World Teachers’ Day was this week (5th of October) and I had been approached by a pre-service student at the University of Queensland for an who wanted to interview me for an assignment she had about being a teacher. At the end of the interview, she said to me, “I think they should use you as a motivator to make people choose teaching as a profession. You make it sound like it’s the best profession in the world”. I told her I had heard that many times before, because I am a teacher by choice and not a teacher by necessity.
Teaching, as you probably know, is not the best-paid job in the world. In some places, it is even in the lowest income range, which I find shocking. At the beginning of my career, I thought I valued education only because I needed to justify my choice of becoming a teacher, but every year that passes, I see that this justification is the only one there is, as there are so many disadvantages to being a teacher.
Maybe it was no coincidence I received this story by email on the day I had the interview.
A school principal addressed his students during a graduation ceremony.
He said, “Doctors want their children to become doctors, engineers want their children to become engineers, businessmen want their children to become CEOs, but a teachers also want their children to become one of them. Nobody wants to become a teacher by choice. Very sad, but that’s the truth”.
Then, he told them this story.
Some guests were sitting around the dinner table discussing life. One man, a CEO of company, decided to explain the problem with education.
He argued, ‘What’s a kid going to learn from someone who decided their best option in life was to become a teacher?’ To stress his point, he said to another guest, “You’re a teacher, Bonnie. Be honest. What do you make?”
The teacher, Bonnie, had a reputation for honesty and frankness. She replied, “You want to know what I make?”
She paused for a second, then said, “Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.
I make a C+ feel like a Congressional Medal of Honor.
I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents can’t make them sit for 5 minutes without an iPod, Game Cube or rental movie.
You want to know what I make?” she paused again and looked at each and every person around the table.
“I make kids wonder.
I make them question.
I make them apologize and mean it.
I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions.
I teach them how to write and then I make them write. Keyboarding isn’t everything.
I make them read, read, read.
I make them show all their work in math. They use their God-given brain, not the man-made calculator.
I make my students from other countries learn everything they need to know about English, while preserving their unique cultural identity.
I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe.
Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they were given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life”.
Bonnie paused one last time and then continued.
“Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, with me knowing money isn’t everything, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention. You want to know what I make?
I make a difference in all your lives, educating kids and preparing them to become CEOs, doctors and engineers…
What do you make, Mr. CEO?”
The CEO’s jaw dropped. He went silent.
This email came at the right time for me. I walked around the whole day with my head held high. I hope it comes to you at the right time too!
For the love of teaching,