Why do you teach?

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 Why do we teach? To what extent does our work influence the lives of others, even when we’re not doing so intentionally?

I was inspired to write this post by an email message I received last week from my niece.  The subject of her email was, “Why I teach…” and her message read:

“I received this email from a former student today. It was a much needed and infinitely appreciated reminder after a really tough first week back… xx”

And the forwarded email from her student read:

“Hello Mrs. ______!

I’m not sure if you will remember me or not, but this is ______ from the 2010 grad class. I just wanted to send you a quick message telling you how much I appreciated you as a teacher. Now that I am a full time University student, I can see how much I really learned in your English classes.  I am so thankful that you pushed us to do the best we could and did not settle for average. I most likely did enjoy it at the time, and I am also sure thankful for it now! I feel I will do so much better in my English classes because I had you as a teacher. Your classes were definitely a highlight for me in High School and the class I always looked forward to.

I would also like to thank you for being a caring teacher. When my mom was sick, you were the only teacher who ever asked me how I was doing. That meant a lot to me, and made coming to school a little more bearable.

Thank you for all the hard work you do, and for being an amazing teacher!”

And the “disclaimer” that the student added to the bottom of the email said it all! “Please do not look at this email as an example of my writing ability. I just got out of class and am super tired.”

The letter from this student brought tears to my eyes; tears of pride at what an inspirational and caring teacher my niece is.  Although I’ve never had the opportunity to teach with her, the passion and dedication she demonstrates for education tells me that she is, indeed, an amazing teacher.

So, as a proud aunt, I responded to my niece’s email, telling her, “This letter is a keeper! You definitely made a difference in her life, and I’m sure in the lives of many others who haven’t taken the time to express their feelings to you- so proud to call you my niece! xo”

The response I received back was a  heartwarming surprise, and definitely made me realize why I teach:

“Thank you, Auntie Diane. Her email sure was a beautiful reminder. If only all the students whose lives we’ve touched could articulate it this well. And I’m sure glad that I had such a wonderful role model growing up that helped me decide to become a teacher. (Yes, I mean you!!) xoxo”

And now I’ll go get my Kleenex … and take some time to touch base with two other nieces who are also amazing teachers!

Why do you teach?


Posted on September 19, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. More often than not, I think teachers are unsung heroes. The average all the way to the super star teacher will have a positive influence on at least some of their students just by the nature of who they are. Teachers are a special breed of cat, so to speak.

    I became a teacher because I really do believe that education is a great equalizer. It is available to all and is an avenue for people who come from any circumstance to achieve whatever it is they dream for themselves.Education in its basic essence should be a hopeful experience. I just had to be a part of that!

    Thanks for the post Diane. It’s always a good thing to remind ourselves why we do what we do to renew our passion for our work!

  2. Diane, after teaching a few years it is always nice to run into or hear from our former students. I like to find out if they are happy? Have they achieved what they wanted to? What do they want to do next? I like to think I had an influence (even if only very small) in who they are today. How wonderful for your niece to get an email explicitly stating how she influenced her student’s life. It reminds me of how I should be more explicit in thanking the people who still influence me today. Thank you Diane, for your support and for your friendship! You are a constant model of someone who is open-minded, fair and passionate about their work.

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