Friday, June 4, 2010

Why do I teach?

I once read a teacher's coffee mug that stated: "There are three reasons I teach...June, July, and August." I thought of that yesterday, my first official day of summer vacation. Having summers off is a glorious experience....those long, carefree days stretching out in front of me like a shimmering mirage, but those who know me well know why I teach.
I don't remember a time when I did not want to be a teacher. I remember telling my 6th Grade classmates I wanted to be an English teacher. Their response was, "E-e-w!" accompanied by a wrinkled up nose, as if they had just caught a whiff of a skunk. When I finally reached that goal (at the age of 40), I was deliriously happy. I have loved every one of the 14 years since then.
Before school was out this summer, my Juniors had a book signing party. I had assigned a ten-page book detailing various topics, such as their favorite writing assignment, funniest incident, hair and clothing styles, etc. We then passed the books around and they wrote in them, so they could share their junior year memories and good wishes for each other. I passed around some papers for the students to sign for me. Here are a few of the responses from these 17-year-old young adults:
"Mrs. Harvey, I hate writing with a passion and you make me do a lot of work, but it's ok because you are a good teacher and I learned a lot from you."
"I love the way you teach and our assignments are fun. I'm looking forward to next year!"
"Not sure how you did it, but you turned some of my most hated classes into some of my favorites. I've enjoyed all of the compliments you give on my assignments. It's nice to hear them when they come so seldom."
"You always encouraged me to do my best and I have felt that you will always be there for me. Thank you for that!"
"I wish everyone taught the way you do."
"You have always been there to explain something when I didn't catch on. Thank you for that."
"I really love the way you don't let us talk bad about each other. We were bad about that. Thank you."
"I am glad I could express my love for writing music. It's cool that you like your students."
While I am going to thoroughly enjoy my summer vacation, that is not why I teach. I teach for the reasons listed above.