“Why did you become a teacher?”

An educator recently asked me this question and as I started to respond, I realized that it would be quite a long explanation. She did not want a long explanation, however; she wanted a succinct answer. Would you be able to answer her in just a few sentences? Since that conversation, I have come up with one. I think that we all need to come up with our own replies to this question so we can share with others our passion for teaching without putting them to sleep. I know we all want to be teachers; we would not be studying at USC if we did not know that teaching was a vocation compatible with our personalities and goals. However, I think that some of us – myself included – might not be able to provide the “nutshell” version of our personal epiphanies. If you are one of those who have struggled with this question, this post is for you!

I believe that we craft our jobs to best utilize our strengths. In almost every job I ever held, I managed to incorporate a teaching element. Over time, I realized that teaching was the most enjoyable part of my work and after receiving a Master’s degree in adult education, I decided that I wanted to leave the business world and start teaching full-time. I enrolled in the MAT program at USC and knew immediately that I was on the right path. I would not trade my business experience for the world, but I feel that I can best help others in this new role. I love helping people learn and grow. I am so happy I found that teaching is my calling and look forward to having my own classroom.

Is that answer good enough? It is all true. Every job except the very first (a gas station attendant in high school) ended up having a teaching component because I made it that way. As I expressed a desire to teach others what I knew, management gave me the chance to assume a teaching role. It was always fun and a part of my work. Then, I realized I wanted it to be my sole occupation. After meeting K-12 teachers during my first Master’s program, and listening to their stories both good and bad, I heard myself saying I wanted to leave the job I held for 13 years and become a certified English teacher. I was not sure that I would be able to teach young people or that I would be able to connect with young people. Even as I entered student teaching, I was not sure but I never told anyone. I did not know if I belonged. Every morning, however, I was thrilled to get out of bed. I could not wait to get to school, to see what would happen. Even when something bad happened, I wanted to learn from it instead of wanting to forget it. The students intrigued me the most. I wanted to know them and establish relationships with them; as a people person, I gravitate toward others and find them fascinating. There are a few students with whom I developed fledgling relationships. I wish I had more time to see those relationships grow, but I am also happy to know that I can connect with young people.

If I were to give the “fortune cookie” summary of my answer to the question, I suppose it would be “I have always been a teacher.”


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