During a teacher’s job interview, the candidate will be asked why she became a teacher. This simple question has a complex answer.
The short (and interview) answer is that I want to shape future generations into productive and thinking members of society. The language arts provide diverse opportunities to do that.
The succinct answer is accurate. When I create ELA lesson plans, when I craft grammar worksheets, when I outline the theme of a speech, when I teach literature and nonfiction, I relate the message to the students – how they will benefit from knowing this information.
The breakdown though, the guts of why I teach is more.
I teach grammar because when students understand their language, their writing and speech improve. They are empowered because they can manipulate and form messages to better communicate.
I teach speech because when students realize they communicate with their words, actions, dress, tone, and mood, they have tools to project their personality and purpose to people. They are empowered to communicate effectively in public speaking and everyday language.
I teach literature because when students see creativity they are encouraged to think in diverse ways, to stretch their imaginations. They are empowered to find beauty in words, to appreciate the construct of powerful writings.
I teach nonfiction because when students analyze the sources, statistics, and quotes behind an article or essay, they have learned an important life lesson that the media will test them on every day. They are empowered to tear apart news reports, advertisements, and propaganda.
I teach writing because when students can harness their beliefs and feelings to convey a message, they have made their lives easier. They are empowered to inform, persuade, narrate, and argue on behalf of themselves and others.
What matters most in teaching? The students, of course: providing students with a safe learning environment so they can explore the language arts and shape their futures. Covering the massive information from a language arts course is powerful. Students see connections from the material in every nook of their lives. And I love it.
And it is beautiful.
And that is why I teach.
Looking for inspiration? Check out these other blog posts where secondary teachers explain their own “teaching what matters most.”