In a family of medical professionals, a university of communications majors, and a world of businessmen and women, my choice to enter into the teaching profession is often questioned and looked down upon. My desire to become a teacher, however, has never been tainted or influenced by these stigmas. Instead, I have always seen teaching as a way to make a difference both in daily interactions with students and potentially in influencing, encouraging or inspiring the paths of their lives. Freshman year of high school I discovered an anonymous quotation that described exactly what I hope to accomplish as an educator, and it said “to teach is to train and motivate young minds to wonder.” This very briefly describes my reason for teaching as I hope to inspire classrooms filled with young children to love to learn.
Even though I did not make the decision to pursue teaching as a profession until the beginning of high school, my decision to enter education is rooted in my personal experiences with various teachers throughout my years in public school. As far back as kindergarten, I can remember looking up to my teachers and wanting to be like them in every way. More specifically, I can identify two educators to whom I attribute most of my success. The first, my fourth and fifth grade math teacher, instilled in me a love for learning and desire to work hard that grew as I continued all the way through high school. The most distinctive quality about her teaching style was the care she showed for her students – a type of care that led her to keep in touch with me once I entered middle school, to mentor me in my high school research, and to congratulate me upon graduation. The second influential educator was my high school principal who instilled so much confidence in me that it spilled into every aspect of my life and was critical in shaping my academic, extracurricular and future career goals/achievements. The example of these phenomenal educators is a small yet powerful glimpse into the impact teachers have had on my life, and the reason I want to give back to future students.
Looking beyond my inspiration for teaching, I also see many practical rewards in the field. In an article published by UNC Chapel Hill (2008), experts identify the benefits of becoming a teacher to include the joy of making a difference, the ability to have interpersonal interactions, and the high level of autonomy one holds. While the benefits of interpersonal interactions such as humor and support as well as having autonomy are more evident, every teacher’s ‘joy in making a difference’ takes on a different form. I strive to fall within the category of “[the most] highly satisfied teachers [who] believe that they are capable of promoting learning in their students regardless of students’ ability, backgrounds, and home life” (Kauchak, 2011, p. 14). This identifies another significant reason that I want to be an educator; I want to bridge the achievement gap between English and non-English speaking students. Recently, this has developed into an interest in entering ESL education.
In addition to serving as a traditional teacher, I see the role of an ESL teacher taking on two forms: a communicator and a motivator. I want to enter education especially so that I can assist with the second role – serving as my students’ motivator. In her book on bilingual education, Lynn Malarz writes that “motivation is a powerful force in second-language learning” and that “motivation governs a need to communicate, to make friends, to identify with a social group, to become part of a community and to begin to plan one’s future” (1998). I want to become a teacher so that I am able to assist non-English speaking students in not only developing an understanding of the English language, but also in how to interact with other students while still maintaining their cultural identity. While ESL education is a very specific way in which I hope to achieve his goal, it reflects my overarching desire to equip and motivate students to succeed in school.
To conclude in a more broad sense, I want to enter education because I truly believe that teachers have the ability to make a difference in the lives of each and every student they teach. I am driven more by intrinsic motivations than extrinsic ones because whether it is a noticeable difference or a very minimal one, I feel that every teacher has a chance to make an impact. As one teacher shared, “Teachers are also guides on the journey to synthesis, where a child’s life takes root and flowers. Guiding students toward synthesis requires teachers to encourage the act of processing. Teachers may never see the results in the classroom, although parents and others outside it will. The stories our students tell us give us faith” (Mustacchi, 2011, p. 88). As she pointed out, my role as a teacher is to guide students through the learning process, while also making sure that they enjoy the journey. While every tangible reward and benefit of teaching serves as another incentive to enter the field, the primary reason I want to work in education is so that I can motivate, encourage, and guide students through the learning process.
Kauchak, D., Eggen, (2011). Introduction to Teaching: Becoming a Professional. (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.
Malarz, Lynn. (1998). Bilingual education: Effective programming for language-minority students. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/curriculum_handbook/413/chapters/Bilingual_Education@_Effective_Programming_for_Language-Minority_Students.aspx
Mustacchi, Johanna. (2011, January). What makes a great teacher?. Educational Leadership, 68(4), 74-93.
The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. (2008). Why consider becoming a teacher?. Retrieved from http://www.unc.edu/uncbest/teacher.html