I have wanted to be an English teacher for a long time. Since junior high, my dad swears. It’s just always been what I wanted to do. And now, I get to it all the time and without having to dilute my efforts with massive class sizes and too much committee work. It’s a privilege to be sure.
1. I love rereading my favorite works. When I assign “Fourth State of Matter” by JoAnn Beard, I get to read it again . . . and every time, it’s a new experience. Because I often feel like there’s too much to read, re-reading for classes is a necessity that seems like a rare treat.
2. I love learning new things. From the challenges that face green turtles off the coast of Kenya to the fate of a young woman in a fantastical world, I always learn new information and insights from my students. They introduce me to so much.
3. I love meeting new people. Every time a new class starts, I get to know new folks. These may be people I would never meet in person even and with whom I might share very few interests, but by the end of a class, we are almost always friends.
4. I love finding new ways to explain things. Every student is different, of course, and sometimes, my old ways of explaining ideas like scene or point of view just don’t work. Then, I have to stretch myself as a teacher and find new language for these concepts. It’s exhilarating in the challenge.
5. I love the conversations. For example, I’ve talked about truth and fact in nonfiction with people for years, but most of the time, I have those conversations with writers who had already heard all the arguments and so have a “side” already. Most of my students, though, are fresh to the conversation, and so I get to watch them study and question . . . it’s glorious.
6. I love their work. One of the reasons I’m a writer is that I love to read, and so teaching lets me read things that are brand new, just in growth sometimes. And the power in this new growth takes my breath some days.
7. I love the challenge. It’s hard work to come up with readings and assignments that work for a particular group of people – that meet where they are and push them to go further. Yet, I get energy from this work because it pushes me to really know them and see how best to help.
8. I love to see growth. I imagine parents might feel like this, but for me, watching a student grow into her voice, seize hold of her vocal strength, take control of her story – well, it makes me proud of her. So, so proud.
9. I love to use my gifts. I hope this doesn’t sound arrogant, but I’ve been given a talent for teaching – or at least I think I have. I seem to be able to explain things clearly (for most folks), and I seem to be able to help writers go further. There’s deep blessing in doing what I am made to do.
10. I love to learn. By far, my students teach me more than I ever teach them. They teach me to see my craft in new ways and explain it with fresh words. They teach me to know the world anew and with a depth I hadn’t known possible. They teach me to be patient and breath deep as we all dive into this word world together. By far, the gifts they give me far outweigh anything I can give them.
To all my students, I say a deep thank you for giving me the opportunity to do one of the things I love most – work with you. Thank you, thank you.
What do you love about your job?