Teaching is a vocation, not everyone can do it
When I told people I was going to Trinity to study English and History, the first thing they always said was “oh, so are you gonna be a teacher?” The truth is, I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up (God be in the days of the Celtic Tiger, when you could do an arts degree and just assume that a job well paid would fall in your turn after graduation) but even when I was 18 I knew I didn’t want to teach. Or, to be more precise, I knew I couldn’t teach.
My mother had been a teacher before having children, two of my aunts were teachers. I had been brought up with a healthy respect for the profession, too much respect to consider it an “easy” job. My sister graduated as a teacher and I see how she approaches her work, the seriousness with which she takes her responsibilities. I saw how worried she was during the pandemic when schools were closed, her determination that no child fell through the cracks under her watch. During the first lockdown, she sent a postcard to all the boys in her class, just to let them know she was thinking of them.
There are also priests in my family, two great uncles who went to Korea in the 1950s for missionary work, and we are perhaps more used to talking about “vocations” when it comes to those. who choose to live in religious orders. But despite all the jokes about teachers and their schedules and vacations, in many ways it’s also a calling. Not everyone can do it.
That’s why when DCU asked me to get involved with their Teachers Inspire initiative, I couldn’t say yes quickly enough. Launched in 2019, it was created as a way to celebrate teachers and recognize the role they play in our lives and communities. I think we are all very aware that a well educated population is a key indicator of a prosperous country, but it is not just a matter of math and literacy; a good teacher can help their students feel supported and encouraged, ensuring that they reach their potential.
A good teacher can inspire their students to go beyond what they thought was possible. I was fortunate enough to always feel safe in the classroom and learning was something I loved. I have had many great teachers – and a handful who went out of their way to encourage my interest in reading and writing. One of these teachers, Ms. Keane, is someone I consult regularly. Her classes were stimulating and stimulating, and she really pushed me to produce the best work I was capable of. She was the one who gave me a copy of Margaret Atwood’s seminal classic,, when I was 15, telling me that she thought I would appreciate her.
This book changed my life. I wouldn’t be who I am today if she hadn’t given me this book. In fact, I wonder if I would even be a writer. With that simple gesture that spring afternoon in our school library, she made me feel seen.
When I tell this story, most people tell me their own story, that of this teacher they once had and who they still fondly remember. The teacher who made a difference in their lives, and they could only appreciate it in hindsight. This is where the Teacher’s Inspire initiative comes in – I ask you to share your stories with me! He doesn’t have to be tall. You don’t need to have earned a place in Harvard Law School or played a central role in the development of the Covid vaccine because of a few words of wisdom given by your third-class teacher. (Although if so, I definitely want to hear this storyâ¦)
It can be anything. A teacher who helped you through a difficult time at home. A teacher who didn’t give up until you mastered algebra, despite your belief that you will never be successful. A teacher who gave his free time to help with the school play. If there is a teacher you would have liked to thank all those years ago, now is the time to do so.
I will organize the entries, using them as a way to organize a larger conversation about the role of education in Irish society. The teachers featured in the stories will be celebrated at a virtual event at the end of November at DCU’s Institute of Education, but I really hope this becomes some sort of archive. A place where people can go to remember their own school years if they are lucky enough to have fond memories. Where teachers will be reminded that their work is important, that it has an impact. And where future teachers could be inspired to consider choosing education for their career, in turn shaping a new generation of schoolchildren.
By giving them the hope, support and care that all children deserve.
Share your story on Teachersinspire.ie
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