Why I teach: my motivations and inspirations

Picture of why I teach
Why are we in the classroom?

Several twitter threads inspired by @RogersHistory and @thosethatcan about remembering why we teach, or just “the WHY” appeared. So, I thought that I would rattle off my reasons. I believe that our why and values are important in the decisions we make as school leaders, at any level. So this post should explain why I teach.

My inspiration

I can remember always loving school, right from an early age. I was always surrounded by truly wonderful teachers at my infant and junior schools. They gave me a real thirst for knowledge and developed my natural inquisitiveness, something that I possess today. There was a level of empathy and a deep understanding of teaching and education that made these people great. Teaching and inspiring children was their thing. Even at that age I wanted to teach, to emulate these people, many of whom have now sadly retired.

This continued at my comprehensive, which was quite a challenging school, but I loved it. It developed a large part of my character, values and interests. Some of these teachers, most of whom taught my parents, were old school. Discipline and knowledge coupled with a plethora of anecdotes was their style. I loved it, I could learn and develop. It was here that I became fascinated by languages and really excelled in them. This was mainly due to one truly excellent French lady, merci!

In addition to that it allowed me to travel to Europe on trips. This brought the history, art and culture alive for me. Thinking back, it was quite exciting to have had these chances. It was a similar when in the sixth form and at university, people and events that led me into teaching. As we remember our own experiences, we should consider how these experiences and values create an impact on us as teachers and leaders.

My passion

Part of the reason why I teach is to spread my passion for languages. They can offer a lot to children as they weave their way towards adulthood. This has been in a range of school environments. I have watched the delight on the faces of children exploring foreign cultures. Sometimes knowing this is likely to be their only exposure to what I’ve enjoyed from a young age. Similarly, mentoring Oxbridge applicants on the finer points of French literature and history, keeps me coming back.

It is unrealistic to engage all pupils all of the time. But if I’ve inspired some along the way, that makes me happy. Then when I’ve met them whilst doing my shopping or boarding a flight, it reminds me that I’ve done an ok job. Somewhere in my flat are the nice cards and letters which I keep as fond mementos. They give me a warm feeling about teaching whenever I stumble across them.

Beyond my subject and my own school days

When I was training to teach I was probably far more headstrong and idealistic, some may say foolish, than I am today. Or so I’d like to think. At the time I was determined to work in the most challenging schools. Whilst my teaching career hasn’t necessarily taken this path, that sentiment rests firmly in my mind. I believe that helping to develop my pupils and do my best for them transcends any sector divide. This is part of what drove me to complete my MA research and possibly a PhD.

As well as the pupils, it’s the staff that I’ve worked with and the compassion shown by friends that I have made in education that have kept me coming back for more. It gets tough and there are some dark days, but, a “Thank you, sir” or “Cuppa?” on a tough day helps to put it all in perspective. So, in my view our experiences and values are very important for school leadership and developing the desired culture for learning to take place.

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