Home Catalog Ordering News and Reviews

For the Love of Teaching
And Other Reasons Teachers Do What They Do
Interview Portraits by Ira D. Shull

From “Life Work”

Many artists consider what they do to be “life work.” It is work from which they derive such pleasure and satisfaction that it doesn’t seem like work at all. The following teachers feel the same way about teaching. For them, teaching is a kind of compass, an orientation to the world that directs how they see it and how others see them. Teaching is an essential part of who they are and what they experience, in and out of the classroom. For them, the knowledge that teaching is their life work is both invaluable and invigorating.

Kelly Chandler

Kelly Chandler is a graduate instructor in the Education Department at the University of Maine in Orono, where she is also a doctoral student in literacy education. She previously taught English at Noble High School in Berwick, Maine. She has been teaching for six years.

I think it’s in my blood to teach. I’m a fourth-generation teacher, and for a long time I thought teaching was the family curse. I wanted to do anything I could to avoid it. I went to Harvard University expecting to be a chemist. But I got a summer job teaching in an enrichment program for teenagers. I realized that there really wasn’t anything else that would make me happy.
Being a prospective teacher at Harvard is not an easy thing. You say to people, ‘This is what I want to do with my life,’ and they say, ‘Why didn’t you go to the state university and save all that money?’ It’s a troublesome thing to answer. At the same time, I come from northern Maine, where being a teacher is a way to social respectability. At the University of Maine, you see a lot of first-generation college students who want to be teachers, because along with that degree comes a sense of respect and a place in the community they wouldn’t have otherwise.
One of the things that made me angriest about the attitudes I encountered when I said I wanted to be a teacher was that people thought I was too smart. You see a lot of public service commercials on TV talking about how noble it is to be a teacher. And at the same time that teachers are exalted, there’s this sense that teachers aren’t very smart. People thought I ought to be a doctor or a lawyer or working in business. And I thought, Who needs to be brighter and better prepared than a teacher? . . .
© VanderWyk & Burnham. All Rights Reserved.