Are You “Called” to Teach

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Why do people teach? The major reason someone says they teach is the ability to make a real difference in the lives of children. There are other reasons, including the fact that someone believes they are “called” to teach. Almost all teachers are linked together by a passion for educating children. The passion is innate and has to come from within.

Former Commissioner of Education in Tennessee, Candice McQueen, reminded a group of educators in a presentation that we were set apart in our mission. She pointed out the gifts that educators have are special talents and abilities. Educators are born for the mission that is being given for us. Dr. McQueen emphasized the profession is a special calling. She is correct.

We are all on a search for significance. We desire to make a difference. Educators are making a huge difference. That is why it is important that we honor them. It is the English social critic, Os Guinness, who stated: “Calling is not only a matter of being and doing what we are, but also of becoming what we are not yet but are called by God to be.” He then adds: “Deep in our hearts, we all want to find and fulfill a purpose bigger than ourselves.” Education of the next generation is one of the most important occupations we could ever do. The belief that one is “called to teach” keeps women and men in education, even with all the unwanted public scrutiny.

Matthew Lynch writes about teaching as a calling: “A calling implies a deep-seated belief that teaching is the only profession that makes sense for you to pursue…” Dylan Fenton, an English teacher and writer does not like the term “calling,” as it creates to him an “idea that good teachers are born, not made and, as a result, allow themselves to stagnate.” I would argue that Lynch is more accurate than Fenton, as a passionate teacher never stops honing their craft. John Hunter, an award-winning teacher and educational consultant wrote: “I used to think teaching was a job. And then I thought it was a profession. And now I’m of the opinion that it’s a calling. It’s a very noble calling.”

Henry David Thoreau said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” John Keating, in the movie Dead Poets Society challenged his students to not be resigned to that type of life. Yes, John Keating was subsequently fired, and probably never taught another class the rest of his life. However, he taught his students to find their own voice. It was his calling. If you have a profession that brings you passion, gives you someone other than yourself to care for, and is something that makes you want to get up in the morning to accomplish, you will not live a life of quiet desperation.

Teaching is indeed an imposing, self-sacrificing, but also a magnanimous calling. Going through the process to get certified, whether through traditional means or an alternative route is sometimes difficult. The creativity aspect of the profession has slowly been eroded. There is persistent negativity by some lawmakers and the media of public education. Compared to other professions, educators can expect a modest salary and sometimes extremely difficult working conditions. However, if you are called to teach, you will never find a happier place than in a classroom or serving students. Educators are set apart to make a difference. There is no other profession, except perhaps the clergy, that can change lives like a public-school teacher.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee. To schedule an interview please contact Audrey Shores, Director of Communications, at 1-800-471-4867 ext.102.

Veterans Day 2018

Tennessee is the Volunteer State. It is called the Volunteer State because in the times of crisis that our nation found itself, whether a natural crisis or in defense of our country, our citizens were the first to respond.

Members of my family have fought, and some even died, for the defense of our country. I am proud to have served in the Marine Corps and appreciate my fellow veterans. Anyone who has served will tell you it was an honor to wear the uniform of our nation and take the vows to defend our citizens, our country and our Constitution. Military enlistment has no expiration date.

This Veterans Day, in the year 2018, we must do more than repeat the well-deserved praises of the bravery and patriotism that our veterans embody. That was established the day they put on the uniform. Rather, we should reflect on how we are treating our veterans.

We know that the average number of veterans who commit suicide remains at 20 a day. We know that younger veterans are among that number. Suicide is a complex issue, and veterans are not getting the help they need. Why is this not a national priority? It is good political rhetoric during campaign season.

A lot of veterans end up teaching in Tennessee classrooms across the state. For them teaching is an extension of their service to their state and nation. Our classrooms are full of children who are the sons and daughters of active duty military and veterans. Tennessee has more current and former military among our citizenry than most states. So, on this Veterans Day let us remember the service of our veterans. Let us keep our promises and obligations to our veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much so we can live freely.

Veterans who are in crisis or are having thoughts of suicide, and those who know a Veteran in crisis, should call the Veterans Crisis Line for confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year at 800-273-8255 and press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/get-help/Chat, or send a text message to 838255.You can learn more about VA’s suicide-prevention resources and programs at www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention.

Our veterans have served America with the fervent belief that freedom and democracy are ideals to be upheld around the world. The late Virginia Senator John Warner reminded us: “Tragically, the effort to make America and the world safer and to defend freedom around the world is not without an enormous cost to this Nation in terms primarily of lost lives and those who bear the scars and the wounds of war, and their families who must bear these losses. “It is time we make those who serve our state and nation a higher priority.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited.

Getting to “All Means All”

Eight steps to building an education system that delivers on the promise of excellence and equity

POSTED:October 20, 2014
Professor Paul Reville

To build the education system that the 21st century demands, says Professor Paul Reville, we have to look at what’s failed in our attempts to reform the 20th-century education system we’re still living with.

Speaking at the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Bold Ideas & Critical Conversations event on September 19, Reville summarized the ways in which our current system is failing to meet the promise of excellence and equity in education. Despite more than 20 years of intense reform efforts, there is still “an iron-law correlation between socioeconomic status and educational achievement and attainment.”

Charting a new pathway toward “all means all,” Reville outlined eight broad ideas that both assess and take us beyond today’s shortcomings:

  • There is now a happy coincidence, Reville said, between what we ought to do and what is in our economic interest to do, which is to educate each and every one of our students to a high standard — to educate them for success in employment, citizenship, family life, and as lifelong learners.
  • Schooling alone is insufficient; it is too weak an intervention to overcome the disadvantages of poverty. “We want a society in which demographics are not destiny,” Reville said, noting that the work to meet that ideal has only just begun.
  • Our current system is outmoded, he continued, citing short school days and a one-size-fits-all approach. “We have a batch-processing, mass-production model of education that served us very well if we wanted to achieve a society in which we were sending a lot of people into low-skill, low-knowledge jobs,” Reville said. “But for high-skill, high-knowledge jobs in a post-industrial information age, we need a very different system.”
  • We need a new design — a new way to integrate systems of education and child development that delivers on the goal of preparing each and every student for success.
  • To get there, “we’re going to need to differentiate,” Reville said. We need a system that meets every child where he or she is, and gives them tools to be successful at each stage of their education.
  • We must become more intentional in mitigating the issues in children’s lives outside of school that get in the way of their success in school. He argues that we need to braid systems of health, mental health, and education, taking steps to build social and emotional learning and resiliency.
  • We have to increase access to out-of-school learning for all students. “Affluent families are doing more than ever before in the 80 percent of children’s lives [spent] outside of school to enrich their children’s education. Disadvantaged families can do less and less,” Reville said.
  • All of these needs and priorities are feeding into the creation of the Education Redesign Lab, a new initiative at HGSE that aims to spearhead a national conversation about how we will build a new system of education and child development that finally delivers on the promise of excellence and equity. Reville envisions a national design process that will bring together all of these elements of reform and create “a visionary blueprint for 21st-century education.”

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Credit to Usable Knowledge at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Website:  www.gse.harvard.edu/uk.