A few weeks ago, my younger cousin asked me a math question. I explained to him the correct way to multiply two-digit numbers, and seeing his frown transform into an understanding smile left me incredibly fulfilled. The act of teaching is such a selfless one, and whenever I get a chance to help someone learn something new I appreciate my teachers more and more. (Think back to all the teachers you’ve had – how many of them have taught you something that remains with you today?)
Students are quick to complain about their workload, the pressure that they’re under, and how impersonal Stuyvesant can get. We’re often so overachievement-oriented that we fail to understand the other side of the spectrum—the teachers. We file them away in categories and adjust for their personalities. As we sit in class, there may as well be a flashing neon light above our teacher’s head saying, “Must work hard, tough grader!” or “Just chill, easy 95.” The first thing we do when we get our program cards? Go to ratemyteachers.com to learn how easy or hard our new teachers are. We may see them as machines churning out numbers for us to display proudly, or not so proudly, on our report cards. But obviously, they are much more than that, which is what we need to understand. Stuyvesant students are eager to tell you about their plans to become doctors or engineers, but many—and I’m speaking anecdotally—seem to overlook perhaps the most important career of all: one in education. At such an exceptional school, we’re exposed to some amazing teachers—so why aren’t more of us inspired to become one?
Who is the face behind the grade? A person who has dedicated his or her life to educating and nurturing young people, whether it be through measuring the sine of a triangle or analyzing Jane Austen’s classics. However, we’re quick to badmouth a teacher we deem subpar and we claim we can tell the difference between a “good” teacher and a “bad” one. Rather than bemoaning the teachers we’re incompatible with, why don’t we appreciate the exceptional ones and acknowledge the amount of work they put in to helping unwilling and tired adolescent minds grow?
In the second grade, Mrs. Eng taught me to write in cursive and that cracking knuckles will lead to arthritis. In fifth grade, Ms. Steiner introduced me to the world of historical narratives which is now one of my favorite areas of study. Through Mrs. Molina’s constant support in seventh and eighth grade I learned to to appreciate math, despite my obvious abhorrence of the subject. The influence of these mentors will stay with me throughout life, whether it’s a habit they have broken me out of or a positive mindset they’ve imposed on me.
As ambitious students, we work hard because we’re so keen on becoming leaders—becoming financial executives or politicians or Nobel-Prize-winning scientists—but we don’t often recognize the wonderful leaders that stand before us everyday. We’ve heard that the stereotypical Stuyvesant student aspires to become a CEO, but why not a teacher? Isn’t that just as respectable?
I’ve seen many students consider teaching as their back-up options if their chosen professions go awry—many of us view teaching as unchallenging or uninteresting. We take teachers for granted in the same way because we spend day after day with them and only consider the work that we put into their classes, not vice versa.
Why don’t we want to teach? It could be the notoriously scant pay or because we’ve all seen teachers get treated badly at the hands of students, and we don’t want to subject ourselves to that. But we need teachers, and Stuyvesant students could become some of the finest ones.
We need to drop the ego and the assumption that teaching is a cop-out profession. Because it isn’t. Those who can do, teach.