Being an educator is worth the effort

By Connie Nolen/ Community Columnist

Recently, a former student who is contemplating becoming a high school teacher contacted me seeking answers. Why did I become a teacher? How did I choose my subject area? Ultimately, she wants to know if I think teaching high school is a worthwhile career.

“People knock on your dorm room door confused and leave comprehending. You explain until people understand. You ARE a teacher!” a college friend observed.

I have always been a teacher—assisting my younger brother (to his delight or chagrin); in high school, I was tutoring neighbors struggling with algebra, and coaxing my friends’ to edit their essays. I delighted in epiphanies.

Analyzing others’ writing in order to create work that forces us to reflect, understand ourselves and share that understanding creates success in any endeavor. Intent on fostering maximum student success, teaching writing emerged as my best path for leading students toward success.

Motivating students to persevere and witnessing their work bloom into competition-worthy projects—such as literary magazines and the creative contents within those magazines led me to writing electives. Winning competitions validates students more than praise and exemplary grades. Awards and scholarships validate teacher encouragement. Winning state, regional, and national competitions confirms students’ hopes that they possess the talent, work ethic, and skills to compete beyond high school.

Teaching writing competitively, while incorporating required content, researching contests, mailing entries, and navigating emerging, complex online platforms is challenging. However, students writing competitively transcend the intramurals of classroom victories.

“Ultimately, is teaching worthwhile?” my former student asks. Teaching well demands authenticity and vulnerability. Caring teachers ache for their students’ difficulties. Is the pain worth the joy? Teaching teens requires enduring the pain and lingering in the joy. Teachers leave legacies to students who remember us as demanding or inspiring. Teaching successfully requires maintaining perspective. The teaching profession demands commitment to student success.

Yes, students are always worth the effort! Eventually, even the most frustrated students discover the inner strengths their teachers witnessed. Many students bloom in my presence. Faith is key to perseverance.  Believing that all students will bloom in their season keeps me teaching.