An opportunity arose about two months ago. It would have meant less work, more pay. It would have meant not losing evenings and weekends to grading papers and planning. When I sat to do my pro/con t-chart to help my decision making, the list of reasons why I should take the new job was longer than the list of reasons why I shouldn't.
Sometimes quality outweighs quantity, though. More money, more time, less "work": those ought to have been very appealing.
There was but one reason I chose to stay in the classroom and stay in education...and it is a selfish reason:
I can fathom no other occupation (for me) that is as intellectually challenging as figuring out how to teach. I must draw on my knowledge of not only the content and skill I intend to transfer, but also my ability to read people, to communicate with them, to craft an approach that will help a student overcome his misunderstanding or more deeply understand what he already knows. I must craft the right wording for the question that will flick the light switch; I must consider the right "next step" for each student as I coax them toward that distant goal. For me, the best example of the intellectual challenge of teaching centers on teaching kids about writing.
Even among English teachers, there is the misconception that "assigning writing" (making kids write) and "teaching writing" are the same thing. I disagree. Consider the kid who turns in a paragraph of writing that is gramatically sound, well organized, and generally shows effective thought processes. Some people would read it and write "nice job!" in the margin. My challenge is to figure out what I can write in the margin that will help the student know how to do it even better next time. "Nice job" does not accomplish that. I could mark all the punctuation and spelling issues on every writing sample and be done with it, but to really help someone learn, how I craft my feedback for that child on that assignment is the crux of my challenge. When my friends hear me say that I'm busy "correcting papers," it is not just about me marking wrong answers and assigning a score. Pick up your favorite novel or read your favorite writer online, choose the most compelling passage, and then try to give specific, prescriptive, and complete advice about how that writer could improve their craft. It's much easier to just say "nice job."
Or, scroll down to the comments beneath any major online news article, pick the most incoherent and idiotic rambling and try to offer not just a diagnosis of what that writer "did wrong" and "needs to do," but instead give a series of specific steps for how that writer would go about improving. This challenge can transfer to any content and any grade level: I cannot even begin to comprehend how a masterful first grade teacher is able to do it...but it happens, and when it happens well I know that it is because that teacher has wrestled with the intellectual challenge of crafting a good lesson.
So, over more money and more free time, I chose more thinking. That's why I will be teaching next year.
We all have our own reasons... yours?