Why do you teach?

I recently read an article in Education Week by Domonique Dickson, a third-grade teacher in Virginia. In Why are you a teacher? Your Answer Should Change Over Time, Dickson shares how her "why" has changed through her career. What I appreciate about Dickson is the straightforward way she presents the events that triggered each change.

Her article made me think about what I do and why I've taken on the projects that I have over the years. It was only last year that I realized my work in informal science education began in a zoology lab where I worked at my community college. I used to care for the animals and the specimen collection. I also used to make classroom visits with the animals. It stopped me cold when I realized my "why" in informal education had its roots in this lab, and in the classrooms, I visited more than 30 years ago.

I began thinking about how my own "why" has changed through the years.

In the mid-1980s, my "why" was to introduce the kids to animals they might not otherwise encounter.

After graduating with a degree in biology, I taught grades K-8 as a full-time substitute teacher. My objective then was to explore the world of elementary education. Do I want to do this? Do I belong here? What can I contribute?

In grad school, my "why," when it came to teaching, was to help a professor test her lab curriculum for biology majors and to gain experience teaching adults. This experience evolved into my thesis project, which involved creating a support course for a large lecture introductory biology course for majors which had a D/F rate of 40%.

After grad school, my "why" was driven by the desire to become a professional, kind, and insightful community college instructor. I wanted to pay forward what my community college teachers did for me.

But then I became a grumpy adjunct. So I stopped working this way.

This unforeseen event led to a full year of exploring other interests that had been pushed to the side and silenced.

Then I took my first botanical illustration course. After becoming familiar with this world, my "why" became how drawing can be a learning tool to encourage an interest in plants and nature, and how drawing can address the issue of plant blindness. My new focus developed into the creation of a resource where I connected artists, naturalists, and educators pursuing interests in art, botany, and environmental education.

Today I have a new mission.

Today my objective is to bring attention to the field of freelance environmental education and to describe how freelance educators in natural resource fields and environmental education work in their communities. Energized by the educators who have shared their stories with me, I look forward to writing about how they facilitate new ways of seeing and thinking about nature in their communities.

What is your why?

How has it changed over time?

Literature Cited

Dickson, Domonique. (2019). Why are you a teacher? Your answer should change over time. Education Week.

Retrieved from https://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2019/01/16/why-are-you-a-teacher-your-answer.html

Tania Marien