The scent of kettle corn in the air and the sound of delighted children’s screams from the nearby petting zoo resonating, I handed the teenager my card.
“Contact me if you need any help. I’m an English teacher and also teach a creative writing class, so I work with a lot of students who want to be writers. If you ever have any questions, I’d be happy to help,” I said after hearing her discussion of the manuscript she just finished writing with her best friend.
I was with my husband at a small-town Scarecrow Festival, one of the many autumn gigs we’ve got scheduled on the weekend to support my author career. Through our travels, I’ve come across many teenagers who chat with me about writing and who, like I once did, have the dream in their eyes of being a published author, but just aren’t sure how to see it come true.
The girl smiled, taking my card and talking a little bit more about her writing. But then, something truly shocking happened that stopped me in my tracks.
Her mother, who had been standing to the side during our encounter, turned to me and said: “Thank you for being a teacher. It’s good to see a teacher who cares, and I can tell you do. There’s such a misconception in the public that teaching is just about testing.”
I was honestly speechless. The mom’s words weren’t expected, necessary, or even related to the atmosphere. She only knew me from my short interaction with her daughter. However, her words struck a chord with me, and it made me realize how much it meant that she could recognize the passion for my job.
My words to her daughter were genuine. One of my favorite things about my writing career is the ability to help spark that hope in others. Not long ago, I was a small-town girl myself with nothing but a wild dream of being published, so I understand what it’s like to not know what to do with the writing bug. I was lucky enough to have my dream come true. Now, I get to combine my publishing dream with my other passion: teaching students that it’s okay to dream big.
One of my favorite things about my writing career is the ability to help spark that hope in others.
It’s at school where I get to experience the most beautiful part of my career choice. I get to light a passion for English, reading, and especially writing in students. In my creative writing class, I get to watch their creativity grow. I get to see them recognize dreams within they didn’t even know they had. I get to help them develop a sense of confidence in their writing and ideas. I help them develop their craft. Most importantly, I get to create a safe environment for them to explore their writing identities and their goals.
These are the reasons I teach.
The mom I met at the fair was right. There are many misconceptions about teaching. Usually, when I hear talk about educators in the general public, the discussion isn’t always kind. The negativity surrounding public education, teachers, and what we do can sometimes make the job feel thankless. It seems like so many people look right through us or assume the worst about why we do what we do. There is an assumption we’re all about money, test scores, and power.
Let me be clear: It’s not that we expect thank-yous. We really don’t. We don’t do what we do for acknowledgement or fame. We don’t do it to be placed on a pedestal. There are so many important careers out there, and there are so many people who aren’t thanked for their hard work on a daily basis. We don’t expect parades in our honor or daily thank-you notes.
Also, like with any job, there are certainly teachers in the profession for the wrong reasons. There are teachers who perhaps don’t “care” in the words of the mom I met this weekend. There are teachers who have lost the passion for the career over the years. There are teachers who aren’t giving it their all or keeping the students as a first priority. Even if we do care, none of us are perfect. I don’t claim to be the perfect teacher, and I don’t claim to excel at what I do every single day. Still, I do my best, as do so many other teachers on a daily basis.
But I’m glad some people realize we aren’t all in it for the wrong reasons. I’m glad there are still people who recognize some of us truly do care. I’m glad that there are still people in the world who appreciate teaching for what it is.
To the mom who thanked me for being a teacher who cares, thank you for taking the time to recognize what some don’t: So many of us in the teaching profession do care. So many of us teach because we love it. We teach because we want your children to succeed. We teach because it is, quite simply, our passion. We teach so that we can inspire your children to achieve their dreams, and we will do whatever it takes to help them make that happen.
Most of all, in the middle of my weekend career, thank you for reminding me why I teach—not for thank-yous or acknowledgements, but because, quite simply, I do really care.
Lindsay Detwiler is a high school English teacher and a published romance author with Hot Tree Publishing. Learn more about her eight novels here.