I recently had to write about how meaning affects my role as a teacher and how it affects my students as well. After writing it, I realized it’s why I love to teach.
When stressed beyond belief, when your students are driving you crazy, when your To Do list is two pages long, and when you don’t know what you’re going to cook for dinner, because you’re too tired to cook, you sometimes wonder why you’re a teacher. The pay definitely isn’t the reason.
After a long, aromatherapy soak in the tub, a soothing cup of herbal tea (or a giant chocolate bar – whatever works for you), along with a mental health day and some shopping, you start to miss your students – really miss them. You think about why you went into teaching in the first place, and why you stuck with it year after year after year. You know that your coworkers are like family to you. They’re often your friends inside and outside of school. Still, that’s not the full reason you stuck with teaching for all of these years.
It’s because of the kids. It’s because of the experiences, the joys, the “Aha” moments, the struggles that you’ve overcome, and the vast amount of learning and strides that you’ve made in your teaching career. Still, it’s mostly about the kids. They’re your kids. No matter how they may behave at times, you still love them. You love when their eyes light up with joy and excitement during a fun learning activity. You get such a sense of accomplishment, both for them and for you, when they finally “get it” after a struggle to learn, understand, and apply a concept, strategy, or skill. As the year goes on, and June approaches, you start to get sad every time you think about the last day of school. You don’t want the year to be over.
Thus, meaning affects my role as a teacher, because I care deeply for my students, my coworkers, and I have pride in the hard work I do every day, even during the summer, as I plan for the upcoming school year. If my job didn’t have meaning for me, I wouldn’t stick with it, wouldn’t keep trying, never giving up on those kids that need you the most.
A teacher that cares motivates her students to keep trying, do their best, and help others. A teacher that doesn’t care has behavior problems and academic issues with her students. Her emotions, level of commitment, and pride have a definite affect on her classroom community – both in attitudes, behavior, and academic achievement. This applies to all subjects, including math. A teacher (such as myself) that enjoys teaching math, is excited about it, and strives to inspire others to keep trying, try new ways of solving problems, and to share what they are learning with others will have much more success and enjoyment from her students than a teacher that complains, doesn’t care, or has no sense of meaning from what she does.