I personally think my job is one of, if not perhaps, the most important jobs in the world.
I believe my job is one that cannot be taken lightly, and should never be taken for granted; it cannot be fool around with, treated as inconsequential, used as a testing ground. At 24 years old, I have my dream job. Most teachers entered the world of education through slipshod means: some taught in dysfunctional districts for years before gaining entrance into one of “quality”, some substituted until they took over a long term position, some had to work part time, coach part time at a different school, teach the not-so-great classes, and worked as a waitress to pay rent. As for me, I slipped right into an awesome position, and I try to show up every single day to prove my worth of holding this esteemed position.
As an English teacher, I teach writing, and within the realm of writing, I teach thinking structures. I teach kids how to deconstruct arguments, how to define their positions, how to provide sufficient evidence; these are the thinking structures they will take, if only unconsciously, into their everyday interactions with the world. I teach them how to agree and disagree cordially, how to ask questions, and solve prompts. And, when the time comes for them to make voting decisions, to confront their significant other about a relationship issue, to decide which college they are going to, they will use the same patterns and schemas I taught them.
Because I am looked upon as an authority figure, the things I deem acceptable, and unacceptable, in my classroom will model for students behaviors that are acceptable, and unacceptable in the world. If I let my students leave their trash all over the floor, they think it’s acceptable to leave their trash all over any floor. If I let my students gossip in my classroom, then they think it’s acceptable to gossip in any arena. And, if I let my students give 50% effort, not turn their work in, never show up on time, then they think that’s acceptable in their jobs. What I allow, and don’t allow, in my classroom conditions students for how they will act later one, so I better make sure I am conditioning them properly.
The way I interact with my students could make or break their perceptions of the world. So many of our development stems from the four years we spend in those walls, and the experiences we gather become cemented as stories we share into our adulthood. Some of the top stories my siblings and I share when we meet new people come from high school: the time Trey snapped Kayla’s underwear in science class; the time our German teacher reprimanded me for my sister failing, all the fights Kayla, Christiane, and I got into when trying to make it to school on time, how the fries always tasted like they were seasoned with sugar. And, because my students are currently building these memories, I must make sure that I am doing all that I can to make them positive; that they never hear me speak poorly about them, that I never act inappropriately or hypocritically that might disrupt their schemas, that I always treat each student equitably. Because, not doing one of these things could be incredibly detrimental to their perceptions of me, of teachers, and of their high school experiences. I am given great responsibility to mold the minds of these young people, and I better make sure I am doing it right.
A few months ago, I had the privilege to spend the day away from my classroom, observing the true inner workings of the school. There were so many things that go into a typical school day I had forgotten about, since I am sheltered away from it all. I witnessed the lunch ladies, the secretaries, the security guards, the library staff, etc., who work unnoticed all day just so I have the opportunity to do what I love to do: teach. I get to hold my students in a sanctuary, where we develop ideas about internet censorship, we get to discover our identities through characters we relate to, we get to establish long-lasting relationships with each other, all the while other people are working, like little elves, to make this possible.
Yes, I think my job is perhaps one of the most important in the world, and I better make sure that I do everything in my power to prove my worth.