Teaching, Money, and Making A Difference

One of my favorite essays I wrote freshman year about the film An Education. Writing it was one of the happiest moments in high school.

One of my favorite essays I wrote freshman year about the film An Education. Writing it was one of my happiest moments in high school.

It’s all about money.

That’s what my mom taught me. She’s taught me that if I can get an SAT score in the 99th percentile and a GPA that puts me in the top 10% of my class, I should be a doctor or a lawyer. She’s instructed me that success is measured by my income, the costliness of my car, and the economic value of my home. She’s told me that she will only be proud of me if I can surpass her and my father in the amount of money I make.

Here’s a secret: I feel safer at school than I feel at home. Even considering the tragic shootings that have happened recently, I never get hit or yelled at when I’m in the classroom. When I’m in school, all I have to think about is learning and pursuing my passion; I don’t have to worry about hiding my essays on homosexuality or how to hide myself if things get violent. I’ve maybe learned more from my teachers than I have from my own mother.

I’ll never be able to repay my teachers for what they’ve done for me. One of my English teachers made me love writing and reading; she made me giddy to get started on a paper about Odysseus’s womanizing qualities and ecstatic to write an essay about An Education. One of my Latin teachers caused me to realize the importance of education and how everyone needs to value learning for learning’s sake, as opposed to other shallow measures of success. One of my history teachers taught me that what’s happened to me in the past – whether it be bullying, abuse, or anything else – doesn’t define who I am today and that I can take my life in whatever direction I choose.

To me, teaching isn’t about money. It’s about passion. It’s about dedicating your life to making a difference. It’s about fighting for an educational system that doesn’t value you enough. It’s not like teaching is an easy job either. Myriad teachers work extra hours to help students, prepare lesson plans, and perform other additional tasks not required of them by their basic job duties. They have to put up with students who have bad attitudes and don’t show up to class, as well as parents who constantly harass them about their children’s grades. They have to deal with people who are dismissive of them – people who act like the modest salary earned by most teachers indicates some form of inherent inadequacy.

But I don’t care about any of that. To teach is to change someone’s life. To teach is to change several lives. It’s about improving society, one mind at a time. I don’t know for sure if I want to be a teacher yet, but it’s a career I’m looking into, as I love tutoring and helping my peers in other ways.

And, no matter what my mom tells me, I do not need money to make a difference.

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38 Comments

Filed under Personal, Society

38 responses to “Teaching, Money, and Making A Difference

  1. Well said, and thanks for your commendation and recognition of teachers. I’m a high school social studies teacher and it’s truly the best career in the world.

  2. You write- you’re already rich.

  3. Irene

    I love your writing style and the way you convey your ideas to others. One day I hope my writing will be able to advance to your level.

  4. I know it’s been said a thousand times before … but you’re so insightful and such an excellent writer! I love reading your stuff – it’s a pleasure to read and always makes me think about things from another angle.

  5. Hey, I nominated you for the Sunshine Award…Details here :Dhttp://floodedroses.wordpress.com/2013/01/28/sunshine-award/

  6. Great article! Your wisdom exceeds your years. Excuse me, but I don’t want to sound like I’m teaching or preaching, but here is a thought for your consideration. After 69 years on this planet, I’ve come to realize, “Your value as a human, to yourself and others, can ONLY be diminished by you.” Also, if you haven’t read WHAT TEACHERS MAKE BY TAYLOR MALI, I recommend it. Published by Putnam in 2012. You can read it in a few hours. It may give you some more insight, etc. Hope you find it useful.

    • You’re right, I shouldn’t let society and other people dictate my self-esteem or level of self-worth. I’ve added it to my to-read list – I really want to buy this one, its garnered a great amount of praise and looks fantastic!

  7. AHHH this is everything I stand for! My parents think I can do better but I love the experience I’ve had and feel like I fit perfectly as a teacher. I always thought of my high school as my first home, and my home was always secondary cuz I never wanted to go back to it.

    This is amazing, good luck! ;)

    • Ah I’m glad the post resonated with another aspiring teacher! While I haven’t loved every single aspect of high school, I can say with no doubt that it’s allowed me to grow and learn and accomplish so much – I want to facilitate the same experience for others.

      Thank you, good luck to you as well!

  8. Fantastic post, Thomas! You never cease to amaze me with your wonderful writing that sends out clear and powerful messages. I agree and respect every single word you wrote in that post.

    -Grace :)

  9. The things you say are very likely making a difference for someone. Some where. Your insight is a teaching of it’s own.

  10. Hi, Thomas. I have to say, I am a fan of your blog. I think you are a wonderfully talented, insightful writer. I would like to invite you to contribute to my blog, The Cook to Love Project (http://cooktolove.com), a site dedicated to non-violence. The Contact/Contribute page can provide you with detailed information regarding submissions. If you are interested, I would love for you to join us! Please let me know if you have any questions. Thanks! Laura

  11. That comment above – the one about you being already rich because you write? That made me smile. I like to think that, too.

    Also, education is wonderful – whether you’ve receiving it or giving it. Of course there are those who teach because they have no other choice, but to feel that passion to pass on and nurture knowledge isn’t something that should be ignored or degraded in any way. Besides, worth is measured by several things, the least of which is money.

    • That’s true, but there’s a huge difference between a person who teaches to survive and a person who survives to teach. Even in my high school career I’ve noticed teachers with largely disparate styles and in some cases, qualities of teaching. It’s unfair that teachers are all paid the same (with a few exceptions) even if some do a way better job than others, but you’re right in that an individual’s worth isn’t measured solely by the money they make.

  12. I have learned countless things from my teachers and I am still learning from them :) I am happy to say that most of my teachers seem to be passionate about educating others and they have made me try harder to be successful in life. Teaching is a very hard job and people who decide to do it deserve more respect than they are given. I don’t believe that the amount of money you have determines your worth. Many other things determine it.
    I am wondering what subject you would like to teach if you decide to become a teacher. Whatever subject you pick I think you would do a wonderful job educating others :)

    • I agree that teachers deserve more respect. I would love to teach English, Creative Writing, Advanced Composition, or maybe even Psychology as an elective (because it’s a possible double major I’m considering) – to get paid to talk about subjects I love and pass on knowledge to others does sound like a dream come true!

  13. Another great post, Thomas. I can easily relate to the influence your teachers had on you and that’s not just because I’ve been taught by a few of them myself! I find that many students these days don’t realize the importance of their teachers, only their grades. This past summer the idea of becoming a teacher started appealing to me too. To have that influence and be able to guide young’uns towards their passions would be a privilege. Whatever you end up doing, I hope you’re happy doing it!

    • Thanks Tommy! This past summer changed my perspective on a lot of things too. I agree that helping others achieve their goals would be a privilege – perhaps we’ll both end up being teachers one day!

  14. Last week I emailed an old high school teacher to thank her for things she had taught me in the past. I have always thought teaching is a profession that is often understated. I can’t imagine right now any job that can give you the payback in the joys of changing someone’s life for the better or having an old student come back one day to thank you for whatever you have helped them with. It takes someone with a lot of passion to go into and stay on this field. I wish you good luck if you decide to pursue this path..

    • I understand what you mean – it’s a career that requires a plethora of passion but has unlimited potential in terms of influence and the ability to change lives. It’s great that you contacted your older teacher to thank her; I give my teachers gift and talk with them but I don’t think any material good could be enough to really show my appreciation. Thank you, it means a lot to me!

  15. I think schools are a kind of home away from home, and our teachers are out other parents because they basically do almost the same thing: educate us to face the world, guiding us. I understand what you’ve said, my English lit professor encouraged my reading and pushed me to improve my writing abilities. I owe a lot of thanks to the others too, my real life super heroes. Thanks for writing this, a reminder of how grateful I am that I got an education.

    • I agree, we spend so much of the total time in our lives in school – the teachers we see every day or every other day do possess the power to shape us and change us for the better. You’re welcome, thank you for reading and commenting!

  16. Andreas

    Wow! That’s what I’ve been muttering while reading this post. Great job, Thomas! :)

  17. sam

    Inspirational. You have summed up exactly why I will someday be a teacher. Great Job. (and ps. I think you would be an awesome teacher!)

    ~Samantha

  18. Great job , its realy nice :)

  19. It is very difficult to listen to ourselves and choose our own path when our family has certain expectations of us (and especially if they think that they are right and that we are wrong!). I hope you will find the best path for yourself, doing what fulfills you. And I hope that this path will also bring you financial stability nonetheless, because, unfortunately, we can’t live without money ;)

    • Thanks so much for your support! Yes, there are so many factors that come into family and deciding what we should do with our lives. You’re right that money is important, even if it’s not what I or others value most!

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