The Reasons We Teach

My classroom is ready.

I’m not.


The laundry list swirls. I didn’t organize my files as planned. My summer reading list is still the list I started with. Those closet shelves never got installed. The fence wasn’t built. My summer of kayaking ended without an oar tipped in water.

And can’t I have just two more weeks with my own children?

What did I do this summer!?!

Oh yeah.

There were the curriculum guides I created. The student letters of recommendation I wrote. The novels I did get to read in preparation for my AP courses. The school board meeting I had to organize my presentation for.

And the Pinterest pinning. And the thinking. And the mental planning—always an inch from every thought.

Granted. All done from the comfort of my pajamas on my couch. Still…

Maybe it’s so difficult for us to go back into our classrooms because we never left.

But we’re teachers. That’s what we do. While the world may see this as a list of complaints, you and I know it’s just reality.

Because nothing can stop us from our unpaid summer work. Even if Pinterest suddenly crashed, all the workshops were cancelled, and the school board gave us bonus eight-week vacations to Tahiti (ha!)—we never leave the classroom.

It’s what we do.

Yet, when summer ends and school begins, I find my heels scrapping deep into the concrete of my front drive.

I don’t wanna.

Until I count the reasons. The reasons I teach—the reasons we teach.

Can we begin with new school supplies? Because there’s just something about a brand new package of crayons and newly sharpened pencils. We can wander the school supply aisle at Target unaware an hour just went by. And the smell of fresh copies? Swoon.

Did this just get weird?

There’s our ode to coffee and chocolate—an endless supply. Or maybe, if you’re my best friend, it’s Mountain Dew and peeps. Whatever floats the collective teacher boat, caffeine and sugar play a part.

We also never stop learning. Teachers are nerds grown up, and now we have a paid-for reason to geek-out over knowledge. We hoard it, packing it away into corners of our minds for no other reason than to win any trivia game we play. And to use with our students, of course.

Every day is different. We’re not office people. It’s not how we function. We need Johnny to bounce off walls one day and sit quietly the next. We need Suzie to name every dinosaur that ever existed and still have to bend down to help tie her shoes. We thrive on not knowing what our students will say and do one day to the next.

We can’t explain it. Don’t ask us to.

Our colleagues keep us sane. We’re a band of brothers. A camaraderie. We get each other. Our minds may work differently, but with one look during a faculty meeting we know we’re thinking the same thing—if one more person asks a question…

And then?

There are our students.

As teachers we won’t invent the technology to ease suffering. We won’t cure cancer. We won’t run for political office. We won’t perform life-saving surgery. We won’t fix or invent ozone-saving cars. We won’t manage stores. We won’t become music stars. We won’t change global hunger or poverty. There are a million things we won’t ever do.

But we teach the students who will.

The reason we teach? We get to change the world—one student at a time.

And that is enough.

It’s enough for us to walk through our classroom doors on the first day of school, excited and nervous. It’s enough for us to work endless hours all year long. It’s enough for us to keep pushing our students and ourselves toward excellence.

Our students. They’re enough to keep us going.

Teaching is what we’re called to do. There’s no other option. It’s who we are. And we can’t be ourselves without our students.

We need someone to teach like we need oxygen in our blood.

So dear teacher friends, if you dread the end of summer as I do, count your reasons. They will be enough for you to turn your key, open your classroom door, breathe deeply, and smile.

“Good morning class. Welcome to a new year.”

I’m so excited.


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6 Responses to The Reasons We Teach

  1. Oh, my! This so represents my 40 years in teaching and even me as a retired full time teacher. That’s why I started my blog – to encourage others to “feel our mission” as teachers of future leaders of our country and families. I will definitely re-post this because we all need reminding of our mission. Thank you.

  2. Lainey Bradley says:

    Thank you for this perfectly-timed entry as so many teachers are going back to work. My staff’s goal this year is to grow, and remember Why Do We Do What We Do. Your entry today hits the nail on the head. Wishing you a wonderful school year!!

  3. loonyhiker says:

    This makes me miss the first days of teaching in public schools. Now I teach on the university level but I still feel the same level of excitement on the first day of class. I think when we stop feeling that way, we need to get out of teaching.

  4. saleslady371 says:

    The reason we teach? We get to change the world—one student at a time. I love that! May God bless you and your students as you begin a new school year with fresh new crayons and the smell of new copies!

    I am from Arizona where today I joined Word Weavers. They gave me a handout that explains it all and I found the website – and I found you!

    Blessings from another blogger!

  5. karen w says:

    Blessed are the teachers, they forge the keys of the future 🙂

  6. betsy piper says:

    So spot on! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Giddy and dragging my feet at the same time as I enter year #39…