Why Do I Teach?

lifechanger pic
Newspaper Article from The Keller Citizen. Picture and article by Sandra Engelland.


A Letter to Myself

A few weeks ago, our principal gave us an envelope and a single sheet of KISD letterhead paper and asked us to write a letter to ourselves telling why we teach, and we were to return them to him to be used for something later.  For me, this wasn’t just something to scribble down and throw in his box, so it took me a while — and a few extra pages!  No, I didn’t take longer because I couldn’t figure out what to say, and I didn’t take longer because I had to think up the perfect wording.  I took longer because how can I sum up on one sheet of paper my reason for getting out of bed every morning to spend the majority of my day with other people’s children while I am missing out on a lot of my own children’s events and activities on just one sheet of paper provided by my principal?  For those who know me personally, they know I’m the mom who doesn’t want to miss a moment with my kids, so it has to be something pretty important for me to choose to do that every day . . . and it absolutely is.

I want to share my letter because I do get the question often, “Why would you want to teach?”  It usually comes with an awful grimace as if teaching is a horrible thing.  The even bigger look of disgust comes when I say I teach high school.  People wonder how I can spend my days teaching teenagers, and all I can think is How could I not?

Why Do I Teach?

I often think about why I am a teacher.  It’s funny because the reason has evolved over time.  I remember the moment I realized I wanted to teach.  I was hired by Stephen F. Austin State University as a supplemental instructor for one of the college algebra professors.  I had to attend her classes, and I had a group of 15-20 students who I met with twice a week to tutor over her lesson from the day.  I remember going over a difficult concept and seeing the “light bulb” turn on when they finally understood it.  It was magical to me, and I knew I wanted to make that happen again.

Shortly after that moment, I decided I wanted to teach so I could make that happen for many people.  That light bulb moment is what motivated me to try to become the best teacher I could be.  When someone struggled, I did everything I could to come up with a more interesting and creative way to help them make a connection, and I celebrated with them when it finally made sense to them.  I was as excited as they were!

Over the years, though, things have changed.  My reason for getting up and going to work has changed.  Maybe it was that I had become a mom.  Maybe it was that I had grown up and matured some.  Maybe it had something to do with all the “problem kids” I had seen discarded over the years, not just by their peers but by family and even other teachers.  I’ll probably never know the cause, but my WHY has certainly changed.

Now, I come to work because I love these kids, and I know for some, I’m the only face they see that shows them they are loved and valued and that their lives mean something.  I come to work now, not because I have to teach and want to see that connection being made when they discover how to do something.  Don’t get me wrong.  I still love seeing that light bulb, but now . . . well, now I come to work to make a difference in someone’s life.

I am motivated to get up in the morning and walk through my classroom door because today may be a bad one for the girl who gravitates closer to my desk each day just so she can talk to me about something serious that has been happening in her life.  Today, the boy who doesn’t talk to anyone may decide to write in his journal about something that’s on his mind, good or bad, and he just needs another person to be there for him while he “talks” in his own way.  Today, someone will need an added boost of confidence in his or herself.  Today, someone will need to be reminded of how valuable they are and that they were created with a purpose that only they can fulfill . . .

. . . What if today I decided I was too tired to come to work and stayed in bed instead?
Misty Gatlin
January 27, 2015


2 thoughts on “Why Do I Teach?

  1. Awesome! My story is so similar. And maybe that’s from being a mother and now grandmother. I would love to meet you. You really need to become a speaker at teacher conventions. A keynote speaker…


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