A Chorus Line had a huge impact on me the first time I saw it. It resonated so deeply with me, because it told the hidden stories we all have inside. Our desires, our hopes, our fears. The song What I Did For Love is sung when the chorus line is asked how they would feel if they could no longer dance. That is their life. That is what they love. Give it a listen if you have never heard it. Thinking about the lyrics and the message, I think it can apply to reasons I teach.
Why do I teach? I believe that autonomy and agency are the most important values that should be instilled in learners. By feeling as though one has the ability to influence what knowledge is acquired and how that information is applied, it is my hope that my students will become excited and active scholars. I believe my role as the instructor is to foster this enthusiasm for learning in a student-centered, supportive manner.
One way I like to do this is to provide choices related to assignments and exams. On my tests, I have open-ended, written response questions where students can pick five of fifteen options. I want my students to succeed and to argue their points on topics they feel comfortable responding to. They have choice, and I notice they tend to be much more considered when given the chance.
Why do I teach? I teach because I get excited at the prospect of seeing people be analytical. Or they challenge and surprise themselves. I enjoy seeing others succeed and believe in constantly improving oneself. I also like not knowing, because then we can discover possible answers together. I try to be adaptable in the classroom. Of course I have a plan, but if something interesting happens or is brought up, then I go with it and encourage natural inquiry. An inquisitive nature compelled me, so why shouldn’t I spur interest. My best mentors and teachers were those who constantly pushed me and sought to develop me as a whole person. They didn’t expect me to waste away my time idly, but to push me to constantly improve myself and to self-reflect. I try to do this same thing in the classroom.
Why do I teach? I recently implemented a flipped classroom on the topic of Gender and Sexuality in my Abnormal Psychology class. Students reflected about their experiences before, during, and after class. One student wrote:
“One of the major issues brought up was whether or not certain “disorders” were in fact disorders. Specifically, listening to the 81 words radio broadcast [student is referring to 81 Words in case you are wondering] and discussing how homosexuality was considered a disorder for such a long amount of time was very enlightening. Moreover, I was shocked to hear that sodomy was illegal in Virginia until so recently. […] There is still a long way to go before equal rights and a complete acceptance of homosexuality, but I do feel that younger individuals would be surprised to learn about how recently these policies have been changed. I did some more research […]
Not only is the student trying to understand more on their own, but also questioning definitions and classifications (i.e., mental disorders) and realizing that there are certain prejudices still in place that need to be challenged. What now is the student able to do to better the world and help others? What now is this student capable of doing armed with this knowledge? Please note, I do say armed for a reason.
These same questions were sparked in other students. Another noted “Some of the time where we talked about the classification of some sexual disorders such as fetishes and things of that nature was really interesting and not only sparked a conversation with my group but also sparked an inner debate with myself; meaning I’m still not sure if some of these things should be classified as disorders or diseases.”
Yet another wrote “It was fun and really enlightening to look up different specific identities and find out more about them. Our group spent a good while on the Internet looking up different ones and discussing them.”
And I reacted like this:
The entire group discussed! What a great way to share different values, cultures, and beliefs. They learn through their own research and learned about each other. Double whammy in terms of expanding one’s worldview.
Why do I teach? The fact that these students went above and beyond, no matter what the topic was, makes me so happy to be a teacher. That is what gives it worth. A former student sent me an email recently that was very long, but ended with “I could talk for days, but what this email response was really getting at is thank you. For educating me and really getting me excited for all the possibilities and pointing out what I don’t know so I can learn more! I hope the more I learn, the more I can understand and pass on.”
So why do I teach? I teach because I love it. One day, I will no longer teach, just like those dancers on that stage, standing in a straight line. As a lifelong scholar and one with an insatiable thirst for information, I teach so my students can be prepared to and desire to teach themselves long after we learned together.