Why Teach?

Chapter 1 of Those Who Can, Teach is titled “Why Teach?” and covers the motivations, rewards, and opinions of teachers and teaching.

The first “Pause and Reflect” asks:

  1. Which of the extrinsic rewards discussed in this section applies to you most? Which of the intrinsic rewards? Are there other rewards not mentioned here?
  2. As you have probed your own motives for considering teaching, what have you learned about yourself?

The extrinsic rewards covered are salaries, status, power, and work schedule. I think the ones that apply to me are probably the latter three. There are already instances where after I tell someone I want to be a teacher I hear things like that’s so great, I could never do that, or you’d be a great teacher. I figure once I become a teacher my status will only increase. I also look forward to the influence I’ll have on young minds. I don’t want to lord my power over anyone, but I do want to become a good example for kids. The work schedule also appeals because my family loves to travel. We have lots of flexibility now but with a little planning, I’m sure we’ll be able to enjoy the schedule of a teacher.

I would consider influence an intrinsic reward as well as extrinsic. It’s that feeling of accomplishment that you reached someone and changed how she looks at things or how he feels about something. The book lists students, social service, fellow teachers, and the work itself as other intrinsic rewards. I agree with all of these. Another reward not really mentioned is the fact that I love school and the school environment. I enjoy the structure and the activities provided. When I was in high school, I was on campus from 8 am to 5:30 pm and sometimes longer. I don’t remember ever wishing I were somewhere else.

I think this last reward is one of my biggest motives for teaching. I’d definitely rather be a teacher than a “professional student.” I also remember my own “aha” moment when I thought teaching would be right for me. I was taking a walk with a friend’s kids and answering all kinds of different questions. When I got back to the house, I realized that I’d loved it. I’d enjoyed not only the walk but who I spent it with and how. I haven’t necessarily learned anything new about myself, but this reflection was a good reminder.



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