There’s a reason all of us began working in education in the first place. For many of us, it’s a philosophical drive; it’s the belief that every child not only has the right to a quality education, but that every child has the potential to be successful, regardless of the neighborhood they come from, the label on their clothes, or who their parents are.
For those of us who started our careers as teachers, there’s something else that drew us into education as well.
We wanted the satisfaction of watching kids grow and learn. We wanted to be the spark for those “light bulb” moments, the “ah-has,” the “I finally get it!” moments. We didn’t just want to make a difference; we wanted to be the difference. We wanted to inspire and be inspired.
There truly is no greater joy in the world than watching a child be successful and knowing that YOU helped make it happen.
When I think about that joy, I always picture one scene:
It’s late spring and I’m sitting in my old classroom, in the middle of a U-shaped table, with a small group of sixth-graders surrounding me. Each kid has a book and a white board, and one by one they’re sounding out words from their book. They’re reading a paragraph aloud and answering my questions. And they’re so delightfully happy because they’re getting the answers right. These students came to my class in August three or four years behind. And now they’re only one or two years behind. They’ve made incredible progress, and they’re proud of it. They feel good about themselves and their reading group for the first time ever. And they’re so excited by their new found confidence that they beg me to let them keep reading when the bell rings. And I almost cry because I’m so happy for them.
THAT is why we became teachers. That is why I work in education today. I want to ensure every child has the opportunity to be as excited about learning as those kids had grown to be.
Those are the memories we must hold on to. If you don’t have your own – go get some. Tutor, volunteer, do something that gives you that same joy.
It’s easy to get caught up in the never-ending battle that education policy has become. As reformers, we claim we’re fighting for the kids, but too often we’re fighting against a system. The two aren’t always one in the same.
While we’re busy arguing the technicalities of reform policy on Twitter and watching legislative debates in state capitols across the country, real kids sit in real classrooms every day, and the time we have to affect their lives is ticking.
Remember why we do what we do – it’s for the kids.
About the author
Sara is the Florida Regional Advocacy Director for the Foundation for Excellence in Education. Prior to joining ExcelinEd, Sara worked in the Florida public school system as an English/Language Arts and reading teacher, at a Title I middle school and later at a K-12 charter school. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Secondary English Education from the University of North Florida and a master’s degree in Education Policy from the Florida State University.