I believe that teaching is more than a career, it is a lifestyle choice. What if teachers only worked a 7am-2pm day and after the bell rang so did their job? What if teachers only gave work, no instructions or lesson plans, just work for their students to do? What if schools were like factories; the students show up every day from 7am-2pm do their free labor under the influence of their boss (teacher) and went home every day without pay? Well, I believe that teaching is not just a career. Teaching requires skills that most occupations do not. Nikos Kazantzakis said "Ideal teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross, then having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create bridges of their own." This is my story of how my viewpoint of teaching has changed from a chore to a privilege that most individuals never get to experience.
The year is 2010; I was a sophomore in high school. For the sophomore Ashley, the future consisted of my junior prom, and not so much what my future and college plans should be. I was in the Gifted program in my high school and with it brought opportunities for students to further their knowledge past a high school classroom. One day while in Gifted homeroom, I saw the sign-up sheet for a Reading Buddies program. The program consisted of volunteering at a local elementary school twice a week to help academically challenged students get the one-on-one attention that they needed. I simply glanced at the sign-up sheet and bypassed it without a thought until I noticed that no one had signed up. No one was willing to dedicate even a small amount of their day to help the future of our school district. So, after much hesitation, I signed up. Not only did I do this program my sophomore year, but my junior and senior year as well. Anyways, back to the story. So, although I would love to say I originally only joined the program to help the lives of others, I would be lying. I joined the Reading Buddies program because at the time, I wanted to go to law school and I would do anything and everything to put on my resume to get in. Although I still was not getting paid to teach, I was receiving a piece a paper, a superficial payment so to speak, for the program. Halfway through my sophomore year that viewpoint completely changed when I got to work with one student, let’s call him Zack. Zack was an academically challenged second grader who had trouble pronouncing consonant and vowel sounds and we got to do flash cards together to help improve those skills. Zack was failing second grade and his parents told the teacher that they had given up hope. Zack though was unlike most of the kids that I had met, Zack wanted to learn. He had the determination of an NFL team in the Super Bowl to conquer those dreaded “e” and “I” vowel sounds. I knew that if he had enough instruction, more than once a week of alone time, he could pass the second grade. So, I started coming in everyday after high school ended to help Zack with his vowel sounds. At the end of the year Zack passed the grade and I felt as though I had just won the lottery.
Although there was no pay off and Zack’s parents referred to me as his “baby sitter”, I knew I was making a difference. I knew that teaching was something that I simply could not give up. Sure, if I would have pursued my possible law career I could be coming out of school making possibly double the salary, but to me money simply cannot buy happiness. Who knows maybe one day I will get to teach a future law student, but for now I am going to stick to what I know best and that’s teaching. There is no monetary amount that I would exchange for seeing Zack’s face on that first day of third grade when he still knew me by “Mrs. Lady.” Teaching does not begin or end in a classroom, teaching beings and ends in your heart.