Why I Became a Teacher

It was the lecture on columns. That’s why I became a teacher. Yep, the columns.

Well actually, this lecture on the history of Greek columns to which I’m referring was the reason I didn’t become an architect. Maybe more like the straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back sort of thing.
I was sitting there in my back-corner chair of the lecture hall, banging my head against the nearest column, while the head professor of the university’s architecture department went on for two hours (not kidding) about fluting and pediments and, well, I don’t really know what else because I had stopped listening to him. Instead, my whole career plan was all of a sudden getting very real in my head. And I was freaking out about it.

It was the first day of class of the spring semester. I was in my second year of being an architecture major, and the doubts were barreling toward me.

The drama of this moment is still real to me. At the time, I had been shoving it all to the back of my mind for a while, and now it was like a perfect storm of career thoughts swarming together at once, brought together by the Greeks and their ever-changing columns. Trying to pull apart these thoughts into a nice organized list makes it all seem a lot less “stormy” than it was in the moment, but for the sake of a little clarity, here’s my attempt at giving a glimpse of what was going through my mind:
  1. I hadn’t always wanted to be an architect. But I was good at art and interested in design, and honestly, the “What-do-you-do-for-a living?-Who-me?-Oh,-I’m-an-architect” conversation drew me toward the major. It’s a cool-sounding job, you have to admit. (George Costanza agrees, at least.) But now that luster was rubbing off, and I was finally accepting the fact that the name of a career is not a very good reason to actually have said career.
  2. My mom was a teacher. For so long, I figured I’d be going in a different direction with my profession. Teaching is not glamorous. It’s a lot of hard work. And growing up, I had a good view of that hard work. My mom worked hard. But she also loved what she did. She was invested in her students. It was often very difficult, but it was also very rewarding.
  3. I wanted to affect people. I wanted to impact real, live humans. Of course, there’s an argument I could make for doing this through architecture—affecting people’s lives through the spaces in which they live and interact, etc.—but I guess I was wanting this interaction to happen in a way that was more direct, more… foundational.
  4. I relate to kids better than I relate to grown-ups. I’ve always been introverted by nature, but when I am around kids, I feel like I open up. At that point in my life, I’d worked with children in a few different ways—coaching soccer, big brothering—and I was realizing (it sounds so obvious now) that being a teacher would allow me to work with children every day. And that sounded right.
  5. Oh, and don’t forget the spoon that was stirring all of this together: slide after agonizing slide of column diagrams.
I changed my major the next day.

In a way, I still look at myself as an architect. I still design. I still get to find solutions to challenges. And I still get to create. But instead of building structures, I’m building thinkers. I get to be part of equipping a child for his future. I get to be a part of how a child gets shaped. I get to be a part of guiding the direction of a child’s whole life. 

No columns involved.

My classroom at the beginning of the day, before the kids arrive.