Summer Reflection: Why I Teach

As I sit at a rural campsite in Vermont, reading, writing, and thinking about education, schools, society, etc, it seems like a good time for a new post. "Why I Teach" is a question/statement that requires true introspection and honesty in order to formulate any type of meaningful answer. On the surface, the statement could be mundane......it is my job or it pays the bills. That can be said about any occupation, but being an educator requires a far deeper connection to one's work than a paycheck or job security. To be fair, educators in boarding schools have a very good setup, even with the long days and frantic pace. Housing, curricular independence, an autonomy unseen in other lines of work, good benefits, a true community to be part of, and significant breaks built into the year. are all part of the compensation. However, none of these alone, or in sum, can be the statement "Why I Teach."

My father was a graduate of St. Andrew's School in Middletown, Delaware. He attended the school during World War Two as a precaution; he was from Bermuda. My father would come to school each fall and remain in the States until the following summer. There was little in the way of commercial air travel and he relied on taking a boat between NYC and Hamilton. He loved his school. It truly formed, sheltered, nurtured, and cared for him at a time when the "adult world" was unable to provide any such oversight. His teachers were both his heroes and the villains. Classmates with outrageous nicknames populated the stories he would retell time and time again, greatly embellished as the details may have been. Boarding school never left him because he was boarding school and engrained in his persona and ethos were the lessons learned in the classrooms, fields, dorms, and corners of the school away from faculty eyes. He felt a loyalty to the school and the culture there that was undeniable and palpable. Each year we would travel to Delaware for alumni day, with my father reconnecting with classmates and basking in the environment that defined him.

When I was in 7th grade, I decided it was time for me to head off to boarding school. My parents were more than willing to see me off, as this was something that was simply understood to be coming. I visited schools, filled out applications, read the shiny catalogs (yes, this was pre-internet) and finally found my place. The Peddie School. I landed on campus as part of a very small eighth grade with an even smaller number of borders. It was there that my experience began, one that defines me to this day. Sandy Tattersall, Peter Quinn, Ned Bean, Pat Clements, John Mackey, Kevin Hicks, Betty Tennison, and others, all left indelible marks on me. Their care, input, guidance, criticism, modeling, and passion will always be there. Part of me. Each day. In everything I do. This is why I teach.

I teach because of the impact teachers had on me in my formative years. I teach because I truly understand the impact caring, talented adults can have on a young person. Like my father, my hometown was not a place where I would have thrived. Simply put, it was Peddie and the people there, faculty, staff, and peers, that allowed me to grow and develop. WIthout the experience of attending Peddie, I would not be who I am and can't imagine another version of me. That is why I teach.

I encourage educators to ask this question of themselves over the summer. Reflect on why you do what you do. Thank the people that have guided you. Be fully aware of the massive impact you have on the lives of young people. Be clear and confident in your pronouncement of "Why I Teach."