When people ask you what you do, do you say “I teach,” or do you say “I am a teacher?” Because there is a significant distinction between teaching and being a teacher. Teaching is fleeting, lasts for the moment or the span of a lesson. Teaching involves assessing, methodology, adaptation, and a certain set of skills.
Being a teacher, on the other hand, is so much more than that.
It means that you care, more than you might like to admit. It means that you shed tears of pride when “that kid” graduates, the one who you sometimes didn’t think would make it, but deep down hoped he would. It means you shed tears of sadness with the girl whose grandmother just passed away, or the boy whose father just went to war.
It means that you sometimes stay up too late planning the perfect lesson or set your alarm clock for four in the morning just to get in a quiet hour of grading.
It means that you are a teacher every second of your day, not merely the seconds that tick from bell to bell. You are a teacher whether you stand up in front of your class, or you are eating dinner in a restaurant, or you are posting anything on social media. When you are a teacher, there is no such thing as a private life.
It means you never, never, say no when someone asks you for help. It doesn’t matter if you have your arms full with work to take home at the end of a long day, or if you were about to sneak in a five-minute lunch, or if a student you have not seen for three years shows up in your room looking for advice.
It means you will sacrifice sleep, money, and time with your family to make sure your students thrive. If it’s not planning lessons or grading that keeps you up to all hours of the night, you worry about your student who is falling behind, or who seems depressed.
It means you obsess about content standards, strategies, and seating charts so much you forget to clean the house sometimes. (It’s oaky; I do that, too.)
It means your name will never be on the side of a building, or in lights, or in history books. But you know that doesn’t matter. We make our marks in other ways; more permanent ones.
It means that once a child has sat in your classroom, she will always be your student. ALWAYS.
It means much more than the content you teach — the objectives, the standards, the assessments — for which of those can measure the soul of a human being?
What does being a teacher mean to you?