Throughout my career, I've been asked numerous times, "Why do you teach?" This question is usually followed by one or more comments along the lines of observations of poor pay, crowded classrooms, lack of motivation on the part of students, lack of involvement on the part of parents, and lack of understanding on the part of those who craft school curriculum and policy.
Yes, all of these things exist. They've existed since I started teaching in the early 1980s. I'm sure they existed long before then as well. So with all of that baggage tumbling to the front of my classroom on a daily basis, why do I continue teaching? Why does anyone?
Why do I teach? Because all of those barriers don't matter to me as much as do the living human beings sitting before me. I can deal with all of the junk thrown my way. If necessary, I can dump it out on the sidewalk, close the door and devote my time to reaching the minds and hearts of the youngsters with whom I've been entrusted.
Teaching is so much more than the scattering of information upon youthful heads with the hope that spring assessment scores will be high. Teaching is about strengthening a child's heart as much as his head so that he will be able to function as a compassionate family member, as an empathetic community member, as a visionary architect of his world's future. It is one thing to prepare the minds of students with the information to meet these challenges. It is quite another thing to fortify the hearts of these students to allow them to actually put all the pieces together in a caring, meaningful manner.