“Why do you teach?” Back to school. Day one.  Professional Development. A familiar scene. As we gathered in a circle of introduction we were asked to answer this question. There was great variety in the answers:


“It’s a family tradition.”

“I’m giving back.”

“I’m a science geek.”

“I love kids.”

“For the money.” (just kidding)

All great answers that helped me get to know my coworkers a little better. But all short and sweet. My answer was no different.

Alas, time to get into the classroom to unpack, move furniture, set up and begin to check off the many items on my list required to prepare. Suddenly, I was hit by a terrible feeling of anxiety. I was completely overwhelmed! Mandates, curriculum, updates, data collection, assessments, funding, etc. etc.!  The thousands of things that teachers have to do spewed from the back of my mind to the forefront–system overload! I literally had to sit and wipe tears from my eyes. DAY ONE! I am not going to make it through the school year.

“Why do you teach?” The question came back to me. As I contemplated, I started to picture the faces in those seats I had just arranged. I saw their smiles, grimaces, thoughtful expressions, and even their tears. I recalled their dreams, accomplishments, struggles, and talents. I remembered my why. Not the short and simple version I had just given my colleagues. The real why:

They deserve it!

Every kid deserves a chance to improve their personal circumstance, to be inspired to strive for better, and have the tools to succeed. They deserve to create their own definition of success and follow their passions in accomplishing this goal. Students deserve to be taught skills to communicate, problem solve, collaborate, and have a voice in whatever career fields they choose. Children deserve the opportunity to preserve humanity. Our youth deserve assistance in becoming compassionate, active citizens in their own communities, states, country, and globally. They deserve it simply because they are kids!

“Why do you teach?” Ask yourself this question. Take your time to answer, really answer. Write it down. Laminate it! Post it where you can see it daily. On those tough days, when you are wondering if you will make it through another school year, reflect upon it. Bring yourself back to your reasoning. Remember your purpose.

What is your why? 

Michelle Tavares, Special Educator, City Neighbors High School