Since I was six years old, I knew I wanted to be: a history teacher. However, a common thing I have heard over the years from teachers is "don't go into teaching." Not only is this discouraging and frustrating, it’s also sad. I have read blogs from teachers, families, administrators, and students telling me to ignore it.
But what I haven’t read are the reasons myself and all of the future teachers in the world who believe we will be the ones to make change should follow our passions - but these are the reasons.
1. The potential impact is worth the risk of not changing the world. Maybe changing the entire world is not possible, but I can change the life of one child (or adult). There are flaws in the system of education, we know this. We need educational equity; we need to find a happy medium between having standards and not teaching to a test, we need to do a lot of things. Can one teacher change all of these problems? No. But, those who give up on it are perpetuating the problems. This idea goes into every career - there are problems, and we are imperfect beings. But then we should actively decide to be part of the solution and don’t add to what is already messed up.
2. An individual can radiate a message that can shift a system in the right direction. As an RA in undergrad, I had an interaction with a student the first few days of the year that was less than positive; she was angry that I wrote her up for a policy violation. Every day following she would advert her eyes or roll them when I would pass her. And every day I would smile and say hello. I would ask how she was doing and she would ignore me and keep walking. But, I never stopped saying hello. On the last day of the school year I found a card on my door and inside that same student had written "thank you for never giving up on me." I made an impact on a student that needed to be shown there are people who won't give up on her, despite mistakes, and despite circumstance. As an individual I radiated that message and perhaps as she continues in the world she will remember it when she has the choice whether or not to give up on someone else. I caused a shift.
3. Because I have people that believe in me, I can believe in people I haven’t even met yet. I truly believe that no one gets anywhere alone. Everything in your life is determined by others and by their perceptions. Somehow, I’ve had many people who have believed in me and because of that I am determined to believe in other people. So I give advice when I am asked, I say kind words about others, and if I see someone upset even if I don’t know them I stop and ask if they are okay. Most of all, I root for people to be successful. I think anyone, in any career, can search to find people to believe in. One small action causes a reaction. Return the favor and the world will change, becoming better than it was before.
4. We have gotten this far because there were a few people that believed that changing the “way things are” was not only possible, but it was their responsibility. The history buff in me really stands by this one. If you paid attention at all in history classes, you know that throughout history there have been really awful times and events that someone thought had to stop, and so they caused the world to change. Can everyone be a major historical figure? No. However, you can view it as your responsibility to take active ownership in making things better and refusing to accept the “way things are” if they are not working. Why are historical figures like these remembered? They changed lives. If you take ownership like this, I’m sure you’ll change someone’s life.
5. Because I love what I am doing. I love inspiring people, I love teaching them something new. I love teaching them how people no one thought were going to amount to anything have completely changed history. Basically, I am going to spend the rest of my life teaching kids that people like them can change the world, so I guess it’s a good thing I believe I can change it, too.
So let's pledge to not discourage young professionals from making an impact. When we tell someone that they should not go after their dreams what you are really saying is that their ability to make an impact is impossible. Michelle Obama has said, "we've got a responsibility to live up to the legacy of those who came before us by doing all that we can to help those who come after us." Let's allow them the space to take risks and to have a niche.