What is the motivation for Oklahoma’s teachers to get out of bed before daybreak, teach all day and lug papers home to grade before turning in just to repeat the entire process the next day?
The cynical would say they do it for the money. The misanthropic would say that they do it for a lucrative retirement benefit. The contemptuous would say that they do it because it is “only a part-time job.” The sarcastic would say that they do it for gifts of apples, paperweights and candy. They would all be wrong.
Why do teachers teach? Paraphrasing Elena Aguilar an Edutopia blogger-teacher, some see teaching as a means of changing the world by guiding their students to become empowered, literate, engaged, creative and liberated human beings who may also in time join the effort to change the world.
Others see the potential in their students and thrive on helping them discover their skills and passions. Some teach because they have seen children who didn’t make it. They are motivated by the fervent desire to avoid having the heartache of seeing even one more child become a gang member or an inmate.
One teacher responded, “A teacher can change destiny. Teaching is an honorable job that consists of holding the torch of light, of change and of permanent impact.”
Another teacher said, “A former student walked into my room today. As a 4th grader he was quiet and struggled with school work. His home life was difficult to say the least and any support that he received came from teachers and staff. We worked together and he and his siblings moved from grade to grade. As he left elementary, we didn’t know what would become of him. Today he handed me an invitation to his high school graduation. He is composed and well spoken. He is moving on to study mathematics. I can’t stop smiling. This is why I teach.”