The Joy of Teaching (for anyone in any setting)
There is inherent joy in teaching. With the widely advertised
challenges facing public school teachers today, finding that joy
may appear to be a difficult path for exploration. But teaching
can be an act of community involvement on the part of any one of
us and not just the traditional career move. In either case
teaching is one of the most important commitments a person can
A national system of public education has been a cornerstone of
our strong, wholesome American society. "The skills that we are
trying to teach children in partnership with parents and
extended families are absolutely critical to the success of the
child, and the success of this nation", says Judith Burdack,
Teacher, Hillsborough County School District. Accomplishment,
giving back, fulfilling the social contract - these are all joys
found in the lifestyle and the profession of teaching, no matter
what the obstacles.
Discovering the Joy of Teaching - Where to Look
Participation in the development of youngsters - and other
members of the community - is a fruitful joy, ripe for the
picking for those who choose to teach. Cara Moroze, part-time
flute teacher and a communications specialist, recites how
working with children musically brought her joy. "Being able to
take those students and teach them how to read music, how to
enjoy the process of learning to play and how to enjoy the
expression of music - that brought me joy", says Ms. Moroze.
There is an emotional connection when you see that look on your
student's face that tells you they finally grasp what you are
instilling in them. At that moment they have an expression born
of happiness, accomplishment and release.
Making the breakthrough
Another happy moment comes when successfully teaching someone
who feels that they can't learn, that certain concepts are out
of their reach. Because someone was there to help, maybe you,
someone who knew how to reach him or her, they start to realize
that feeling is wrong. They start to learn that impossible
thing. This provides them and you with great satisfaction.
In some cases the student is a child still in school who has had
a few years of bad grades or getting into trouble, or both. They
never understood their homework, so they never got it done. They
got discouraged and accepted the idea that they weren't smart
enough. Then someone works with the child and he or she begins
to feel that the things they couldn't learn before are now
This discovery - that learning is possible - is even more
remarkable when teaching adults. "We show them some little
techniques that work with the way their brains learn and they're
free. There's nothing that compares to that as far as I'm
concerned", says Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis, Learning Success
Giving the gift of knowledge
Another joy is the gift of giving through teaching. There will
always be someone who needs you, someone who needs something
from you. The question for those who would teach is whether
teaching is the way for them to give. For many the answer is
"You teach best what you most need to learn", said Richard Bach,
philosopher. Educational environments, whether they involve
several or just two people, keep the teacher sharp, educated and
alive. "Depending on the subject matter you are teaching, it
constantly reminds you of at least the fundamentals of your
profession or the area you have an interest in", says Mike Paul,
Adjunct Professor of Communications and Marketing at both NYU
and Columbia University.
Enjoying the presence of the young
When teaching children, a lot of the fulfillment is just in
being with them. If one has a natural desire to make life better
for children, they can fill a child's life with so much. "When
you make a child's life a little happier you are also making
yourself a little happier because you are able to imprint some
good things in a child", says Ms. Burdack.
In What Roles in Society Can People Be Teachers?
People can find the joy of teaching in volunteerism. "There are
not enough hands-on skills going around. With budgetary cuts we
[school systems] need to have partnerships with organizations,
with private individuals, with the corporate world, in order to
enhance education for our children in this country", says Ms.
Teach by being yourself
The role of teacher doesn't have to come with academic
qualifications or constraints. People can be teachers in any
positive role in society. Whatever your profession, you are an
expert in that arena. You can teach the skill that you know.
"Just by being a mentor to someone in your community whether it
is someone young or old, you can be a teacher. I don't even mean
educational subjects either, just the building blocks of life",
says Mr. Paul. Some things that are taken for granted, which
most people do habitually, are the very same things that others
have no foundation in.
One can teach parent to child, leader to community, tutor or
role model to student. You can enjoy the feeling of steering
kids in the right direction. You can do this for kids and adults
who don't have any other guidance or recourse. "It can be done
by calling up a school and saying I would like to help. An hour
a week is all that is needed", says Dr. Erika Karres, ED.D.
Examples of Unique Teaching Methods
Some teaching methods, like that of famed doctor and teacher
Maria Montessori, involve the entire process of academics and
mentoring in a unique and successful philosophy. The Montessori
Method of teaching for example involves motivated learning
through environmental stimuli.
A slightly more singular method than Montessori but with some
comparisons is Differentiated Learning. This method allows
teachers to instruct as many as 30-some children in a single
setting. Children today have different learning styles and
lifestyles; they can still be taught in a group using
Differentiated Learning. In Differentiated Instruction as it is
also called each student within a single class can have tailored
instruction as to the content, process, products and learning
environment of the subject matter at hand. "This differentiated
strategy of moving children along really opens up the
opportunity for the teacher to be very creative in presenting
curriculum. It's the scope and the sequence of curriculum", says
Mike Paul teaches a course called Crisis Sports PR. The course
is directed at public relations that deals with athletes going
through public crises, frequently of a nature aggravated by a
lack of life skills. "They are having problems off the field.
Some of the basic things like writing checks, balancing their
own check book, knowing how to love a woman without getting
upset and leaving or beating her up, some of the things that
others take for granted, they are struggling with - drugs,
dependency on other things. It's quite bad", says Mr. Paul.
What Can People Without Prior Teaching Experience Do to Get
Programs and opportunities
Seek opportunities proactively. Check the local school
districts; see what they need done. People can get involved
alone, in pairs, in groups or as organizations. "Go to a school
district and say, hey, we have X number of people who would like
to get involved in, let's say, a literacy program; how can we
help?", says Ms. Burdack.
Examine your passions
Choose something you are already very passionate about. If you
do this, you will enjoy teaching it whenever the opportunity
arises. Then, find out where and how you can teach it. "[The
flute] was always something that I was passionate about. If you
want to teach something that you are passionate about then you
will enjoy teaching it. Perhaps it's something as simple as
teaching adults how to read or helping young children. If you
don't like what you are teaching then your students will
recognize that and there won't be this two way experience of
enjoyment", says Ms. Moroze.
This generation is in a great position to give back to society
and the world through teaching. It doesn't have to be through a
gift of academic learning. It can be taking a successful aspect
of your life and sharing it with just one other person. "There
are a lot of people that feel that they don't have anything to
give, they are not an expert in anything. How can I be a
teacher; I'm not qualified. You're qualified by the example that
you've lived in your life. There is a slice of your life where
you know you are doing well and you feel comfortable with it.
Try and give back to somebody else by teaching", says Mr. Paul.
Students in the academic world are more often seeking teachers
with real world experiences. Don't think that your experiential
knowledge is undesirable or will go to waste. University and
college department heads and presidents are learning that "the
demand out there is for professors who have practical
experience", says Mr. Paul.
You can call up a school and ask to be matched with a program, a
group of people or a single student. You can teach or tutor them
in person or by email. "You can do the same with youth groups in
the community. You can start a mentoring group yourself. You can
easily contact your city officials and join the commissions or
the groups set aside to work for and with youngsters. There are
always troubled youngsters in the community. You can volunteer.
Civic groups usually also have an education committee", says Dr.
Education specialist and published author, Erika Karres, ED.D.,
has identified 10 joys of teaching. Which of these joys would
entice you to teach?
1. The broad range of influence teachers have, now and on future
2. An artistic aspect. Teaching is the most creative of all the
professions because every student is a puzzle with unlimited
potential, which a teacher can put together by finding the best
solution for the student's learning style.
3. Teaching connects us to history because we transmit knowledge
that's been accumulated over two millennia and more. The skills
and subjects we teach now will continue for the next millennia
4. Plain creativity alone beyond the arts. All of us are
creative and in teaching we can be our most creative selves each
and every day.
5. Teaching puts you directly at the fountain of young people.
Think of American youth or the youth of the world as this new
stream of water coming in. You are always right there with the
latest examples of mankind and get to see them up close. It
keeps you young; it keeps you hopping. Teachers never get jaded
and old because they are always right there when a new bunch of
kids comes into the classroom.
6. You get to change society for the better. Whatever seems to
be the problem of the century or decade you get a chance to roll
up your sleeves and dig in to help fix it.
7. The actual performance of teaching is so rewarding. The sense
of fulfillment you get hour after hour after hour. It's not a
cold thing; you're not dealing with figures and numbers. You
have these exciting faces looking back at you.
8. It's so productive. At the beginning of the year your
students are at one level of knowledge and at the end of the
year they have jumped, they have made gains. This increase in
knowledge is the production that only you have been able to pull
off. So you can measure it, which is wonderful - when you can
measure what you have accomplished.
9. Teaching is the opposite of corporate greed. You are giving
from the heart. You are in a sense putting these kids way ahead
of yourself, and their learning ahead of yourself. You are
involved in an unselfish act.
10. You open doors to everyone in your classroom. That means
that you are at the portal or the gate of the best of mankind.
It deals with motivation and striving because that's what you
instill each day because you believe that every child can have
wonderful strengths and can really become an outstanding student
and that the doors are wide open and you help them through.