I have dedicated my life to the vocation of teaching. Most of my career has been in a kindergarten through 6th grade setting, including 16 years as a classroom teacher and nine as a science specialist. The last six have been in graduate pre-service teacher education. Throughout those 25 years, I have continued to find great joy and satisfaction in what I do. Why do I teach? What is my motivation? What is my reward? For me, that comes down to two fundamental reasons: relationship and creativity.
No matter the grade or age, the relationship that ensues within the classroom is not equaled elsewhere. It is within that relationship that resides the power to influence the students under my care with the capacity to grow and develop to meet their goals and aspirations. It is within that same relationship that each of the students have been entrusted to my care have equally influenced me allowing me to grow and learn. Within that relationship resides the privilege of entering into the lives of each of my students to witness mutual growth and maturation.
The act of teaching is a deeply creative endeavor. Establishing a learning environment with the power to stimulate learning is a finely tuned creative act. I believe the ability to create is a fundamental human need. When we are given a space to create – whether that be a painter’s canvas, a musician’s musical score, a woodcarver’s block of wood, or a teacher’s classroom – we are aligning ourselves with the human spirit’s need to creatively act on and within the world. By teaching, I am allowed that space, that canvas, that score, that block of wood, that classroom to open the doors for that creative energy to flow throughout my being.
Last night was the closing night of my summer semester’s elementary science methods class at Hamline University. I asked my students to reflect on the semester. Their reflections eloquently captured the objectives, hopes, and aspirations I set out at the beginning of the semester. I believe it is the relationships that are forged within a learning community committed to growth and development set within an environment promotive of safety, equity, and challenge that provided the space for this magic to happen. I went home last night with the deep satisfaction of knowing each of my students are better positioned to impact the lives of the students under their care. My shift to the world of higher education has allowed me to shape and influence the next generation of teachers. As I looked out last night at my students, I experienced a strong sense of optimism for what we will our next generation of teachers. That is why I teach.