Why do you want to be a teacher? That was my most dreaded question during school. Professors wanted a genuine answer, but I never knew how to put it into words. My main answer was being a person children can rely on, to help make the world a better place. But that was also what everyone else said. Other things said were “I like kids.” “I want to make a change.” Which all are great answers, but they weren’t as personable as they could be. Here is a long (sorry it is actually quite long) reason why I became a teacher. Grab yourself a coffee and a snack and buckle in.
Why I Became A Teacher: The Beginning
I knew I wanted to work with children. Although there was a time I thought about being a pharmacist because of money. But money isn’t everything. Being around children always made me happy, and still does. To be quite honest, I’m not a huge fan of adults. I get along better with children. There is something about youth than I am so drawn to that tells me that working with children is what I am supposed to do.
I didn’t join the profession because I have a family of teachers like some of my peers. I didn’t join because it would be an easy 4 years. Or because teaching is easy. The more schooling I got the more torn I was between Early Childhood and Elementary. I like them both just fine and I know I could do either one and be successful.
I want to be a voice for children. I want to be a person that supports them, that pushes them. Children are capable of more than we let them or believe they are capable of. They are creative, thoughtful, hilarious, open-minded, and hard-working. Children are their own people and shouldn’t be put into a box or labeled as a number.
Teaching Is Hard
Teaching shouldn’t be easy. It is a profession where you are communicating with others, guiding, modeling, problem-solving, and using strategic planning. Teachers make around 1,500 decisions during a workday. They will decide if the children are understanding or not understanding what they are teaching. If the students are engaged or not. Who needs to be pulled back into the lesson, or if they should move on. Is it time to let them practice on their own or do they need more guidance. Which children work well together and which children don’t. How much time do I have? What will I do if I have extra time or not enough time?
There are so many thoughts and decisions that run through a teacher’s mind. There have been times I have stopped mid-lesson and redirected to a different topic because the lesson was going downhill fast. Instead of wasting all of our time, we were able to move onto something productive and come back to the lesson later in the day. It is a hard job. Some days I go home mentally drained because of how much multi-tasking and how many thoughts are running through my head.
I want the best for children. I want them to be strong, independent, capable adults as they get older. However, views on children weren’t always like that.
Society’s views on children have changed and evolved. In development classes, we would look into how society viewed children and how they were treated because of it. Here is a quick overview:
Childhood wasn’t emphasized or seen as a phase of life. Children only had a 25% chance to make it past age 5. Children weren’t valued enough to see doctors. Many died of disease, infection, lack of cleanliness, and abandonment. If a child survived they were treated like an adult. They were expected to dress, talk, and act in ways like an adult.
Something shifted society’s views in children. Physicians began to care for infants more, in the past, it was the mid-wife or nothing for infant care. Swaddling came into practice where they also placed them on a board to hold their limbs straight. After a baby was born most families would feet their baby butter, sugar, a splash of oil, spiced bread, and a drink of gruel mixed with wine or ale. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a great mixture to give a child… 😉
With the industrial revolution making its way factories needed workers. Who better to work in factories (for cheap) than children?! But don’t worry, children could only work 48 hours a week if they were older than 13, and 68 for children older than 13. Technically, children under 9 weren’t able to be hired, but that didn’t stop factories. Children as young as 5 were often hired in coal mines because they were small enough to fit in the small spaces that adults couldn’t fit in.
Did you know Sunday Schools started because factories were closed on Sunday and adults wanted them out of the way? Kids worked Monday-Saturday and went to school on Sunday. Which left them very little time to explore and live childhood to it’s fullest.
Most countries now don’t allow children to work. Children are viewed as their own stage in development. They aren’t expected to be mini-adults. Their job is to go to school, engage with peers, and most importantly be children.
Two important philosophers helped encourage different ways of thinking about childhood. If you were a fan of LOST back early 2000’s like me, you might appreciate the name references they used.
John Locke, a British philosopher in the late 1700’s, coined the term “blank slate”. Meaning that children are born as a blank slate and it is our job as parents, educators, and society to fill their slate and teach them. Children soak up any and all information provided to them. Behavior is shaped by the environment through punishment and rewards.
Jean Jacques Rousseau was a French philosopher in the 1800s believed that children were born with a moral compass, a sense of right and wrong. Rousseau believed that children respond actively to the world around them by engaging in their environment and using it to suit their interests.
Although I don’t agree with Locke’s view 100%, I respect it enough because, without him, we might not be where we are in regards to how society views children. He also gives a great point that they don’t come into the world knowing everything. It is our job as parents and educators to help them.
As children and childhood became more respected, there was space for more researchers and psychologists to study and record bits of childhood. Notable child psychologists are Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, Howard Gardner, Erik Erikson, and Sigmund Freud. I won’t go into their theories, but I linked pages on them for your reading pleasure! 🙂 Simply Psychology has a great overview of other theories if you are interested.
Nowadays we have two broad parenting/teaching styles. Free-range parenting and helicopter parenting. A comparison between the two is a farm. On one, animals are allowed to roam. The other animals are in an overcrowded pin.
There is a new generation starting to bud. Their name: Generation Snowflake.
Snowflakes are delicate, pretty, and dainty. The term snowflake refers to children and teens who have a hard time coping with new challenges and changes. Children who are less resilient and take offense easily. They end up being delicate, prone to breakage.
How do we raise a generation of “snowflakes”?
By controlling. Doing tasks and solving problems for them. Giving in to their every desire without question. Keeping children in a box where everything is happy, pretty, and problem-free. Technology plays a part as well as technology is fairly instant. Children need to learn how to wait, but the environments children are in everything is instant: meals, entertainment, materials. We give out participation trophies because everyone is a winner. We have large sports teams because cutting a child makes them feel bad.
It is okay to tell children no. I promise. No is not going to scar them forever, eventually, they will hear no in their life. It will be easier for them if they know that boundaries are there for a reason. That sometimes you need to work hard to succeed in life- not everything is handed to you on a silver platter. Persistence. Hearing no as a child will help them when they are older. They will learn how to regulate their emotions and cope when things don’t go their way.
Children are raised to be sheltered from life, not prepared for life. A quote from the article listed above from Growing Leaders:
We wouldn’t let them fail. We removed the consequences of poor decisions. We praised the wrong qualities in them. We risked too little, we rescued too quickly and we raved too easily.
Teaching should be hard. Teaching shouldn’t be about doing everything for children. If we do everything for them, how do they learn? How do they learn these life skills we want them to know, like patience? How do children learn how to problem solve? Would they learn best by modeling and scaffolding or by having an adult solve the problem?
How do we raise free-range children?
It is the opposite of the above. Children are given “free range” do be individuals. They are encouraged to take risks. Make risky decisions and learn from them. Parents are trusting of their children because they have been raised to be independent and problem solve on their own.
Children will spend more time outside exploring in nature than inside watching tv or playing a tablet. They help with meals, household chores, and solving problems.
Reggio and Montessori practices align nicely with free-range parenting. The Kavanaugh Report, which I link under each post, is a great tool for introducing knife skills at young ages. It is worth the read!
Why I Became A Teacher
I want to be a teacher because I want to help them grow in all areas of their life! I want to see them grow socially, emotionally, physically, and academically. Truth be told, I would but the academics at the bottom of my worries. Simply because I believe when children are socially, emotionally, and physically competent, academics become easier as they get older. When children have the tools to push through problems, persevere, problem-solve, and try many different ways will have their brains wired in a way that builds a strong foundation for future learning.
I want to be an advocate for children. To do what is developmentally appropriate instead of what is expected. Children are little people. They need love, guidance, and a gentle guiding hand. Children need practice (like everybody else) to accomplish a task.
In some ways, we are stuck in the 17th century expecting children to know everything right away, to act like adults, or to be seen not heard. Children are people too. They are expected to know how to regulate their emotions, persevere through a hard task, sit patiently, take no easily. But they don’t. Children are a blank slate. They need practice, repetition, guidance, modeling, boundaries, love, and support. Children are people too.
I wish the whole world viewed children and childhood the way I do. But the world is a scary place and parents want the best for them, to see the success. I want to see them succeed. I want the best for them. For every child in the world, whether I have met them or not. As an educator and child-enthusiast, I hope they succeed in life. I hope they find are in an environment that treats them like people and not an animal in a pen. Children have needs just like adults. They deserve to have their needs met. For a lot of children that is messy play, risky play, a play that is too often squandered by adult worry.
Children are capable of so much more than what we think if they are just given the chance. They might fail a few times before succeeding, but that is what life is about. I want to see more free-range children exploring the world. Children who are resilient, hard workers, creative, intelligent, strong, and capable. How do we raise successful children, if they are not given the opportunities to be successful?
If we want to teach children life skills we need to let them experience life.
If we want to teach children how to be kind, we need to let them experience mean and unkind.
We are so quick to cheer on babies as they crawl, walk, and talk. As they are succeeding in this part of growing up we begin to tell them to sit still and to be quiet.
Let children breathe. Let children run, climb, and throw. Let children get messy and eat things they probably shouldn’t. They are only little for so long, let’s make the most of it. Dirt doesn’t hurt. Rain is a free shower.
My best memories were spent getting dirty, making risky moves, and enjoying time with family. I want that for all children.
Thank you for reading my long post! If you made it through all the way, THANK YOU. Educators tell me in the comments or email me, why did you become a teacher? Parents, let me know your thoughts. As I don’t have any children I am going off an education perspective.
Please don’t forget to subscribe so you never miss a post! 🙂