In education, I think the driving force that compels us to join the profession is the innate desire to instill a love for learning among students and to help place them on a path to success. There is nothing more exhilarating than seeing, or knowing, firsthand that you played a small part in a student’s evolution over the years. Foremost is the desire to work with kids. Putting in countless hours developing lessons, grading, providing feedback, observing teachers, providing professional growth activities, constructing a master schedule, formulating a budget, attending events, and writing letters of recommendation are just a few of the myriad of tasks that educators across an array of positions engage in every day. All of this is done with a single purpose in mind – student learning, achievement, and success. What other professional position allows for the opportunity each and every day to positively impact the life of a child?
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The above paragraph describes what I feel is the main reason each of us has chosen to pursue a career in education. It is not about the big payday, accolades, glitz, or glamour. If that was the case I think we can all agree that we would have chosen any other field except education. There are, however, a select group of individuals and organizations comprising the majority of the education reform movement that do, in fact, feel that we are overpaid, underworked, and pampered with lavish packages after retirement. To pour salt on an open wound, ideas are concocted in regards to how we should be evaluated with not a shred of research to back up these initiatives. The fact of the matter remains that we are the ones who decided to pursue a career working with students while many others either shunned or made fun of our decision. Now it is these people, the same ones that wanted nothing to do with the education profession, that are trying to dictate every facet of what we do.
The recent education reform movement provides an endless barrage of insults to the noble work we do everyday. It has perpetuated schools as testing factories, something many of us have always dreaded. While our driving force is to ignite students’ passion for learning, the relentless focus on standardized testing data is doing little to prepare our students for success in the real word. Sorry, but that is fact, at least in my eyes. This then leads to my final point and that is how schools are structured. In an age where we have what seems like an endless array of tools to engage, enhance learning, and assess in a variety of ways, the majority of schools seem either content or fearful of breaking free from the industrialized model of education that has entrenched our system for over a hundred years. Schools need to work for students as opposed to the status quo or us. In a world now dominated with all forms of technology, our mission should be to find natural pedagogical fits. There is no longer an excuse for creating a system that is the exact opposite of the real world. This in itself is just as bad as the education reform efforts described previously.
So what really drives me as an educator today? My goal is to collaboratively create a culture of teaching and learning that resonates with my students. Where I once feared giving up control and trusting students, I now relish the opportunity to do this each and every day. Through the many successful initiatives where change has been sustained, our students have ultimately benefited. With each passing day, seeing and observing the fruits of our labor in the form of students exhibiting a growing appreciation for the culture that we are creating together brings a smile to my face. This is what drives me: making learning more about them than everyone else.
So what drives you?