Joshua Winrotte is a 7th Grade Science teacher at Lincoln Junior High School, in Plymouth, IN. He has a website at www.coachrottes7th.blogspot.com.
I teach because I am called. I teach because children matter. I teach because I am good at it. I teach because it pays the bills. I teach because I didn’t like anything else. These are all statements I have used to answer the question, “Why did you become a teacher?”
The truth is that none of those answers completely answers the question. The true answer to the question is more deeply ingrained in my psyche. I teach because I choose to. I teach because each morning I get up and say that I want to. I teach because it allows me to work with kids on their level. I teach because of the relationship it brings me. I teach because it is me.
I became a teacher because I learned from my failing to become a pharmacist that I was attempting to ignoring a greater purpose. For reasons that I still don’t completely understand, I was trying to embark upon a career that would take me away from personal interaction and relationships: Meteorologist, Pilot, Pharmacist, and Race Car Driver. Each was a solitary pursuit that I thought might be my life’s work.
Happily, I came to my senses and chose teaching precisely because of the relationships, both with peers and students, to be made in the classroom.
Several years ago I had two students, Tim and John, who came from a broken home. The brothers, two years apart in age, were in the same class because one had been held back twice. They had struggled with divorced, drug-addicted parents,and a home with no male influence. They were dropout cases waiting to happen. Their only self-worth was found on the basketball court. When they were in 6th grade I began mentoring Tim and John. I tried to help them realize there was more to life than being an athlete and that through hard work and dedication they could both be known for their work in the classroom. Over the next three years we would take two steps forward and two back–over and over again.
Some victories, some defeats–just like like life. Tim is now an “A” student who no longer misses school, but John has gotten his girlfriend pregnant and is struggling to stay in school. I know I made an impact on Tim and hope that, one day, John will get back on track. It is relationships like these, full of challenges, that sustain me throughout the year.
I almost left the profession last year. I was burned out by teaching’s isolation, by sharing a building with co-workers whom I knew no better than a random person on the street. I was frustrated by students who would not let me in and stymied by a corporate mentality that wanted us to teach like robots and have no teacher-student interaction outside of class.
I moved on to a new school, and that has helped me remember why I am a teacher. I choose to be one. I choose to have relationships. I choose to mentor and interact. I choose to be me.
(All names have been changed.)