Why Be a Teacher?

A teacher affects eternity; one can never tell where the influence stops. —Henry Adams

Question for the Times: Why Teach?

Without a doubt, these are challenging times for K-12 classroom teachers. Not only has preparation for high-stakes standardized testing been added to an already long to-do list, but things such as technology, proliferation of social media, and an acknowledged achievement gap are shaking up the educational landscape. Lately, it seems that for teachers, just keeping up is a kind of victory.

Yet the need for teachers is constant, and some specializations, such as special education, science, math, and English as a Second Language are in high demand. So: why be a teacher? We posed this question to some Graduate School of Education faculty, alumni, and students; their responses are below.

For the Future Well-Being of the World

Because good teaching is one of the most important things one can engage in to support the building and sustaining of human civilization. —Danielle Georges, Professor

Entering the teaching profession is never a "should" decision—it's a "must" decision for those who feel something that draws them to a career in which they will spend every single workday establishing relationships with others in the hopes of teaching and learning as a developmental, lifelong process. There is no other job as demanding and rewarding—one that directly contributes to individual and group empowerment. In the best sense, it's an opportunity to contribute to democracy. —Lisa Fiore, Professor

Teaching isn't a vocation, it's a craft. We don't go into teaching for the financial potential it offers. None the less, teachers are getting in on the ground floor of the most important investment there is: our future. By improving our craft, we create greater opportunity for generations to come. Invest in the future, become a teacher. —Beth Short, Alumna, '12

It is a way to change the world. It is the ultimate garden for sowing seeds of knowledge and experience that will empower each voice to be a contributing citizen of our society. The roots of social and ecological change coalesce around the formative experiences that children are offered as they grow. It can spark their creativity by creating a real time canvas of practice. They see the potential of everything and they are excited to make their mark. You are the one who can provide the justice and equity in the room. So much about our future depends on you. You will be the best global defense against oppression. —Faculty of the Ecological Teaching and Learning Program

One of the great purposes of public education is to prepare future citizens to participate in and perpetuate democracy. In recent years, the false rhetoric of 'US failing schools' and the 'teacher blame game' has shifted this focus to competition in a global economy. To ensure we continue to promote the ideals of a democracy, we need thoughtful and committed teachers willing to work to foster, through democratic education, the critical tenets of a free society: social justice, equality, inclusion and community. —Elizabeth Stringer Keefe, Assistant Professor

Teaching gives me the opportunity to influence the future. I can reach out to students and show them that they are the generation that can change our current environmental path. My students get so excited when they see simple inventions that are working to solve some of our environmental problems or when they awaken a personal connection to the Earth through nature journaling. That excitement and those smiles are the reasons we go back every day. —Gail Clougherty, current MS student (anticipated graduation 2016)

To be a Leader, Learner, Change Agent

You will stand witness to the moment when a child first realizes he or she can read a word or a sentence or a book independently, opening up the doorway to a lifetime of learning through the printed word. —Literacy Faculty

A single candle can light thousands more. Passion, wonder and curiosity are delightfully contagious - what greater gift than to share these! —Maureen Weinhardt, Alumna, '10

The mission of teachers is to create learning opportunities by removing barriers to learning, creating equal access for all. There are too many people with disabilities with voices that are not heard, living with limited and controlled opportunities for an inclusive life. Fueled by the social injustices in educational systems, teachers can empower students to lead self-determined lives. —Linda Lengyel, Associate Professor

To be a teacher is to be a leader, a learner, and a change agent. If you believe in the unique gifts of every individual and the power of a community working together you should teach to have a significant impact on children, families, and societies. There is no greater reward than seeing young as well as old minds and hearts ignited with the passion of learning. In this noble profession, your creativity, compassion, curiosity, and knowledge are all focused on developing others to be their best selves and in doing so build relationships that lead to a more social just world. —Patricia Crain de Galarce, Director, Center for Special Education

I teach to inspire curiosity and passion. —Kate Banyas, current student (anticipated graduation 2016)

You will have an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children every day. Few things are more satisfying than sitting alongside a six year old as he reads an entire book on his own or listening in as an older child who resisted reading a lengthy novel shares with her literature circle an important insight into the main character's motivation. Teaching is important, challenging work—and the benefits are tremendous. —Valerie Shinas, Assistant Professor

Whatever teaching's deficits, you will never be bored. After 15 years I have experience everything else--elation, frustration, fury, terror, amusement, astonishment - but never boredom. The job is never the same from day to day, from hour to hour. It's quixotic, it's insanely difficult, and the "big picture" is never certain--but there are moments when you actually know you are making a tangible difference in the lives of real people. Standards, fads, and reforms come and go, but when the system does work, it's always because of good teachers. —David Nurenberg, Assistant Professor

Other than being a parent, it’s one of the most important jobs you could have: to help develop a human being. —Brenda Matthis, Associate Professor

What makes teaching important is your impact on individual students, and the ripple effect on affecting large numbers of students over many years. Everyone has had one teacher who stood out as a person they admired and who made a difference in their lives—and they remember that teacher for the rest of their lives. —Ellen Jackson, Alumna, '82, '12

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Learn more about Lesley's teacher education programs.

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