Anyone who has interviewed teachers have asked the simple question “why do you want to teach?” I’m sure many of us have been asked this question in interviews ourselves. At the secondary level, the answer we hear often is some variation on this:
“I just love Math/History/Science/_____ and I want to impart that love of my subject to my students. I want to show them how great it is and get kids excited about it.” It’s a nice, safe answer for many people looking to get into teaching anywhere in grades 6-12.
But I can’t stand that answer. Hate it hate it hate it.
Teaching is not about imparting a list of facts or details to a group of young people, and your love of your chosen subject is not going to make you a great teacher. If history is your passion, become a historian. If science is your passion, become a scientist. Don’t become a teacher.
In order to be a teacher, your passion must be teaching. You must be willing to dedicate time to understanding learning styles, to designing learning environments, to collaborating with teachers in other subjects to develop transcurricular experiences that allow students to create and learn by making. You need to delve into scholarship about learning and psychology and the mind of an adolescent. You have to think about the best way to get students to understand themselves, how they learn, and how they can best contribute to the world not only in the future, but right now. You must be someone who is willing to teach whatever it is that is necessary at that moment because it’s not about the subject–it’s about the students. You must spend time thinking about the best way to approach how the specific students in your classes learn, and create with them in mind. You must hold yourself to a higher standard and make your practice something that you are constantly questioning, tweaking, and refining. Education must be a profession, not something that just allows you to talk about a hobby you find interesting.
Don’t teach because you love your academic field of study. Teach because you are obsessed with teaching.