This post was written by teacher education student Lindsey Bispala.
“Are you prepared to be poor for your entire life?”
Add this question to the long list of responses that future teachers get after expressing their occupation choice. I am studying to become a teacher. This was not a recent choice, rather something I have felt drawn to from a very young age.
As a result of my dad’s job, our family has moved twice. In each of the houses, there was a room in the basement dedicated as”Lindsey’s classroom,” fully equipped with desks, whiteboards, books, posters, and all of the school supplies I could imagine. My little brother was the most patient, cooperative “student” I have had to date.
I have volunteered in many classrooms, ranging from kindergarten all the way to high school. As a result, I have received countless responses from teachers, parents, and family members reminding me that “there’s still time to change your mind.”
I won’t change my mind. There is nothing I would rather do for the rest of my life than teach in a classroom. There are kids in the world who would benefit greatly from my presence in their lives. This is something I am confident in. Each time I hear, “Are you prepared to be poor for your entire life?” I bite my tongue and give a weak half-smile. Well, Mr. or Ms. Know-It-All, our definitions of “rich” seem to be different. You are filling your wallet and I am filling my heart.
Here are some of the ways being in a classroom makes me rich:
• The “lightbulb moment” when a student finally understands something
• Being a positive role model for our future
• Fostering individual relationships with each student
• Receiving countless notes, cards, drawings, and letters
• Funny things that come out of students’ mouths
• Endless hugs
• Witnessing students be proud of their work
• Relationships with teachers and administrators that become friendships
• Watching students grow as the year progresses
• The bittersweet feeling of sending students off to the next grade
I can’t help but think of the song “Mean” by Taylor Swift whenever I am coaxed to reconsider my career path. You used to look up to your teachers. Why are you looking down upon them now, just because they make less money than people in other occupations?
Teaching is my passion. Teaching is what I was born to do. Teaching makes me rich.
Next time someone tells you that they are going to be a teacher, I encourage you to ask:
What inspired you?
What grade would you like to teach?
Who was your favorite teacher growing up?
. . . rather than, “Are you prepared to be poor for your entire life?”
I am aware that I may not own a mansion on a lake, buy a private jet, or go on expensive vacations. But I will change lives. I will educate the future of our country. I will pour love, knowledge, and acceptance into each of my students. These things make me rich. We can agree to disagree, Mr. or Ms. Know-It-All, but someday I’ll be setting up my brand new classroom and, as Taylor Swift says, “all you’re ever gonna be is mean.”
Lindsey Bispala is an elementary education major at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire.