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An Opportunity, a Challenge, a Responsibility:
By Judith Donahoe Smith

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?"

I am a teacher. I have been teaching school -- Sunday school, vacation bible school, summer camp school, children's church school, and any other school I have been given the opportunity to teach in -- since 1969.

Teaching school is an opportunity -- an opportunity to touch the lives of many people. Not only are you teaching the children, you also have opportunity to encourage and congratulate the parents and grandparents of students. You get to incorporate community leaders into your classes, introducing you to an even wider variety of people. When you teach as long as I have, you also have the opportunity to influence your students and the young teachers who teach beside you. I'm thankful for that opportunity.

Teaching school is a challenge. Not only must you teach the curriculum to the children, you also must teach the children where they are and where they come from. All the elements of their background and culture must be considered and incorporated you're your lessons.

Each child's learning differences also must be taken into consideration. Each day brings new challenges. You never know what went on at home the night before or what happened that morning before they arrived at school. For those hours that a child is in your classroom, you might be the only positive influence in their lives all day. That is quite a challenge.

Teaching school is a responsibility. It is not just a job. If you are looking for a job, teaching is not for you. If you are looking for a lifelong commitment to helping, nurturing, tending, and growing children, then it might be your niche. Children do not grow strong, do not grow to be good citizens who contribute to society unless they are nurtured and tended. They must be fed, watered and pruned. Then they will grow and blossom.

School teachers are only a part of the total care giving required to grow good citizens, but I'm proud to be a part of the effort. It is a great responsibility.

I am a teacher. I started my profession with zeal and an attitude of optimism. After many years, much has changed. Society has changed; children are different than they were in 1969. The curriculum has changed. Government requirements have changed. Public opinion of education has changed. Attitudes toward teachers have justifiably changed. But my zeal and attitude of optimism toward teaching has survived. I still love to teach. I am a teacher.

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10/28/2005