Every teacher needs a personal mission statement. If you don’t know why you are teaching students then how can you educate them? Often I hear from pre-service teachers, “I thrive on that ‘A-Ha!’ moment, or “I love it when I see students get excited about what I’m teaching.” These are both really amazing aspects of education and I love those moments as well, but, this is not why I teach. I teach because I believe in what education builds in an individual and in a society. Without education, our collective understanding comes to halt. I will often tell my students how lucky we are that previous scientists have put in the work before us. All we need to do is pick up where they left off and run with it. Without education, we would be reinventing the wheel generation after generation and society progression would crawl at a snail’s pace.
For the individual, education builds potential. Our students cannot recognize the importance of today’s lesson for tomorrow. They aren’t even sure of what they want to become and that is why every subject is just as important as the other. I cringe at the idea of funneling students into “majors” while they are still in high school. Recent pushes for allowing students to dictate content may have more unintended consequences than benefits. The fact that I teach chemistry is a testament to this unto itself. When I was in high school I despised the class. There was no way I would ever, EVER, do anything that would involve chemistry. Oh, the irony. Just imagine where I would be today if I hadn’t had that exposure. The fact of the matter is that I wasn’t mature enough to handle chemistry in high school. I didn’t have the study skills or the intrinsic motivation to be successful. When I took chemistry in college, however, I couldn’t believe how well I understood it. The scales seemed to have finally tipped in my favor! The reality was that I had a year of it already under my belt. I had a year of struggling and year of being pushed by amazing teachers who knew that chemistry would be an important class for my future self. They had vision. They knew that something from high school chemistry, whether it be the content, the problem solving or the challenge, would somehow be a huge part of who I would become.
My students are not who they are going to become. (Every now and then I have to remind myself of that.) My job as their teacher is to teach the student by recognizing how my content will impact who they are, and will become, as an individual. That is why I will do everything I can to teach my students chemistry even when they tell me they hate it, they will never use it and they don’t care if they pass. Thank goodness I’m not who I was in high school, and thank goodness for the teachers who did everything they could to make sure I learned chemistry.