The other day I was talking with a good friend who is studying to be a teacher, and she strongly believes teaching is something that you’re “called” to, not that you choose to do.  Teaching is not a career fall back, nor is it for the faint of heart who enter the field because their degree isn’t good for much else.

I agree.

I was faced with this exact problem when I began to study English.  Everyone wanted to know if I was going into teaching.  To avoid the questions (Why not?) and brow-beating (You know, your degree won’t be good for much else.), I began to look at teaching programs.  I chose one that fit me best AND would enable me to teach most places in the continental US.  I worked hard, studied hard, and practically ran myself into the ground trying to figure out how I was going to get all the classes I needed for teaching in my undergrad without giving up my English major.

I hated my school, I hated my life, but–more than anything–I hated myself.  I hated that what I wanted to do was being eclipsed by what everyone (from family to friends to former teachers) thought I should do.  I realized I had not been called and quickly threw those plans out the window.

Years later, and I have my degree.  I didn’t put myself through the ridiculous hoop-jumping to get a degree I was never going to use.  Instead, I have this English degree that I can’t use until I go to my Masters program (no one takes a BA seriously).  People still ask me if I’m going into teaching.  I had one former teacher nearly tear up when I told her it wasn’t something I ever felt I could do; she feels that I would be a wonderful teacher and that it’s a true shame I refuse to.

But I’ve learned that as much as I enjoy teaching people one-on-one, or in small groups where interacting is not just possible but encouraged, I cannot stand the thought of doing it all day every day.  I’m passionate, involved, and out-of-the-box.  I fit the qualifications for teaching, I know this, except for one small thing: I care far too much and far too little at the same time.

I’m a bit of a workaholic.  As a teacher I know that I wouldn’t be able to control myself as I (barely) do now–there are no breaks in being a teacher.  I connect too much.  I would over-extend myself in less than a year.

However, contrastingly, my patience is limited when it comes to those who clearly do not try.  I’m not interested in helping a student who won’t help themselves.  Students who don’t want to be in class?  Okay, cool.  Leave, I don’t want you here either.  These are not the attitudes of a good group teacher.

So I refuse to teach school.  The call has come, time and again, from many different sources, but I refuse to pick up the phone.  I will not do the children I would come into contact with a disservice by providing them with a reluctant teacher.  That is not how things are done, not in my world.

All this being said, I am a teacher of young children in my congregation.  I have a class of the five coolest kids ever.  It’s taught me ways to be a better person, as well as how to teach best (learn from my students).   Where I do not feel called to teach school, I do feel called in my teaching position there.  These children have so much to teach me, I can’t help but think that’s why I’m there–not because they particularly need a teacher.  I love them dearly.

While others might find this to be proof that I should teach, I see it as proof I should not.  I love these students, care about them, and can’t imagine ever leaving them for another class.  All my fears about connecting too much are thankfully not too big a deal here–teaching at church there’s supposed to be this connection and love. However, this class (and the one I had before it) is proof to me that that is exactly what I would do in a school setting as well.  This strikes me as a bad scenario for all involved.

Though, even as they confirm how badly I would fail as a teacher elsewhere, I am so grateful for the beautiful children who make up my class.  They show me my failures, yes, my weaknesses, too, but at the end of the day, they also show me my goodness.  I cried like a baby when one of them told me they loved me.  I hung a thank you card from another at my cubicle.  I smile every time I look at it.  Something in me, in what I do, inspires these acts in return.  It’s been a marvelous experience.  Parents, thank you for your children.

So, as my path takes me elsewhere in life, places I would never achieve without some particularly extraordinary educators, I honor these amazing men and women.  It is because of your example that I know teaching would be a bad idea for me.  It is because of your passion, drive, and willingness to serve that I am who I am today.  Teachers, thank you for answering this great call.

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