George Ganzenmuller is a third year teacher, passionate about serving all students. He attended the Loyola University Maryland (BA) and Lesley University (Med). He taught English as a Second Language for a year at Saint Gabriel’s College in Bangkok, Thailand. He is currently a Citizen Schools Teaching Fellow at the Edwards Middle School in Charlestown, MA.
I taught English for a year in Thailand after graduating college. When I got back on American soil, two very distinct paths were waiting. My friend had gotten me an interview at an advertising agency in New York City, and I’d been offered a job as a Teaching Fellow with Citizen Schools, a national education nonprofit headquartered in Boston.
Neither choice promised a fat wallet. Advertising would probably pay off down the road through promotions, perks, and benefits. Plus, if I’d learned anything from Mad Men, creature comforts and impulsive decisions would be constant. I had just taught for a year and loved it. But what I loved most was traveling around Cambodia, climbing to Everest base camp, and lounging on picturesque islands. Teaching in the U.S. would mean basing a lot of my life decisions on what I think is best for the kids in my class, being a model of consistency, and sacrificing impulsive choices for careful, well-thought out plans — two very different lifestyles.
Perhaps it was a surge of patriotism, wanting to do what’s best for the future of my country. Perhaps it was the need for significance in my work. Perhaps it was an inclination towards being around the reckless, hopeful world of children, rather than the drab, methodical world of adults.
Whatever it was, something made me choose teaching.
I won’t say I’ve never regretted the decision. There were days when I was teaching my class of students diagnosed with social, emotional, and behavioral challenges when I wondered if I could have been entertaining a client at a Knicks game instead. But I’m glad I chose to teach through Citizen Schools and took the two-year AmeriCorps service position without perks, and miles away from glamour. There is really only one reason: the kids.
Yes, America needs a generation of capable college graduates, preferably in the science and engineering fields. Yes, I get to work around the unpredictability and unjaded curiosity of children. But it is the significance of the work that makes me proud of what I do. My students are real people with real families, real hopes, and real challenges. In no other field is the amount of work I do going to directly and positively correlate to the number of opportunities available for others.
I am far from a selfless person. Something my school principal said last year rang true with me. He said, “The only happy people in the world are people who are proud of their work.”
While that may not be the catch-all secret to happiness, I know that I’m happiest when I’m proud of what I do, and I’m never more proud of what I do than when my students are proud of themselves.
After completing the Citizen Schools Teaching Fellowship, I once again came to two roads diverging, one marked ‘teaching,’ the other ‘marketing.’ I’m proud to say: I took the one more crowded with children.