I teach because of Mrs. Lange. I teach because of Mr. Hougas. I teach because of Dr. Jacobson. Each of these high school teachers helped unlock in me aspects of myself that I could only glimpse through my own perspective. They saw in me potential and helped to refine my academic skills. Through them, I discovered a deeper grasp of the subject matter I was learning from them. More importantly, however, it was through them that I gained a deeper sense of self-awareness of who I was as a student and a person.
I teach because I want to devote my life to a profession where I might be able to make a difference in the lives of young people. I teach because people before me had made a similar choice in their lives and made a difference in mine.
While I do not teach as much as I did when I began my career, I have spent the past 22 years in positions in which I have hired teachers. I have also been part of nurturing school cultures where, hopefully, teachers can impact the lives of young people by sharing their own gifts and talents with students, parents, and one another.
When I interview prospective teachers, I always ask a variation of the same question. “Tell me about a teacher who made a difference in your life and why?” While the content of their answer is important, what I also pay attention to is if and how their face changes when a teacher comes to mind before they answer. Sometimes, I ask the opposite question. “Tell me about a teacher who didn’t connect with you and why?” I also pay attention to their facial reaction before they answer.
These questions prompt reactions from a prospective teacher that forces him or her to identify with themselves as a student, which is the purpose of the exercise. I am at my best as a teacher when I am in touch with myself as an adolescent student. While times change with the decades removed from my own high school experience, what does not change is the interpersonal relationship between teacher and student and the transformative potential of that relationship.
I teach because I want to make a difference, and I am honored to work with a faculty at Trinity-Pawling who have dedicated their professional lives to the same purpose.
by William W. Taylor