The Riches of Teaching

Negativity…  The world can seem saturated with it.  Sometimes when I open Facebook or Twitter I feel like I just dipped my hand in sludge and need to wipe it off.  If we let it the world can make us hate our lives.  But the key is if we let it.  

I lived a good part of my life looking forward to the next step or the next gain, until after I had gained my degrees and landed my job I had no more course left to run.  I also have struggled throughout my life in the month of March to stay sane and not allowing cabin fever to take hold of me.  I have a hard time when I do not see the sun as often on my skin, state testing is rearing its ugly head, and there are no holidays to look forward to.  March is just a month that I battle the Black Dog and hope to keep it at bay. 

This year I have spent hours in the car listening to self help books to try to stay positive.  I have been enjoying Tony Robbins and his programs that try to break your state of mind so you can breakout of negative thought patterns.  I also read Dale Carnegie’s book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, which basically brought my frantic nature to a calmer state.  The most recent book that I am listening to is Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, which has been heralded as the best book ever written on personal motivation, and recently helped me reframe my definition of success and riches.  Hill placed money as the last way to get riches and all the others were things that required no money at all, such as personal relationships.  All of these authors have helped me stay in a positive state and have inspired me to try to live a fuller, richer, life. 

So in the style of Napoleon Hill I decided to write down what I think the riches of teaching are to me.  In our profession today there is a ton of negativity.  In the past, I had a hard time getting past what I saw or felt were injustices.  I have many opinions about a myriad of subjects and changes that have come through the system, but not all of them are negative and some are out of my control.  What I can control is my ability to find the riches in our profession every day.  Some days have more riches than others, but let’s face it, this is why we all became teachers.  None of us became teachers because we wanted a millions of dollars of wanted to run a multinational corporation.  We wanted to “Make a difference!”  What does that even mean?  We all have a different definition associated with that statement, but below are some of the riches that I have found to be in my field. 

1.        Teachers are surrounded by an abundance of interpersonal relationship wealth: 
       Think about this…  Every day you interact with people.  You see them.  They see you.  Conversations are had.  Lives examined.  Stories are shared.  Emotions go up and down.  If you worked in a cubicle would you have the same relationships?  Probably not.  You would have some, but not as many.  Every day I do all of this with around One Hundred Twenty people and then repeat the pattern the next day.  I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if I had stuck with computers as my job, but then I remember the internship I did working in a museum and the lonely sadness that it brought me because I like working with people. I know that I would not have been privy to all the laughter, joy, and fulfillment that I now have shared with probably around Seven Hundred students and athletes that I have interacted with over my course as a teacher. 

2.       Teachers are paid to talk about a subject that makes them go wild:
      Every day I talk about US history and there is nothing I would rather talk about.  People that are not interested in history often glaze over when I start going in too deep in my everyday life, but at school I get to talk about it over and over.  I get to explore that subject matter even more so my students can understand it better.  Students get to see why I love it so much and get to understand the intricacies of the narrative that is US History.  I share the beauty of my subject every day.  If I was still working in a store or had decided that office work was for me there is no doubt I would not be having deep discussions about my passion.  I am just picturing myself trying to talk to a customer over the register that I used to run about Andrew Jackson and his connection to the twenty Dollar Bill…  How well you think that would go?  

3.       Teachers work around passionate people:
      Teachers are passionate.  They each have their own way of showing it, but I have never met a teacher who was simply “there for the paycheck” or for the summers off.  Never.  Everyone who I have met is trying their best to teach kids the subject they love.  To share daily in a way that makes people grow.  Teachers also get all riled up over issues within the school system or issues in the community.  No teacher I have ever met has just said, “Who cares?”  We are all activists in our own way.  Is everyone that works in an office passionate about their work?

4.    The work is never done.
      There is always something to do as a teacher and I don’t mean this in a negative way.  Many people believe that the constant shifting is a source of stress that they just want to go away, but I thrive in this environment.  I hated jobs where I stood in place and waited for customers.  I also could not stand jobs where I had to do the same thing over and over.  I was mentally bored out of my mind, which caused me to start to sabotage myself and my work.  What was the point?  Why should I do a good job when I couldn’t stand the repetition?  Teaching is a challenge every day that is one heck of a balancing act.  I am sure other jobs are just as challenging, but at school I never bored.  I am always trying to improve what I have done in the past or make sure I get the administrative duties that I have to do done.  I can focus my attention on many different things, which is something that my mind thrives upon. 

5.       Students return to continue sharing their story and to give thanks:

            I have been teaching since August of 2007.  Since that time I have had many students return to give me thanks, apologies, and gratitude.  The feeling is unparalleled.  When a student returns and says that you are responsible for causing them to take a career path or even just a path of classes all you feel is joy.  It is pure bliss.  All the work you put in was worth it.  Even as the students were cussing you out or throwing things at you it was worth it.  I know that I would not get the same satisfaction working another job. 

So, as you may be trying to fight off cabin fever, try to focus on the wealthy lives we lead.  We are privileged people.  The few and the proud.  I know so many people who never made it into the profession or have been subbing all these years I have been teaching in a classroom.  Every once in a while I think of them and how I owe it to them to keep enjoying my profession.  What if I had never made it in?  Thinking of the alternative makes me sad.  I am helping people grow every 24 hrs.  To me that is what the definition of wealth and riches.

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