Why We Do What We Do

Why would anyone want to teach nowadays?  Bright-eyed education graduates are greeted with large classes, low support, and so many administrative directives that they barely have time to teach.  I have two reoccurring nightmares:  one is that I have to go back to college, and the other is that I’m back teaching in public schools. 

    Both of these nightmares are rooted in a single truth:  I hate school.  Oh, I love the social parts, of course!  But the actual classroom time?  Bor-ing.  When I figured out that I was fated to be a teacher, I determined that learning in my classroom would never be a drudgery.  I’ve grown much since then, and I realize that there are many educational processes that cannot escape being boring.  But when they are sandwiched between thought-provoking and challenging lessons and enveloped in a room that excites, that “bor-ing” gets upgraded to a “stimulating.”

   I spent fourteen years teaching in public schools, and I had many great mentors and fellow teachers.  I’d work with most again in a heartbeat!  But I have to be honest and say that I was desperately seeking something more satisfying.  So, when I got the opportunity to work at my parents’ newly-opened private school for gifted and talented, I jumped at the chance.  Because it is incorporated as a business rather than a non-profit or parochial school, there are opportunities to do things unheard of in public education. 

  For instance, as the Chief Operating Officer, I perform the duties that a principal would in the public school; however, I teach all day as well.  My teaching ranges from secondary literature, English and speech to PK 3 – 12th music to chess club.  I am both the secondary students’ activities director and the person who washes their lunch trays!

  The best move my parents made, though, was to not accept any government funding.  This limits what the government can do at our school, and thereby frees us to do what we’re supposed to do:  teach.  It’s amazing how much getting rid of government bureaucracy can improve school.  Our kids know that the better they look, the better we look.  They understand that we are here to make them the most desirable candidates for both college and their future jobs.

   I’m sure there are those reading this now who are saying, “Ahhh. We know why she does what she does.  Money.”  Ideally, school as a business should be a great money-maker.  Lawton Academy, though, has yet to turn more than the profit required to stay open as a business.  My daughter working as an intern is making about the same thing I am making in my job!  Our lack of profit isn’t because we are not successful, though.  We just keep funneling the money back into the school.  (A visit to our website would reveal that we provide all supplies and a free lunch to all students at a very low tuition rate.)

  What’s our angle?  Why do we do this?  At the heart of it for me is this:  I believe it is my mission.  I now know that my disinterest in school is common to gifted students.  Granted, I am on about the lowest rung of the gifted ladder, but I channel all those memories and the way I needed everything to be relevant to real life into teaching these gifted kids.   I show them where they’ll use it, and I make sure not to waste their time, all the while reminding them not to waste mine. 

  There’s a little blue sign hanging in the entry way of our elementary building.  It says,

                        Tell the children I love them.

                                -  God

  In His infinite love, He has given us the chance to learn some of the greatest wonders of His universe, and I get to be one of the people who helps kids explore them.  Too cool!

-        Michelle