What Inspires Us to Become Educators?

What Inspires Us to Become Educators?

By Betty Trummel

I can recall the year that I decided what I wanted to be when I grew up…a teacher.  Third grade.  Miss Barbara McCloskey.  A compassionate, sweet, encouraging teacher who took me under her wing and gave me confidence.  I felt safe and enjoyed school, feeling more relaxed than I had in my earlier years.  I started to “play school” at home and from there my love of learning took off with a succession of great educators there to inspire me!  I was lucky to have fantastic elementary school educators, and I can happily recite every one of their names to this day.

As I mentor the wonderful teachers at Shine Zambia Reading Academy from afar each week, I encourage them to reflect on their teaching and learning, and on why they have become teachers.  On a recent Zoom call (yes, we are using Zoom with some level of success, IF the power stays on!) I gave the staff a homework assignment:  be ready to step up at the next week’s call and talk about what has inspired them to become a teacher.  WHY do they want to work with children?

A staff photo from my visit to Shine in 2018.

I was so pleased by their response and willingness to share life experiences that put them on this path, and I’d like to share them with you.  It’s amazing because there are little bits and pieces from all of their comments that apply to my own path…and I realize that no matter where we live in this big world, we can have similar experiences.

Teacher Younus started off by talking about his passion for the kids…a theme that was repeated all through the call that day.  He talked about the fact that we must keep learning and we talked about the importance of this for all educators.

Many of the teachers at Shine started out by teaching Sunday School and found that they loved teaching children. This was certainly true for Teacher Stella.  The most important comment Stella made was that she learns from the children.  This was a great opportunity for me to reinforce to Shine teachers that our job as educators really IS a two-way street.

Teacher Josephine struggled with reading as a child.  Her comments about “what I went through as a child” were directly linked to her saying she wanted to be a better teacher.  She wants children to learn without fear, to be able to ask questions, and she wanted to replace the not-so-good teachers of her youth by being a dedicated teacher herself.  She said, “I have fallen in love with teaching!”

Front row left to right:  Teachers Stella and Younus; back row Teachers Josephine, Mercy, Martha, and Chafela

A new teacher I haven’t yet met in person, Teacher Esnart, discussed the admiration she felt for her teachers while growing up.  They were encouraging, which was the polar opposite of Josephine’s experiences.  Esnart says, “It’s all about the love and passion for children.”

Imparting knowledge to learners through a good academic program and teaching morals are two key points stressed by Teacher Catherine.  Although she says it’s an occupation to earn money, she loves teaching children.

Teacher Catherine, teaching a lesson to her students.

Teacher Florence comes from a large family and was shy at first.  She developed a passion when she was a Sunday School teacher (which she still does today).  She remarked that teaching children who can’t read is rewarding and she sees that she’s impacting a lot of kids.  Knowing that we are all making an impact is so important!

Teacher Florence, preparing a lesson.

“Teaching is in me!” was the most powerful comment made by Teacher Ruth.  Personally, I have always felt this way, and can totally relate to Ruth’s strong enthusiasm.  She says she grew up with the passion, and when she was a teenager she would “play teacher” after school. Again, striking similarity to my own pathway.  Ruth would help other children who were struggling and teach them what she had learned.  How awesome!      

Continued education was also a common theme.  Teacher Mercy loves teaching because she loves being in a learning environment.  “I think I was just born to teach!”  She’s currently attending Hope College to earn a degree. Teacher Martha started off as Shine Zambia’s librarian and from there gained an interest in teaching and children. Others at Shine encouraged her and gave her confidence to take on her own classroom. Martha’s getting a degree in teaching by taking online classes.  I remember the days of my Master’s Degree program…while teaching during the day, and going to classes at night.  It’s not easy and it’s clear to see the commitment of Shine teachers to continuing education.

Teacher Chafela, working with his students.

Acting Head Teacher, Chafela, earned a university degree, but not in teaching.  Due to lack of other employment in Zambia he shifted to teaching.  One of the most important things to Chafela is “seeing someone start to know how to read and write…it drives me to continue.”  Seeing the success of students motivates him a LOT!

The teachers wrapped me up in a beautiful chitenge in the colors and patterns of the Zambian flag. It was such a special gift.

I honestly feel that each teacher from Shine mentioned at least one thing I could identify with.  When thinking of education around the world…sometimes we fail to realize that the same issues, joys, challenges, and inspirations are happening simultaneously around the globe.  Knowing that educators in diverse countries might have many similar goals and experiences was an excellent take-away from this Zoom meeting.  Stop to think today about what drives you to do what you do?  What is your passion?  Your life’s work?   

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