacher-voice,” and devoid of experience to implement effective behavior management.  I wanted out of this career. A year as a teacher was one year too much.  But alas, it was only the end of the first month of school. I leaned back against the chalkboard wall.  My legs buckled with fatigue, and I solemnly slid to the floor.   Burying my face in my hands, I let myself go completely, and cried.  I chose my fate to be a teacher.  And now I would reap the punishing harvest I’d sown.

Then I heard a knock on the door.  Randall, the school director and kindergarten teacher, was standing over me.  He watched me in silence for a few moments, and then pulled up a chair to commiserate.  “You want to talk about it?” he asked softly.

I could have expressed so many raging feelings of stress, pain, resentment, and fear.  But instead all that came out was a peculiar question. “What does it mean to be a teacher?” I muttered between sobs.  And immediately I felt stupid for asking it.  I wished I could take it back and exchange it for a verbal onslaught of woeful complaints to illustrate to Randall just how horrible my day was.  After all I wasn’t in the mood to have a philosophical debate about education.  But it was too late.

I didn’t know that this question – “What does it mean to be a teacher?” – would alter my life forever.  I didn’t realize that by asking it, I would activate the first turning of the wheels that would carry me through a prosperous and rewarding teaching career. Randall began: “Deciding to become a teacher to educate school children is like deciding to become a doctor to cure sick people.  You would have to be utterly insane to endure the pain and heartache that come parceled with both professions.”  … Read More