October 01, 2008

Who do you teach for?

Most teachers love teaching. But not all teachers teach for the same reasons. Teaching is a difficult, challenging, time consuming, exhausting, sometimes discouraging, often frustrating, and at the same time wonderful endeavor. Think about whom you are working so hard for. Choose from the list below, or add to it, then leave your comment stating why below.

The Students?
The Students are perhaps the most obvious response. Teachers have a need to fill a need and the students bring their needs to class everyday. Students bring their need to learn, to be recognized, and to be cared about. Most compassionate people are moved by the innocents' need to be supported in many different ways. And there is a great deal of satisfaction to be gained by participating in the improvement of another individual.

The Parents?
Some teachers teach for the parents of the students they teach. You might not agree at first, but in the end, who are our clients? The kids? Well, sort of, but really it’s their parents. The parents decide where the child goes to school. The parents complain to the teachers, or the principals, or the newspapers when schools fall short. And the parents pay the taxes that ultimately pay our salaries (if working in a publicly funded school).

The Administration?
No tenured teacher would willing admit it, but we do answer to our administrators. The administration of most schools consists of the educational leadership of the campus. In addition to providing support for the teachers, they also work with curriculum, scheduling, textbooks, and other needs teachers require to do their jobs. If the administrators are not happy, the teachers are often not happy.

The Paycheck?

Be honest. Getting paid to teach is a huge motivator. Some days I still can’t believe I get paid to do what I love. You can bet that if teachers didn’t get paid, they wouldn’t teach. As much as I love teaching, I could not afford to teach for free. Where I work in California teachers get paid fairly well, not so for many other states. In some states teachers need two or three teaching jobs to pay their bills. But teach they do.

The Individual (You)?

Teachers have a deeply personal need to teach. It’s not always the same need, but it is close to the core of who they are as people. Maybe it’s part of our DNA? There is an undeniable motivator that keeps us going to class everyday, dealing with the classroom management issues, staying up late correcting student work, and other challenges that most “normal” people would reject out of hand.

My Response

I teach for all of these reasons (cheap answer, I know, but let me explain why). I enjoy spending time with students while they are actively engaged in the discovery and learning process. I feel like the time I devote to teaching people to be better people is time well spent and a positive contribution to the world around me. I also teach for the parents. Being a parent I am sympathetic to the needs and desires of parents to ensure that their children receive a worthwhile and useful education. It’s important to me to be accountable to the guardians of my pupils. In addition, I teach for my administrators. Not only because my administrators are responsible for my evaluations, but also because they are the “educational leadership” of the campus, and if I do not follow their leadership then I am not being an obedient servant. While I am in no way completely satisfied with the leadership of my administration, I am thankful for their efforts and their support to my students, my classroom, and me. I recognize their efforts and share their overall vision for student success. Having a large family I also appreciate getting paid to work. Teaching pays me just enough to stay in teaching and not seek employment in the “real world.” Plus working as a teacher feeds my pathos. I will not deny that I need to teach as much as the students I teach need me to educate them. Honestly, I am afraid that I would be miserable in any other profession, and I am in no hurry to find out.

Teaching gives me a great feeling of personal satisfaction and puts meaning into my life. That’s important to me. Others may be able to detach from their professions, but being a teacher is huge part of how I define myself. I teach for me.


  1. I teach for the love of learning. I love learning and when I teach, I learn something new every single day. I love watching the children learn. When they get it, they are excited and it spreads throught the room. I don't teach for parents, I am a parent and I am not so much concerned for them except as extensions of their students. I certainly don't teach for the moeny. We are one of the lowest paid districts in the state. But, it is getting better. I teach because that is what God made me. A Teacher. It is a gift from him and I am willing to serve his purpose. However, if he doesn't do something quick about the stock market, I may have to continue teaching until the end of the world because I won't be able to afford retirement.

  2. Your reasons are my reasons. I couldn't have said it better. Thanks!

  3. I teacher because I believe it is what I was born to do. I started teaching Sunday school when I was 16. I volunteered in my sons’ classrooms when they were little. I did not actually become a certified teacher until 2005. I teach high school because it suits my personality and I believe it is where I do my best work.

    My students are like my own children, some days they make me crazy but in the end I love them and want what is best for them. While they are in my classroom they are mine. I want them to leave me at the end of the year a little more mature and really prepared to move into AP classes in the 11th grade.

    I am very lucky in the fact that my husband makes a very good salary and we live in a state that has a reasonable cost of living so I do not teach for the money. I teach for the fulfillment that I get each day when I am with my students.

    Cal I really like to read your blog it resonates with me and causes me to think.

  4. My grandparents and parents were teachers. I am not a professional teacher, but have 3 children and deal with special teachers everyday. All 3 of my kids are gifted and in "Challenge" class and two have IEPs. They are blessed with caring teachers. It's good to read a positive take on teaching.
    I blog about one of my special kids at http://spectrumkids.blogspot.com.

  5. I thought I wanted to become a university professor but, in my 5th year, I'm ready to leave my heavily research-oriented PhD program to teach high school for the very reasons you cite. Thank you for confirming everything I believe about teaching. It's not for the prestige & recognition, it's for those we teach and, by extension, the broader world.

  6. Correct English is "For whom do you teach?"

  7. Great blog... I (want to) teach because as my sons began learning I realized how fun and exciting discovery and knowledge could be and how curious, smart and full of ideas children are, not just mouths to feed; because I have the naive hope I might be able to change the future for the better, not just for my students but for their families and co-workers and society (same as I tell my sons -- it's not about them, it's about my future daughters-in-law and grandchildren); because I have taken for so long it's time to give.

  8. I teach for the students and love I have to watch them learn. I enjoy seeing a child understand something for the first time. I also like to be someone kids feel safe around because some kids do not have a safe enviroment. All my life I have wanted to help people and I believe that has effect on why I teach. I don't teach just for fun but I teach in hopes that I can change lives. I also teach for personal reasons because it brings me joy when kids get excited about learning.

  9. I teach because I love to watch the excitement someone gets when they finally understand something. My whole life I have enjoyed working with kids and as i got older it led me to want to teach. I also want to make a comfortable enviroment for my students and send a message to them that they are loved and someone does care for them. So many parents take parenting for granted and I believe as a teacher we have a responsibility to let students know they are cared for no matter what kind of home life they may have.