PART 1: Meet Patrick Harris
It’s not wrong that schools and districts ask teachers to reflect on their why in the beginning of the school year. It’s good practice. But the ways in which we extract life stories from teachers in the beginning of the year, in my experience, has always felt cheap.
In my time as a teacher, a lot of these activities were centered around motivating teachers during challenging times. “You must know your why, it will ensure you’re motivated to keep going (aka staying late at school or grading papers on your weekends).” And we share it and it’s done. Chile, bye! With a hyper focus on labor, we lose the power of our own healing. We lose the understanding of how our stories help us to empathize and connect with our colleagues and most importantly, our students.
It can sometimes feel overwhelming to think about yourself in a profession that’s “not about you.” We cannot ignore investigating our why. It cannot be set aside or assumed. Because at the core of your why is your humanity.
PART II: The Importance of Exploring our True Why for Teaching
I am not a teacher. Instead, I am a human being that teaches. That’s a crucial distinction. Putting my humanity first allows me to give myself grace when the system won’t. When I recognize my humanness, it allows me to take mental health days without feeling guilty. When I recognize myself as human, I have greater empathy for my students. It allows me to reframe the work that I am actually doing. Teaching is not just about achievement or content. It’s less about grading papers and writing lesson plans for likes. I stop worrying about how decorated my classroom is and working long unpaid hours after school. I am able to breathe. Why? Because I now see education and teaching as human work. And now, I can enter the profession whole. Focused. Ready. If we are ever going to be the teachers our students need, we have to reflect our humanity back to them. If we ever want to tear down systems and rebuild them in love and equity, we must see education and teaching as human work.
🔜 Check back here soon for part three of Partick’s story and the importance of exploring our true why for teaching
Learn more about The First Five at Heinemann.com.
Patrick Harris II is a Black queer writer, storyteller, and middle school humanities teacher. He has won multiple national teaching awards for his leadership and innovation in the classroom, including recognitions from NCTE, ASCD, and ILA. Teaching and creating is only part of who Patrick is. He is a big brother, a cat dad, lover of all things horror, a WWE fanatic, and is obsessed with scenic hikes.
Find Patrick on Twitter & Instagram.