Teaching, no greater calling … ?

You probably didn’t think: “I want to earn a big salary or I want to work from 9 -5”, so I’m going to become a teacher!”  Some of you just knew that you wanted to teach from the first time you set foot in a classroom. Maybe you were one of those five year olds who scribbled on miniature chalkboards and waved an imaginary -or real- ruler at your stuffed toys, or even your friends, family and siblings. For others, it could have been a variety of circumstances. You studied maths or psychology or geography, and then kind of fell into teaching. But while disparate reasons draw teachers into the profession, there’s almost a singular reason they stay. 

Quite simply, once you’re in, it’s almost impossible to leave.  

A few misinformed individuals believe that teachers work half days and enjoy months of leave every year. Inevitably, these people have never been teachers and certainly aren’t dating or married to them! Those who are, quickly become aware of the gritty realities of the profession. 

Rick, a teacher in Calgary, Canada, described some of those: “During the school year, it literally owns you. Marking, planning, meetings, progress reports, more marking, and more marking, extra-curricular activities, tutorials, and more marking,” he said. 

In addition to this, you’re “constantly being jerked around with government funding, the massive bureaucracies and useless spending that goes on inside school boards, and with the minority of your colleagues who are not as committed and who cannot be dealt with or removed, said Rick.” All of that, and you’re earning a salary that often doesn’t compare with what your friends are making in the corporate world. 

But despite the long working hours, endless red tape and emotional strain, leagues of teachers around the world continue to dedicate themselves to the profession. 

Teaching is more than just a job. “It’s a calling,” one teacher told a Canada-based newspaper. “It’s a journey.” Almost without fail, teachers speak of an almost indecipherable magnetism that keeps them doing what they do.   

Some love the positive reinforcement from valuable interaction with learners. “The job is a helluva lot of fun!,” said Lionel Train, a high school teacher. “When a good class discussion gets going, I can’t believe I’m getting paid!” 

“A smile from a kid makes it all worth it,” said Rick. 

Teacher and author Ben Johnson describes responding to a “connection” with his learners. “In all my years as a teacher, I don't ever remember not wanting to go to work,” said Johnson. “I felt engaged, needed, and depended on -- if not by the students, then at least by the administration and the parents. It was sort of a compulsion.” 

Johnson said he “did not like to leave my students in other people's hands, and it was more than not trusting the sub: There was a connection between me and the students -- an unspoken bond of trust.” 

What keeps you going in to work each day? Do you respond to a higher sense of duty? Are you fulfilling a calling that’s bigger than you are? Or are you just having a “helluva lot of fun”? It’s worth figuring out what’s keeping you here. It makes no difference which category you fall into, as long as you’re doing it mindfully. Because reminding yourself that you’ve made this decision, is one way to fuel your passion about sticking to it.   

And sometimes, loving how impossible it is to leave is the best thing about this job. It’s the thing that makes the ‘call’ irresistible. One teacher put it this way. “If at the end of a tough and challenging day when all is said and done and the kids have been dismissed and gone home, if, at that point, as you walk the stairs and hallways of the school, if you can still say in your exhaustive state, ‘I love my job and can’t think of anything else I would rather do’ then that's all the affirmation you need to stay.”