Why do you teach?

7 Jan

Why do you teach?

Is your goal to make sure each of your students learns the geographic impact on the rise and fall of major empires throughout world history?  Must all of your students understand the value of finding the limit of a function?  Do your students need to be able to explain how the architecture of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells suggests a common origin?

These are all worthy goals, to be sure.  As educators, we are passionate about our subject areas.  Naturally, we would love for our students to love them as well.  Not many things could make me more proud than for a student of mine to go on to do great things in biology. 

Realistically, I know that most of my students will never have a career even remotely related to biology.  Do our goals as teacher’s need to include covering the subject matter?  Of course!  That is what teaching, fundamentally, is.  Yet I fear that many teachers get bogged down at this level of education and never consider what other things they can be accomplishing at the same time.

Perhaps Chris at Practical Theory illustrates this sentiment best–

For four years, kids share their lives with us. We see them grow up through some of the craziest times of their lives, and if we are lucky, we get to have some small impact on them. Within the context of f(x) = x -3 and Newton’s Laws and Their Eyes Were Watching God, we learn about each other, and we touch each other’s lives, and then they move on, and we have a new group of kids who we have to care for with the same energy and passion and dedication as we cared for the kids who just left. It is a bit twisted, really, but it’s kind of amazing too.

Amazing barely begins to describe it!  I think some teachers are scared of this aspect of the job, and thus it limits their teaching to strictly focusing on the academics.  Maybe they think it’s inappropriate to have fun with kids, to get to know them, to spend time with them as people.  Maybe they are uncomfortable trying.  Maybe they are worried that they are incompetent in this area, and thus they simply don’t try.  Yet, kids often don’t care what you know until they know you care

Teaching isn’t just about academics.  Maybe it should be, and maybe it shouldn’t.  I suppose that’s a whole ‘nother debate.  What I do know is that I choose to look at it differently.  Not only am I fortunate enough to have the opportunity to share my love of biology with teenagers, but I’m blessed to get to be a part of their lives.  And also blessed that they get to be a part of mine.

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