The Only Reason I Keep Teaching

There was a time being a teacher was so far down on my list of possible careers I would have laughed had I known what the next 15 years of my life were to look like. And then I would have drowned my sorrows in a 24 hour Starbucks binge.

Teacher wasn’t what I wanted to be when I grew up.

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Except for those times I inhaled chalk dust as I meticulously wrote the alphabet for three stuffed animals and a few baby dolls. Though it wasn’t long before the “students” were at recess, and I had Barbie and Ken driving down the road in their convertible imagining happily ever after.

Yet. Here I am. A teacher in my twelfth year. There are still days I’m not sure I want to teach. It’s hard. It’s heart-wrenching. It’s stressful.

But. There is one reason. Only one reason I continue to do my job.

My students.

My job affords me the privilege of making a difference in the life of a student. Call me crazy—but it’s the only thing that matters to me.

The days I allow myself to stay buried underneath mandates and paperwork? Those are the worse days. The drudgery days of the crotchety schoolmarm. It sucks me dry and joy is elusive.

But the days when I allow my students to matter most? The days when I look my students in the eye, shake their hands, say good morning, and remind myself of what really matters?

Those are the best days.

So I stay because of my kids. I continue to teach because my students inspire me to be a better human—for them, for me.

I stay for the incredibly intelligent AP student who randomly, in the middle of class, asks, “Mrs. Iseminger? Does Spain have beaches?” When I answer that Spain is surrounded by water, we laugh together, big belly laughs bubbling from the deep. Here’s looking at you Mav…

I stay because I know education is one of the greatest weapons humanity has in its arsenal against the war on poverty and ignorance. If I can help just one more struggling student scratch and claw her way into some form of higher learning, it’s worth every minute.

I stay because while my classroom may offer sanctuary and grace is a never-ending supply, my students know they will work. They know excellence is required and shortcuts only derail. Watching them rise to the occasion? Beautiful.

I stay for the email sent over the summer sharing a video perfectly expressing satire because he saw it and thought of my class, and I know something is sinking into that long-term memory bank. Success for the student is my only success.

I stay for letter of recommendation requests where I may be more nervous than the student. Because my letter matters. And if I screw it up? I can’t even think about the possibility without a clenched stomach and sweaty palms.

I stay for the former students who email me their college essays with a, “I know your busy…you can say no…but would you mind taking a look?” Honestly? There’s not much better than this nod of remembrance. To know I’m thought of—outside of the classroom.

I stay because students need a safe place to land. They are desperate for the classroom that welcomes all. My prayer is my classroom is a place they can breathe peace deeply during their day. To know, if only for a moment, life is okay.

I stay for the students who don’t eat because mom didn’t fill out the free lunch forms and without hidden change, stuffed away fruit, and breakfast bars in my desk those kids go hungry.

I stay for the students who need someone to trust. Those popping their heads in my classroom door when the school day is over and the hardest parts of their lives are about to begin. I can barely hear them whisper Are you busy?

I stay for the parents who don’t show up. For the alcoholic fathers sleeping on couches and the you-will-never-be-good-enough-for-me mothers with expectations beyond the capacity of a 16 year old. Because parents should be the constant in their kids’ lives but sometimes they just aren’t. So teachers fill the gaps.

I stay for the students who need to know they’re loved. So I love them. I’m desperate to remind them they are worthy and they are worth it—every minute.

I stay because this is my calling. Just because it’s a calling doesn’t mean its easy. It almost never is. But for as long as I’m called, you will find me in my classroom, coffee cup in hand, cheering on our future.

Because my students?

They’re worth it.

Last day of school with one of my classes and the students suddenly crowded around my desk for a selfie...I couldn't say no.

Last day of school with one of my classes. Students suddenly crowded around my desk for a selfie…I couldn’t say no.

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19 Responses to The Only Reason I Keep Teaching

  1. I think you are an amazing and inspirational writer and equally a teacher!
    Kudos to you! Thanks for putting these “out there”!

  2. adjsumrall says:

    I could have written this myself – only not nearly as eloquently as you have. From one, “I never wanted to be a teacher” to another, I salute you!

  3. Sheila Billings says:

    You have very eloquently expressed the truth behind so many of us. The reasons we stay in education despite the long hours, the bashing in the press, the meager paycheck–our kids matter to us. And they are all OUR kids for the time they are in our classes and the time they remain in our lives. So many of them need us, desperately. This is why we stay. Thank you for conveying this so beautifully.

  4. Drue Wright says:

    Thank you for your blog. I love and appreciate teachers! I come from a long line of teachers and have many current family members in the education field now. God bless you and all of our teachers!

  5. Cathy Clark says:

    I am a first grade teacher in my 31st year. It was a long day. Thanks for the reminder that loving my kids is what makes it all worthwhile. Tomorrow will be a better day. :)

  6. Lynda says:

    You matter to your students because you pray for, encourage, guide and laugh with them. You matter to the staff because the light of Jesus shines through you and they want what you have.

    My son is beyond high school, but it is because of teachers like you that he thrived.

  7. Exactly why my Lord used me in public schools for about 40 years. Praise God.

  8. Deanna says:

    Awesome post Heather! Thank you! You are an amazing teacher :)

  9. Tammy Wathen says:

    Another positive, uplifting post Heather! Thank you for writing so beautifully what so many of us feel!

  10. Kaitlyn Kepner says:

    Thank you Mrs. Iseminger. <3

  11. You are a great teacher ,I think.How wonderful you express you feelings that I feel forever.It is not easy to gain such a great success that you have a place in your students” hearts and memory.İ congatulate you,dear.

  12. Love this!! So much! And love you!

  13. Jennine G. says:

    As a high school English teacher, I completely agree with this! EVERY SINGLE POINT you made! My students are the only thing that keep me coming back and make it hard to imagine not being a teacher. They are my kids.

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