It was 1994 – the Canadian government placed a cod moratorium on my home island of Newfoundland, Canada. I was about to graduate from university with two degrees but no possible job potential. The whole island was distraught over the loss of a heritage founded in cod fishing – a resource that had long ago passed its expiration date. I felt the sting of it as well and remember silently watching as men stormed the government houses, demanding a return of what they so passionately felt belonged to their island and not the federal government.
As I watched, I had more immediate concerns – how was I going to feed myself? Getting a job in Newfoundland at the time was like finding a good fortune in a fortune cookie and hoping it would come true the next day. So, I did what a lot of Newfoundlanders did at the time – I packed up and left my province.
But I was not just leaving for employment, I was leaving to make a dream come true – I wanted to be a teacher. To stand in front of a class of eager students was my only ambition and at the time, on my island, teachers were revered. Teachers had shaped me and even saved me from being a high school dropout. Listening to my English teacher read books out loud felt as if I’d just stepped into the novel itself and was traveling with her to far-away countries that I thought I’d never see. The community of teachers nurtured my mind and yes, I loved them – and still do.
Teachers, although some of the lowest paid professionals worldwide, shape many students, just as I was shaped through their dedication to improving the lives of others. I wanted to give my life to the service of others. I found my teaching career and have not regretted my choice to become one. Every time I walk into a classroom I feel as if I have purpose and direction in my life.
Many powerful and famous people have been shaped by their teachers, to name only a few:
Brian Williams – news anchor
Maya Angelou – writer
Bill Clinton – former President of the United States
Bipasha Basu – Bollywood actress
Bill Gates – Microsoft creator and visionary
So as I sit here correcting essays, I know that over the years I may have already shaped a future leader, writer, astronaut, doctor, lawyer or activist.
How many people can say they’ve met many wonderful people throughout their lives and in all of them they see greatness? So when asked whether or not I’d leave the profession, my answer would be “only if I could keep teaching”. You see, in this difficult economic time world-wide, I cannot help but wonder if we have lost our focus as a society. Perhaps we need to keep looking at what we can do to make a difference in the lives of future generations, the backbone of our society.
As my Sunday paper remains untouched, I am reading an essay by a student of mine and am feeling humbled by the experience of being called Teacher.
To my colleagues and fellow educators, to all the teachers in my life, both past and present – I thank you for mentoring me and for helping to shape the person I am. And to every single student I have had the pleasure to meet – I thank you as well.
Photo by Melinda Cochrane – all rights reserved