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A World of Young People:
By Laurie Wasserman

What is teaching like today? Who should do it? And who shouldn't? This Education World series features essays on teaching by teachers as they answer the question, "If you had it to do all over again, would you still become a teacher?"

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If I had a chance to do it all over again, would I still become a teacher? Without hesitation, I would. I love what I do. I have been teaching for 25 years and every one of those years has brought me joy, laughter, tears, frustration, heartache, excitement, and a sense that I did indeed choose the right profession.

I have worked with older students who were both deaf and blind, needing Braille and sign language to help them learn; high school students not much older than me (and a lot taller), who came to me drug and alcohol addicted, as well as mentally fragile from abuse; and middle school kids who just wanted someone to explain and validate their learning differences.

Yes, teaching has its frustrations. The hours and hours of paperwork that are required -- numerous IEPs, progress reports eight times a year, and frequent educational assessments are just a few examples of the many responsibilities that take valuable time away from working with the kids.

But.teaching isn't just about what you teach your students, it's also about what they teach you.

When you choose to become a teacher, it brings you into a world of young people who, if you give them a chance, will open up their hearts, share their fears and loves, and make every day special. I have cried with a young woman who was anorexic; visited four kids who were all in mental hospitals at the same time and just wanted a candy bar, a teen magazine, and a hug; witnessed deaf young women learn to communicate with a grocery store cashier so eventually they could shop independently; and watched middle school students celebrate "moving on" to high school with the confidence and poise of young men and women. I admit it, I cry every year when I see who they've become.

I can't imagine doing anything else with my life.

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Laurie Wasserman

Laurie Wasserman is a 25-year veteran special needs teacher. She has taught students from kindergarten through post high school, including students who were deaf-blind, emotionally and behaviorally challenged, autistic, and learning disabled. She currently works as a 6th grade learning disabilities specialist at Andrews Middle School in Medford, Massachusetts. She also is a new-teacher mentor in her school system, a National Board Certified Teacher, a Disney Teacher of the Year nominee, and an active member of Teacher Leaders Network and MiddleWeb.

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08/01/2005