What I’ve learned after four years of teaching

teaching life lessons

After four years of teaching, I have learned a few things about this profession. The first thing I have learned about is derived from the people who do this job, this most honorable job on the face of the planet. Teachers, some of the most underpaid soldiers in the evolution of our culture. Money is not the reason why teachers decide to take up teaching. People who choose to teach do so in a similar vein as those who choose the seminary. Teaching is indeed a calling. Many do it because it was their “back up” plan or because it seemed like an easy and linear route to paying bills and being successful in life. But others chose teaching for reasons that are beyond the financial benefits of their occupation. I think to my first year teaching partner. This woman was so invigorated by the opportunity to walk into her classroom and communicate with her students. Her job defined her persona. Not all of us can say that. I cannot say that my job solely defines me. But teachers like her draw energy everyday when the morning bell rings. They truly are compassionate about their craft. These teachers may not take additional qualification courses or may not be up on all the latest buzz-trends of education. It’s mainly because they already have a true ear for what the vocation of teaching entails. These are the teachers that our schools need.

Some teachers teach because it seems like it would be an “easy job”. Most teachers got A’s and B’s in school and feel as though they are able to pass on the knowledge that they learned about simple curriculum. Those teachers who were once students that sat at the front of class have a definite gift and are imperative to teaching. They take their job seriously. They pass down the tools that once made them smart and successful. They learned from people who were smart and were serious about instilling values and fundamental education to the future. But then there are those teachers who know this but also know that special part that teaching entails. That special part that comes innately to master teachers is the ability to communicate, advise and inspire. These teachers come once in a blue moon. Throughout my public school education, I remember two teachers that stood out. One was my 8th grade homeroom teacher and the other was my 11th grade law teacher.

These two teachers were opposites on the surface but spiritually they were twins. They preached the same things. They talked about things beyond the content of the curriculum while still teaching students what they needed to learn. They taught us curriculum lessons but they spent time teaching or talking about life lessons. My 8th grade teacher once told our class, “All you ever needed to learn from school, you learned in kindergarten. Be fair, share, and treat others the way you want to be treated.” He taught us many other curriculum essentials that year. But that phrase, repeated over and over to us, at least on a weekly basis, rang in my ears for years to come and it still rings true to this day. Life lessons, real communication, these are the markers of great teachers. That is what I have learned.


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Matthew R. Morris

Educator, Speaker, Writer

Matthew R. Morris is a writer, speaker, and elementary educator in Toronto. He has an M.A. in Social Justice Education from OISE at the University of Toronto and is the author of the forthcoming book, Black Boys Like Me. 

Matthew R. Morris

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