Sunday, January 6, 2008

Joy of Teaching

When I was in high school I wrote an essay about why I wanted to be a teacher. A counselor sent it in to some Papa Johns scholarship contest. I had forgotten about the whole thing because of all the scholarships I applied for. One day while sitting in Pre-Cal class the assistant principal of our school walked in looking upset. (He already was pretty scary... looked like an evil Santa Claus) He went on and on about how he could not believe that one of his students would do something so unbelievable. Two Papa Johns workers came in carrying loads of pizza. Mr.Kaplan said someone had ordered all these pizzas and charged them to the school. I thought it was pretty funny... a senior prank. Funny until he called my name to stand up. I am not sure all of what he said, but I knew I was being blamed because I was senior class secretary. (Why that was my logic I am not sure... president should get blame...) I was crying and one of my classmates, Joseph was holding my hand. In my mind I was going over how to explain to my father that I had to pay for pizza... Papa Johns... pizza I do not even like! Mr. Kaplan got done with his rant and gave me a pizza box saying that the bill was inside. I opened it and almost passed out. $1,500! For pizza... When looking more closely, I noticed that it was not a bill, but rather one of those giant checks you see on TV, made out to me! I had received the scholarship based on my essay and everybody in my class got to eat pizza.

I write all that to say that once upon a time, teaching was something I really wanted to do. In college, teaching just seemed to fit me. Children's ministry did not work out because of classes such as Critical Intro. which made me cry every time I went in. There was nothing at the time I was really passionate about either. Student teaching at Glenview was my dream job! My first graders added so much joy to my life, that there was not a day that I did not want to get to work. Then I taught 5th grade and teaching became something I did not enjoy and to some degree even hated. I did not get the job at Glenview that I wanted and was crushed. However, that made it possible for my next move... China.

My first month or two teaching was a lot of fun. I had a lot to get used to...speaking slower, flexible schedules, etc. but I enjoyed it. My students were nice. Then came first semester exam time. All the problems I encountered made me want to go home screaming. Second semester went by alright, but I did not enjoy teaching the IELTS class because it was teaching to a test. Exam time once again nightmare. Then this semester came. Beth's joy of teaching... almost a zero. I even felt bad because I could see my students could tell to some degree. I loved spending time with students outside the classroom, but inside...yikes! Something needed to change.

One day I decided to blow my lesson plans. Last year Amy and I did an activity in our classes where the students had to predict 10 years from now where would they be and where would their teacher be. I decided to do that again, but kick it up a notch. After my students shared their responses, I pulled out a scarf, huge hoop earrings, and the globe to one of my lights in my house. I became Madame Elizabeth and I made up silly predictions about where my students would be 10 years from now. First female president of China, Houston Rockets coach, etc. My student White changed his name to Black and became a famous fashion designer... All kinds of silliness. The students loved it and it changed the rest of the semester for me. I challenged them to do something that inspires them. When I got my evaluations the other day a student said "Beth teaches my imagination to grow." I consider that to be one of the highest praises I could get.

Currently, I am reading Three Cups of Tea. It is a book about Greg Mortenson and his quest for building schools in Pakistan. I cannot help, but think about how blessed I am to be in a place where learning is possible. I think I received a great education (and I still am...). Even here in China my students are blessed compared to some. It is really frustrating sometimes because education systems are different. Grades I give students might be changed. My class is missed for things such as basketball practice. All kinds of things that would make any teacher upset. However, I am given the chance to make an impression on hundreds of students. I can let the joy of teaching slip away and they will go on with life as normal. Or I can be excited about English, encourage them to go out and do more and maybe they will at least begin to dream. This book I am reading is making me realize why I ever wanted to be a teacher in the first place. Mortenson says this in the forward of his book "Encourage them to be curious and compassionate about our world, and inspire them to find their own unique way to make a positive difference. It is possible to change the world one penny, one pencil, and one child at a time." I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to see just how education can changes lives of a country or any teacher that might be a little burned out.


  1. Makes me think of senior night!!!

  2. I had a comment ready but I find that the software does not allow me to paste it into this box; thereby impeding the quality of discourse and/or wasting telecommunications time.