Only The Brave Should Teach

Only the brave should teach. Only those who love the young should teach. Teaching is a vocation. It is as sacred as priesthood; as innate a desire, as inescapable as the genius which compels a great artist. If he has not the concern for humanity, the love of living creatures, the vision of the priest and the artist, he must not teach.

~ Pearl S. Buck

Readers often question why I stay where I am not wanted. They wonder why I give my time and talents to a system that does not appreciate the greater contributions I could make if only I were set free to do so. Some have suggested that I open a private school, or work in a parochial school, where my skills would more likely be tapped and encouraged. Some days I ask myself these questions.

I find the Pearl Buck quote apt, and have come to understand that teaching is simply an innate characteristic of my personality; of my imagination; of my being. I began teaching my young deaf brother when I was five or six years old, and I just never stopped. Particularly ruthless or foolish supervisors have occasionally succeeded in pushing me out of the schools. Following a respite, a chance for wounds to heal, I searched for other areas that might fill the hole that develops in my soul when I am not teaching.

I worked in management for a national restaurant chain and enjoyed that. I worked in grocery stores (my husband was one of my customers), and I still miss that work. I worked as a caseworker for foster homes in Colorado Springs, and I was happy and stimulated in that position. I sold fasteners and tools for a large corporation out of Irving, Texas, and found that work interesting and challenging. Always, though, something would be lacking.

No matter which new career I tried, an inner voice beckoned me back to the classroom. I missed my students; my vocation; my passion. Often my longing seemed quite subconscious. One evening a friend in Colorado said, “You need to go back to teaching. Your eyes sparkle whenever you speak of your experiences with students.” It came almost as a shock — but he was right. Within three weeks I had moved back in Iowa; back teaching. Since then I have remained in education for it is, indeed, my life’s purpose — “I TEACH.”

But more important than my drive to teach, is my drive to teach the students who need most what I do best. Sadly, and far too often, my teaching skills are the only lifeline, and the only anchor, upon which my special education students can depend. Too often I am that crucial life difference between ‘Hope’ and ‘Hopeless’ for these children. Children attending private and parochial schools are in circumstances that normally differ greatly from those facing my students; they have resources and supports that my pupils have never known. Too often my students have only me. They depend upon my skills, my courage, and my willingness to risk all to battle the system on their behalf; to fight for services that meet their needs. To them I signify hope — that they may finally acquire skills and knowledge. Other children dream of becoming doctors and scientists; my students fear they may never learn to read, write and spell.

It is not the fault of students whose parents are unable to, or incapable of, removing them from the government system. It is not the fault of students who have ended up in schools led by federal change agents disguised as principals; with curriculum more suited to training apes, than towards educating the future citizens and leaders of our nation. It is not the child’s fault, and so my passion, my goal, is to ‘save the world…one child at a time.’

Yes, some days and weeks, even some years, have been made miserable by cruel, ignorant administrators. But oh, my hours are lovely for during those ‘I Teach.’ I close my door; play classical music to mask noisy halls; and ‘I Teach.’ My students learn to read; to spell; to think; to question; to believe in themselves; to walk taller; to live more fully; to anticipate a future. For these reasons I stay and for these reasons ‘I TEACH.’

As teachers we must believe in change, must know it is possible or we wouldn’t be teaching — because education is a constant process of change. Every single time you “teach” something to someone, it is ingested, something is done with it, and a new human being emerges.

~ Leo Buscaglia