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What Would You Rather Do?
By Sarah Cooper

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?"

Love Teaching?
Do you love teaching? If you had it to do all over again, would you? Could you? Share your thoughts in a Love Teaching essay and send it to [email protected]
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In my mother's generation, women faced limited career options after college. Many of the brightest chose teaching, and students have benefited from their decision for four decades.

In my generation, women welcome nearly infinite career options, and few have decided to work in schools. My female friends have gone into law, science, academia, and medicine. Why, then, do I teach?

I teach because I have always loved to learn, and I want to model that passion for my students. Teaching requires continual scholarship, never more so than when a student asks a question you haven't thought about and you need to look it up.

I teach because it's more fun than any other work I know. When my middle school history students appreciate a contradiction or understand a deep theme, I can feel the zing in the air. When they bounce in after lunch, brimming with sunshine and bursting with energy, they make me laugh as we settle into the lesson.

I teach because it challenges every particle of my being, leaving nothing complacent. Standing in front of a classroom, you are continually exposed. (Just ask the kids to mimic mannerisms you didn't know you had!) This transparency may sound intimidating, but it means that you are always striving to live up to your best self.

And I teach because it's the most important thing in the world to do. What is more crucial than instilling responsibility and knowledge in the next generation? At the end of your life, what would you rather have done?

If you yourself are a strong student, full of enthusiasm about learning, consider teaching. If you want to give back to society the time your parents and teachers dedicated to you, consider teaching. We need young, vibrant people like you to replace the master educators who will be retiring in droves over the next decade. Yes, the grading can be dull, the hours long, the pay insufficient. But when you put your feet up on a Friday evening and reflect on the week, you will know that you have given everything you have and more, to the future.

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Sarah Cooper

Sarah Cooper received her bachelor's degree in American history and literature from Harvard. She has taught middle and high school English and history for six years, at two private schools in Los Angeles and at a charter school in Colorado. In August 2005, she is excited to begin teaching at her alma mater, the Bishop's School in La Jolla, California. Sarah has done educational consulting work and recently completed a curriculum guide, Teaching Ender's Game, for Jane Schaffer Publications. Her freelance articles have appeared in variety of publications, including the San Diego Union-Tribune, BabyZone, and Common-Place: The Interactive Journal of Early American History. She lives with her husband and one-year-old son in San Diego.

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08/01/2005