by: Denise Malone
Several years ago I reluctantly agreed to be part of a Career Day celebration at a boarding academy. On my way to the school, I was flanked by professionals who enthusiastically talked about what they were going to share with the students. I listened attentively and thought to myself, “Their jobs sound so much more exciting than mine. After all, in this day and time, who wants to be a teacher anyway?” Lawyers talked about exciting court cases. Engineers ranted about innovations that revolutionized their company’s effectiveness. Entrepreneurs boasted of their plans that made their business enterprises soar. And there I was thinking about my profession, replete with all of the academic, social, and economic challenges that plague our schools.
During the opening session of the Career Day celebration, a charismatic gentleman, dressed in an expensive suit, stood before the student body and wowed them with the story of how he obtained his federally appointed government job. The story was quite interesting, but somehow I was lost in a fog when I heard him casually mention his six figure salary and something about a jet awaiting his arrival to whisk him off to an appointment. This gentleman told his story well. The excitement mounted as he inspired the student body with the notion that they too can achieve great things if they stay in school and pursue the right career path.
I sat mesmerized, but was jolted into reality when the organizer of the day sent all participants to a designated area to give their presentations. I saw students enthusiastically rushing to the various career booths, many that became overcrowded with students who were eager to follow a career path full of glitz, glamour, and megabucks. And there I was taking up too much space prompting the organizer to ask if I wouldn’t mind moving to another location since my group of students was so small.
In contrast to the teeming numbers at the other presentations, about four students waited for me to tell them about becoming a teacher. It didn’t take me long to remember why I was called to the noble profession. Just as enthusiastic as the opening speaker, I said, “If you decide to become a teacher, you probably won’t make six figures, and you can rest assured that there will not be a jet reserved to whisk you off to your teaching assignment, but you will train, teach, and inspire students who will one day become viable citizens of our society.” The rest of the presentation was easy. The four students and I talked about the joys of teaching, its rewards and its challenges. I left feeling that I had presented the profession in a positive yet realistic light. I told them that they had to do more than just love children; they had to possess a drive that believed in the grand potential that exists within the minds of young people.
I had long since forgotten about that experience until sometime later a young man approached me and said, “Remember me?” I didn’t have a clue as to who he was. He said he was one who sat in my Career Day presentation and was inspired to go into teaching because of what I said about the profession. I was thrilled beyond belief when he said, “I want to inspire young people just like you inspired me.”
Having now taught for 28 years, I can truly say that I’m still inspired by the students who have achieved great things. I’ve watched the young ones blossom into mature adults. Some have become actors and actresses; others are doctors, lawyers and meteorologists. Others own their own businesses, and some have become great parents and model citizens. Better yet, some have even become excellent teachers.Denise Malone, is a master elementary level teacher in Fairfax County, Virginia. She celebrates the intrinsic rewards of teaching and shows us why it is the best of professions in this article.