THEY ASK ME WHY I TEACH, AND I REPLY

At this point there is a huge debate going on in the Netherlands on how to improve the educational system. A prediction is that in 2020, 55.000 children will not be able to attend elementary school simply because there are no teachers. This has led to several protests and schools closing to convince the government to implement structural financial improvements. Though I’m rather new to this field, I do spend a lot of time reading research and paying attention to other speakers around the globe. Money obviously is a helpful tool, but by no means an answer to our problems.

Many of the schools I attend have an outdated view on education and are oblivious to the changes that are needed to actual make a difference so that more people will be encouraged to study for becoming a teacher. There is an enormous list of things that should and could change for the better and eventually lead to proper education for every child within this country but right now, there are no real innovators. I will be more than happy to devote one or more blogs on ‘how to change education for the better according to:…’ but right now I just feel the urge to share a poem I heard recently. It was read by John Wooden and really struck me. Being surrounded by a very negative/reactive sound, this poem, coming from a man who obviously breaths education, felt like a breath of fresh air.

It made me realize that all the money in the world will not change a mindset nor cause any change if change is not what you are after. It’s like giving a million dollars to someone who is clueless what the possibilities are with it. We need a vision and a clear idea where we are heading. We should envision what it is that our children need tomorrow, instead of building on what we needed in the past.

But before this all, before the vision, before any big plans are made, before the educational revolution, more than anything, we need to know WHY WE WANT TO TEACH. And when we do, we can convince others to teach. With anything, a paycheck is never a solid driving force. As with Aesop’s fable ‘The goose that laid the golden eggs’, it is important to understand that a valuable return will come when you nourish the craft. Right now, we are killing its image and drawing only those to this profession who feel money is most essential.

Once again, we need to understand why we want to teach. And to help us remind that, here’s a poem by Glennice L. Harmon:

They Ask me why I Teach, Glennice L. Harmon

They ask me why I teach
And I reply, “Where could I find more splendid company?”
There sits a statesman,
Strong, unbiased, wise,
Another later Webster
Silver-tongued.
And there a doctor
Whose quick, steady hand
Can mend a bone or stem the lifeblood’s flow.
A builder sits beside him — 
Upward rise the arches of that church he builds wherein
That minister will speak the word of God,
And lead a stumbling soul to touch the Christ.
And all about
A lesser gathering
Of farmers, merchants, teachers,
Laborers, men
Who work and vote and build
And plan and pray into a great tomorrow.
And, I say,
“I may not see the church,
Or hear the word,
Or eat the food their hands will grow.
And yet — I may.
And later I may say,
“I knew the lad, and he was strong,
Or weak, or kind, or proud
Or bold or gay.
I knew him once,
But then he was a boy.
They ask my why I teach and I reply,
“Where could I find more splendid company?”

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