Start with the “Why?”

Today we had a professional development session led by one of our teachers.  His name is Todd Siefker and he too has a blog (check it out here).  Todd challenged all of us to think about our “why?”  Why did we go into teaching?  Why did we choose this profession?  With the current political negativity toward educators, why encourage others to pursue the worthy career of education?  Everyone has a why.  When we take a moment to reflect upon our own why, it is quite revitalizing.

Why did I go into education?

I was blessed to grow up in a family that values education, not because they were highly educated, but because they all recognized how much learning can enhance life.  My grandfather completed the eighth grade and then went to work for the railroad.  However, he continued to read and would study the dictionary to learn new words.  He would complete the crossword puzzle in the paper each day and would always be up for a mean game of scrabble.  He would check out cookbooks from the library and would spend his time off (when he wasn’t watching Days of Our Lives or working on crossword puzzles) mastering new cuisine.

My grandmother grew up in a time when education wasn’t necessarily promoted for women.  She attended a one room school house in rural South Dakota, as a non-English speaker.  Her first day in school she only spoke Czech and cried the entire day because she didn’t know what was happening.  As she began to learn English, she made it a point to teach her youger siblings because she didn’t want them to have the same language difficulty when they began school.  Upon completing eighth grade, her father told her she was “educated enough for a woman” and wanted her to stay on the farm to help with her younger siblings instead of moving into town to attend high school.  Not to be deterred, she became a juvenile delinquent on the farm so her parents would send her to live with relatives in the city.  Upon arrival in the city, she enrolled in high school and worked at a local movie theater.  When she finished high school, she used the money she had earned from working at the movie theater to pay for beauty school.   She eventually opened her own shop and was very successful.  She continued to take classes at the local community college and read voraciously.    She encouraged her children and grandchildren to become life long learners as well.

Both of my parents attended college (altough my mother will be the first to admit she hadn’t planned on going to college until she met my father and he “made it look like so much fun.”)  My dad graduated with a business degree with a minor in psychology and my mom graduated with an art degree with a minor in elementary teaching. They have both continued to learn about their passions.  My dad has always had a passion for cars and can still be found researching how to restore various automobiles. He loves to work on the jumble puzzle in the paper and discuss psychology and philosophy with people. My mom loves literature and reads every day.  She also loves to play scrabble and completes the sudoku puzzle each day in the paper.  They would also read to my brother and I every night.  They instilled in us a love for  literature and learning.

I was also able to grow up with a teacher as a parent.  My mom taught elementary school for 42 years.  When I was little, she would let me tag along with her on the weekends and the few weeks before school began to help her set up her classroom.  I loved the smell of the newly cleaned rooms and felt like a part of a secret society getting to follow her into the teacher lounge, to the teacher mail tills, and occasionally to the teacher store.  As I grew older, I still enjoyed helping her out and would volunteer during breaks.  I even returned home a few times during college to help her chaperone field trips to Ash Falls, SD to see the fossil beds.  Watching third graders encounter these fossil beds was amazing.  Their faces would fill with wonder and you would hear them begin to whisper and question in awe “Wow…look at those!  How old are those bones?”

I have always seen school as a magical place.  I still do.  On any given day we as educators have the opportunity to introduce students to new passions.  We get the privilege of expanding their worldviews.  We get the great honor of being able to teach them how to question, research, and learn.  I don’t take any of this lightly.

Why did I go into education?  I didn’t enter this profession for the money or the time off (who really does?).  I became a teacher because I love to learn and I want to foster that love of learning in others.  I want to lead by example.  I want to demonstrate you are never too old to learn something new, much like my family showed me.  Learning enriches lives, opens doors, and broadens our worldviews.  That is why I went into education.  I’d love to hear your “why.”  Feel free to share in the comments below!  I look forward to hearing from you.


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