I wanted to become a teacher ever since I can remember. I can clearly remember sitting my dolls and teddies in a row and reading them stories as early as 3 and 4 years old. Then when my little sister came along, as soon as she was old enough to sit, she quickly become one of my students. (I'm sure many teachers’ siblings suffered the same fate!)
I genuinely think teaching is innate. And with Teacher Appreciation Week kicking off across the globe today, it’s got me thinking about this kind of innate calling to teach. It’s got me curious about why we all teach, and how that why fuels us through the ups and downs.
As Simon Sinek says in his famous TED talk - when we start with the why we can draw from a deeper well when we’re feeling parched. (Okay, I might’ve added the well metaphor, but I think it works). And I might’ve tweaked his quote too ;)
Hope Simon doesn’t mind the, ah, remix.
Today I thought I’d share my own ‘why’ in this post, as well as some of the ‘whys’ you’ve shared with me too. And, I’m also going to share some simple ideas about how to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week - so feel free to share this post as a hint ;).
Magical things happen within these four walls! Gorgeous classroom via @learningwithmiss.ashlee.
Why Do I Teach?
You either gravitate towards children - or run the other way!
"I don't know how you do it" is something that I’ve been told regularly over the years, mostly by those who work in corporate, office-type roles. But the truth of the matter is - I honestly could not see myself doing anything BUT teaching!
I loved it - I lived it - I breathed it. (Before I had children of my own - because let's face it - things do change when you have your own kids to raise). But the struggles of parenting and teaching are an entirely new discussion, maybe for another time.
I always referred to my students as 'my kids' - they bought me so much joy! Teachers spend sooo much time with students in their class - sometimes even more so than their parents!
The impact we have on them is huge. We play a massive role in shaping their little minds and personalities, especially in the very early years. The cuddles, the tears, the lightbulb moments, the growth from the beginning to the end of the year - it’s all amazing.
Don’t you just love this why?
The pure love of fostering knowledge and self-confidence is why I taught for ten years, and it’s why I miss it still to this day.
Right now I’m not in the classroom - but I know, in my heart of hearts, I will return in some capacity. Because I am - and always will be - Miss Jacobs.
Why Do You Teach?
I asked this question - why do you teach - on my socials recently, and I was so moved by your answers.
So many of the same themes came up - you want to provide the education you’d wished for as a child. You love seeing kids grow and you love building relationships. And - not surprisingly - the delight you feel at seeing kids learn was almost universal.
This post from @teachingmisssaunders was captioned ‘My happy space’ and it’s so easy to see why!
Sir Ken Robinson said it so beautifully, “Very many people go through their whole lives having no real sense of what their talents may be, or if they have any to speak of… Our task is to educate their whole being so they can face the future. We may not see the future, but they will and our job is to help them make something of it.”
Some beautiful responses from the MJLL community.
How Do You Like to Be Recognised?
Of course, when it comes to staying motivated and staying afloat through the tough times, purpose alone isn’t enough. And sometimes it’s hard to feel that original purpose when you’re struggling.
There are so many things we rely on as teachers - support from our friends, professional development, feedback, mentorship and (perhaps most importantly) coffee.
One of the most powerful ways to keep our proverbial fires keep burning is through recognition. Now, I’ve never met a teacher who was motivated purely by recognition. We don’t do it for the thanks! However, we also can’t underestimate how powerful recognition is, especially when it comes to feeling appreciated.
So - how do you like to be recognised?
Do these results from polls in my Stories marry up with your preferences?
When I asked you guys to share the times you’ve felt most valued, there were clear themes.
You talked about feeling recognised when your students flourished, and when you received unsolicited messages of gratitude.
One response was particularly touching, “I always felt appreciated when I connected with a student in a moment of trust and shared respect. For example: when a student shared with me how their disability was impacting their life and I could offer tangible advice that allowed them to move forward.”
I’m curious BFFs - do you feel you get enough appreciation? Are you on the receiving end of regular feedback? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts, so let me know!
How Can We Share the Appreciation?
While gestures like morning teas, awards, gifts and words of encouragement are a gorgeous way to show appreciation, there are some deeper foundations that need to be in place.
It’s my sincere belief that in order to feel appreciated, teachers need to feel safe, heard and like they have a voice. Here are three mechanisms that can help with that:
Recurring time and space for recognition.
Creating a recurring space for recognition in your staff meetings and newsletters (for example) is so important. Recognition doesn’t have to be elaborate - it just has to be specific, timely, fair and meaningful.
Formal feedback mechanisms.
Mechanisms like an anonymous engagement survey mean teachers can have their concerns aired safely, and leadership can get a clear sense of staff morale. Feeling heard is an essential part of feeling appreciated. For instance - if you can’t speak up about a big issue at school, but you receive a cupcake during Teacher Appreciation Week, we can all guess how appreciated you’d feel!
Clear role purpose statements and progression pathways.
Clarity is kindness. For teachers to feel confident and appreciated, they need to understand their responsibilities, opportunities for progression and the boundaries of their role. Again, this provides certainty, clarity and safety, which are all essential to feeling appreciated.
So BFFs, if these mechanisms aren’t in place at your school, perhaps this is the week to explore them! You deserve to feel heard, appreciated and celebrated each and every day.
To my fellow educators - whether you’re in a school, child care setting or domestic setting - here’s to you. May your love for this calling keep your fires burning, and may you feel just how appreciated you are. And, may you receive a ridiculously large coffee and a foot rub some time soon! Because my dear friend - you bloody deserve it!
Love your mug @learnwith_ms.b!