I love this question. It hits to the heart of so many educators and most have unique answers when asked this simple query. My response is probably more similar to a lot of professional educators but also quite different so I will start from the beginning.
My mom is a teacher. She tried the administrator thing–hated it. She missed the kids and being in the action; the growing of the minds and changing of the mindsets, helping little kids to become sophisticated humans…
If she could do it, I could do it. I had tried every other thing out there, every career, every degree plan, every country- nothing else stuck. So, tiny hometown middle school, here I come! I started out with special education and stayed there for all three (count them…3) years I was in the classroom. I really liked the idea of doing what my mom did when I was little- teaching resource. I made my classroom so cute with word walls, birthday month bulletin boards- you know, style but no substance. I was too dumb to know that though.
The first day the kids come to school and, holy hell, it did not look like my mom’s resource group from 20 years prior. These were 17 of the biggest and baddest middle school boys (and one very sweet girl) who had no shame, and I swear had no idea that a desk was made for sitting in. They ran in, threw stuff, cussed, threatened, and gave me a run for my money.
I hated it. I wanted to leave right then and there. I had no supplies, no curriculum, no help. These 18 hellions needed me though. They were my hellions. I had to teach them how to walk in a room. It was my responsibility to show them how to sit in a desk rather than throw it. I also had to model keeping my calm by not cussing them back, threatening to send them away, and to love them unconditionally. I asked myself daily, “Why education?”
I also answered myself daily. I affirmed why I was there daily…for my hellions; I was there for my hellions. These little creatures that I was going to teach for all three years of my classroom teaching career. I had to show them the light because if I didn’t, it would never get better for them OR for me. It was easy to start with social-emotional development (didn’t know that was thing back then) because I didn’t have anything else to teach them.
I reached down deep into my psychology studies (thank you 18-year old me for thinking I was interested in that subject). I remembered that in order for kids to develop they must first have their basic necessities met. I fed them every morning. I gave them access to clean clothes and a shower every day. I went to their games and advocated for them every time the coach wanted to kick them off the teams. It I learned that nobody had ever given them the time to learn what they liked or shown them compassion. Many of them had parents who were addicted to drugs, in jail, missing, indifferent.
So, why education? Because I am needed. We are needed. People who care about people are needed. Is it glamorous? No. Is it always fun? No. Do we always feel successful and appreciated? No and definitely no. Somebody has to take these kids and do what my mom loves to do- mold them into more sophisticated humans than when you got them. Teach them to be lifelong learners, ask questions and how to find the answers, think deeply and give them love, compassion, and understanding. Teach them that the world sucks but they have the capability to change it for the better.
Plus- education offers excellent job security! 🙂