Frank Stepnowski is a father, husband, teacher, coach, and author of Why Are All the Good Teachers Crazy? (three years in the top five books under “teachers” on Amazon.com) and S.C.R.E.W.E.D: An Educational Fairytale.
I used to have all kinds of dreams. I used to think I was going to change the world in some way, maybe save some people’s lives — and in the process, become super rich and well-known just so I could become the anomaly that gave most of his money to charity and stayed nice and accessible despite fame and fortune. Life has a way of smashing those dreams into bigger pieces so small that you barely recognize them.
My dreams became smaller — more within the realm of possibility, if you will. Now I wanted to perhaps win Teacher of the Year, get a radio interview or two, win some sort of literary award, maybe see my abs again.
I don’t really have dreams of my own anymore, and only now, as I finally put this on paper, do I realize how pathetic that is. Maybe that explains why I live — for all intents and purposes — for the dreams of my kids.
I think that makes me a very effective teacher — and I think I’m not alone in that respect.
Allow me to explain. I desperately need to know that dreams are alive and worthy of pursuit, and I see them in the eyes and feel them in the hearts of my children and my students; therefore, as a parent and a teacher (and aren’t they really the same thing?) I work with kids like my life depends on it — because it does. I would be lying if I denied the fact that the chance to help kids realize their dreams is the only thing that gets me out of bed most of the days. ]
I’m like any other teacher, at the same time. I get tired of the apathy, the bureaucracy, and the bs, and I am secretly terrified that nothing I do makes a darn bit of difference.
But all it takes is that spark, that light, however fleeting, in the eyes of my kids to bring me to life, and I am dangerous when I am brought to life. Think of me as a transitive vampire — nourished by the hopes and aspirations of others, so much so that my existence depends on keeping their hopes alive. It ain’t about the legacy, it ain’t about summers off, and it sure ain’t about the money. I need to make the dreams of your kids [and mine] come true because I don’t have any of my own left.
You want me teaching your kids, you really do.
And now for the good news: I think that thousands — if not tens of thousands — of teachers feel the same way. I think we have sold our own futures in the hopes that the dreams of the next generation will pay the mortgage once their dreams are realized, and we teach like our lives depend on it because they DO.
And that’s got to make you sleep a little better, right?