Why I Teach
By Meg Griffin
This question has been asked of me many times over the years. When applying to a school or a district or even socially, people would ask, “Why do you teach?” Growing up I had no desire to be a teacher. In social situations, the question, “Why do you teach?” often seemed to contain an underlying question, “Why don’t you do more?” In the 1960’s teaching was a passé female profession. We were women and we were supposed to reach for the pinnacle as lawyers, CEOs, doctors, or accountants, but certainly not teachers or nurses. THOSE jobs were for the women who had been held back and had not been able to achieve more.I studied economics and Spanish in college and was sure I had a bright and powerful future in international finance. Fate, as it often does, intervened in the form of love, marriage, and children. I decided nursing would make an ideal mom profession. I could work nights, while my husband worked days. For many years this worked well for our family. I enjoyed nursing and learning new things (see foreshadowing.) I spent many years caring for people with Alzheimers and Traumatic Brain Injuries. Additionally, I taught nurse’s aide training at the local community college, I taught parents and patients about illnesses and disease processes, and I even taught schoolchildren about bike safety and head trauma. Yet, I still did not see myself as a teacher.
The revelation that indeed, I had been designed to be a teacher did not come for some time. Asked to help out by teaching Spanish at the local preschool, I eagerly agreed. My children were now in school full time and I would get to learn something new. I boned up on my early childhood Spanish, the colors, body parts, and “Cabeza, hombros, rodillas, y pies” (Heads, shoulders, knees, and toes). Teaching Spanish to 3, 4, and 5 year olds helped me to realize that I really enjoyed teaching, and I was good at it. Teaching young children also permitted me the opportunity to witness someone learning close-up. I had always loved learning, and had always thought highly of most of my teachers, yet I had never considered that teaching was a way for that circle of knowledge to remain unbroken.
I will never forget the first time I felt the same joy at teaching as learning. Jack had been my student for three years. When he was a 5 year old, he and his family went on a trip to Florida. There on the plane, as his mother later told me, he overheard some people conversing in Spanish. As only a 5 year old can do, Jack proudly said hello – in Spanish and then proclaimed that he too spoke Spanish. Now, Jack’s actual knowledge of Spanish and someone actually able to speak Spanish were not all close. But in Jack’s mind they were one and the same. And Jack thought that way, felt that power, that ability, because of a teacher – me!
So now when people ask me why I teach I give them one of two answers. The short answer is I teach because I love to learn. To teach well requires continuous learning. The slightly longer answer is that in teaching I not only learn myself, but I am part of others’ learning. The circle of knowledge, my circle, becomes larger and stronger the longer I teach. The more students I know, the more I learn. I learn about them, about lacrosse, about silly bandz, about life, and about myself. My ever expanding knowledge makes me a better educator. I teach because it feeds my insatiable desire for knowledge. And I hope my teaching stokes the fires and passion for learning in my students.
Meg has had many careers in her adult life from stockbroker to baker to brain injury nurse. The fates conspired until she finally found her passion – teaching. A PAWLP Writing Fellow since 2005, Meg teaches fourth grade in the Central Bucks School District. She regularly presents at local and national conferences, particularly on technology integration. Meg is the production editor of PAWLP’s e-zine 210 East Rosedale. firstname.lastname@example.org