Remembering Why I Love Teaching, Or Do I?

This is a good day to reflect on why I love to teach.  Especially because the last couple of weeks have sucked.  Let me rephrase that… lessons haven’t worked.  At all.  So back to the drawing board.

For all of you teachers out there, why did you choose to teach in the first place?  I had no pompous thoughts that I would change the world.  I just thought it made sense to do something I was interested in, I liked to do and that someone was willing to pay me to do. Who doesn’t want to get paid for doing what interests them?

I love languages, love reading about languages, love discussing languages and love sharing my love for languages with others.  Literature….ahhh.  Grammar as a key to unlocking a new language….ahhh.  The power of slang….ahhh. Word origination….ahhh.

the professor and the madman

And how cool are idiomatic expressions??  The best.

You’ll notice that I naively left out one big ticket item.  That learning to read and learning about languages would have any interest whatsoever to anyone besides me. And a couple of other people.

tess of the d'urbervillesPicture a high school student who would rather be anywhere else than in an English class.  Even though this student thinks physics rules the world as we know it, imagine him/her gobbling up a Thomas Hardy novel and asking for a recommendation for free reading.


If you can picture this, you have an overactive imagination.  You silly person, you.

would like to think that having me for a teacher has had a positive impact on at least some students.  One would be a failure if that never happened.

But the shocker for me was how much students would affect my life.

Here’s an example.  I don’t remember what the essay was about, but probably it was a thematic essay that the state requires in which a student has to dissect a book to the nth degree (you can tell how much I hate that dissection).  I was reading all of the essays one evening and I stopped short.

In the middle of a paragraph, a student wrote “This is the only class where I don’t feel invisible.”

The lesson that young man taught me is that loving my content area and hoping that I can make someone want to become, and then actually become a better reader, or a better linguist, or a better writer is not what teaching is about.

Building relationships with students where they can trust you to guide them to a person who can help them and/or give them advice is what it’s about.  Where you can help them break through some of their life shit so they can feel supported and can focus on their education.

I will figure out lesson plans for the next couple of weeks that will hopefully be more successful than those of the last couple of weeks.  The previous ones may not have achieved what I set out to achieve.  But I care that my students become successful and they have, as always, inspired me to strive for success.

I have remembered why I love to teach.


About Barb Knowles

The things that are important to me are family, friends, teaching, writing, languages and using my sense of humor to navigate this crazy world. Please join me on this blogging adventure...
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36 Responses to Remembering Why I Love Teaching, Or Do I?

  1. Hope the coming weeks are better for you. You sound like a great teacher. And by the way, I LOVED reading Hardy when I was a teenager. Nice to finally find out other people like his books as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Blunderdad says:

    To be the teacher of a class that is the only one a particular student doesn’t feel invisible in is an awesome thing to be. That will have an effect on that student for the rest of their life!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ritu says:

    Especially in this time of over assessment, scrutiny, and change in education, it is really important to remember why you wanted to teach! I wanted to from the age of 7 and the then new national curriculum put me off. I completed my degree but didn’t enter a school… over 10 years later I got back into education as a Teaching Assistant..and being in a school reminded me of my dream, and so lo and behold I ended up in my dream job.
    It’s hard. But I know I couldn’t do anything better!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      Many sports figures, in response to a question about their chosen career, say they are lucky they get to do what they love to do. And so do I. So I agree with you completely. What I didn’t realize was how hard it was going to be, especially with the ridiculous assessments forced upon us.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ritu says:

        That is what is causing droves of amazing teachers to leave. That paperwork is not teaching… And professional judgement stands for nothing now…
        But I know what you mean Barb, I was born to teach and I love it!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Bea dM says:

    You gave me a nice feeling at the end of this post! You sound like that rare gem: a great teacher. I never wanted to teach, but when life happened, the only thing I had going for me and I could support myself with was languages, so I winged it into freelancing, teaching company courses. I learned and improvised as I went along. I’ve taught all ages from 2 to senior, but thankfully never entered the formal school circuit – which seems to be heavy going in very many developed countries. I agree that at the end of the day, it’s the relationships and psychological support that really make it all worthwhile. My most brilliant student says he owes me his excellent English, but claims what i was really doing all along was life-coaching him 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      The framework imposed upon us by our state and federal mandates suck much of the joy out of teaching. Thank you for your kind words. I hope I am a good teacher, although I definitely don’t have the patience I once had. Your student summed it up perfectly. I feel we are a combination of content teacher and counselor.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Carrie Rubin says:

    I’m sure you’ve had positive effects on many students. Just the fact that you change up your material if you feel it didn’t deliver what you’d hoped shows you’re engaged and want to make it the best experience for them. Students notice that.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Good post. That student who doesn’t feel invisible in your class is a testament to the good you’re doing as a teacher. A lot of times our efforts feel unsuccessful, but then weeks, months, or even years down the road we’ll find out we made a huge difference in people’s lives.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      Thank you, especially for reading and commenting here. With this particular student, who still keeps in touch, it was so moving because he didn’t come up to me and ask if he could talk to me. He chose to embed his comment smack in the middle of a paragraph. I agree with you about not always seeing the immediate success. I don’t know where you live, but I’m in the U.S. teaching in a suburb north of New York City. Success is marked by scores on standardized tests. Which I’m sure you’ll agree, is just a small part of a student’s story.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. George says:

    It’s always fun to ask a question and have it answered as you’re writing…:)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My wife teaches at university and some of the first year classes can be a brutal slog of student indifference and general laziness, not to mention borderline illiteracy. But there are always a few students who are enthusiastic, ambitious, and motivated. These are the students my wife teaches for.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Val says:

    I’m not a teacher,but I can tell – from the fact that you’re aware of your students and that they have needs – that you’re a good teacher. Bad teachers are ones who just don’t care about the individuality and potential of those they claim to teach. Don’t be hard on yourself – you’ll find a way because the need is there between yourself and your students.


  10. Jason Preater says:

    Great post and some interesting discussion here. You asked why we got into teaching. That is a hard one to answer because alongside all the lovey stories about great teachers changing your life there must be at least as many with the experience I had at school: teachers who seemed mediocre; teachers who limited their vision to the text-book and the staffroom break. I fell into teaching when I was at university working in a restaurant where one of the waiters couldn’t read. Teaching as a career does not have much interest for me and schools as institutions generally seem appalling, but what you talk about does matter: opening the door to a world of reading; helping people to move along with their lives.

    One of the professors when I was doing teacher training told me off once when I was whining about not seeing much progress in one of my classes. “You never know the full effect you are having on the people you teach,” he said. I feel that, try to make it as much plus as possible.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. L. says:

    Thank you for writing this, Barb. I have been feeling pretty down about my teaching game lately, and wondering if I’m making the right impact. Your post reminds me that it’s about caring for our students’ lives and futures, not just their scores. I know that has always come first for me, so maybe I’m not completely failing. Your post is a much-needed reminder (and is helping me stay sane right now). 🙂
    ~ your friendly neighborhood English teacher

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      Thanks, L. I was really down at the start of winter break. I’m trying to completely revamp what I’m doing with my new program, as I’m sure you are doing with yours. I’m reaching out to EVERYONE! And you will see in the article that I’m writing today that I’ll try anything. Interested in a period this week to collaborate?


  12. Ann Coleman says:

    I have never met you, but I can tell from this essay that you are a very, very good teacher. You care about the students, are willing to change a lesson plan that is not working, and you recognize the power of connection. It doesn’t get much better than that! Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      Thank you but I feel a line-up is definitely needed and I’m reaching out to all and sundry for ideas. The students aren’t changing, so I have to. Don’t get me wrong, their “scores” are getting better, but too many of them aren’t motivated enough. So I’m trying to re-motivate myself . Time to take it up a notch! You are very kind.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Barb, in my opinion there is already far to much involvement from to many outside people—state school officials please take note—that it destroys the purpose of education. That of the teacher—who know their students better than anyone—doing what they feel is best, without getting so bogged down by an abundance of paperwork and new regulations put in place by officials who are out of touch. But, that’s my opinion and I doubt they are paying attention.

    Liked by 1 person

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