The experience of being an educator today can generate a wide variety of emotions. Not all of them may be positive. The profession is filled with pressure and, at times, unrealistic accountability. Some people find educators convenient targets to assign responsibility for a variety of societal ills, including many that fall well beyond our control and influence. It is also true that respect for the profession is not as high as it has been in the past.
Yet, there is a significant risk in focusing on these external pressures and perceptions while ignoring other aspects of the profession that offer even more powerful reasons to treasure the work and appreciate the impact we can have on the lives we engage every day. As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, consider setting aside some time to focus and reflect on those aspects of being an educator that enrich your life and make it meaningful. Here are five reasons that have made my career in education one in which I take pride and for which I am thankful.
First, every day something happens to remind us that we are needed. Some days it might be a question that conveys new insight from a curious learner. On other days it might be an opportunity to offer encouragement, provide guidance, or offer a coaching insight. Or, it might be as little as a look of reassurance or a “knowing” wink. Regardless, everyday offers some reminder that our presence matters.
Second, the work of education is meaningful. It rarely is routine or completely predictable. It represents an investment in learners and their ability to find future success in life and work. Educators are architects and builders of lives. Of course, there are days when seeing the difference we make is easier than others, but every day holds the opportunity and potential to change a life.
Third, as educators we often are the support for young people who have little or no support system. When students face crises that no young person should have to experience, we are often the safe source of reassurance on whom they can depend and in whom they can confide. Certainly, these times can cause our hearts to break and leave us regretting that we could not do more. Yet, they are important reminders that our role is more than conveying curriculum content and assessing academic skills. Our empathy and advocacy at these times can change the direction of a young life.
Fourth, education is an endeavor in which we can never have all the answers. While a key aspect of our role is to nurture the learning of young people, it also invites us to continue to learn. If we remain open and aware, each week invites us to learn a new lesson and perfect another aspect of our skills. Learners can teach us much about how to support their learning. It is a gift to be in a profession that invites us to stay fresh and grow in our understanding and skills throughout a career.
Fifth, we can be grateful that our profession is not likely to be automated or outsourced. It is true that many efforts have tried to reduce education to technological interactions, or programmed behavior. However, with each less-than-successful attempt comes the reminder that at its core, learning includes a dimension of human interaction. It is up to us to leverage and respect this unique element of the work we do.