Why I Teach (It's Definitely NOT for the Money)

Katie Mae Butler

“This is going to be my daughter’s last month. Just so you know.”

I’m sitting there, up to my knees in scissors and glue sticks. The little boy to my left is asking for help holding his scissors, the little boy to my right can’t seem to figure out that glue goes on the BACK of the paper and not the front, and every other little person around that table is needing my attention to affirm, encourage, and celebrate each and every step of completing the craft I’ve composed.

I don’t have time to react in any way except “O-oh. Okay.”

Outside, I smile and high five and congratulate each child as they bring their finished crafts to me. It was a hard one, and they are very excited with their work. For young children, cutting and pasting can be a tall order. They did so well, even if one or two of them looks decidedly different from the example.

And on the inside, I’m feeling like the crumpled up papers we just threw away.

Did I do something wrong? How did I let them down? Do they feel like their child wasn’t special to me? Did I not hug them enough? Was I too hard on them? Too lax? Do I need to change my curriculum? Should I even be teaching?

And after all of this, I wonder...without this child’s tuition, can I still pay my bills?

Even in the private sector, if you ask any teacher worth their salt “Why do you do this”, you will not hear “It’s good money” at the top of the list of reasons why. Because to be perfectly honest, it’s not. Whether we are in business for ourselves or working in the school of another, there just isn’t a lot of money to be found in education.

Society has yet to catch on as to how much work we really do every day, it seems.

No, we can pay the bills. Some can afford childcare for their own children while they teach. Others still even have benefits provided them. But for most of us, that’s still not why.

We do this for the kids.

We do this for the relationships.

We do this for the future.

We do this for the pure love of learning.

We do this because in a world that is getting crueler by the day, children are the only people that make sense. They’re the only people who noticed that your earrings match your socks. They’re the only people who noticed you’d been crying and actually asked if you felt okay.

That’s why I do it, anyway. And when a parent pulls a kid out of my program, acting as if my interactions with their child were little more than a business transaction and not a big deal at all, I tend to take it personally.

I think I always will.

Because every kid that walks through my school door is NOT a number. They are NOT a paycheck. They are a person, young and small and fresh, and ready to learn.

Your child’s teacher loves your child. Please remember this.

I love and remember every one of them.

And I hope the next person to teach them loves them as well.