Educators face many obstacles within the field of education today: caseloads and expectations are greater than what is often realistic, resources are stretched, budgets are thin, and today's teacher is expected to not only overcome a student's socio-economic challenges but also be sensitive to their cultural norms. Add to that list, support for teachers is often flaccid or fleeting at best and teacher pay is woefully inadequate. In fact, a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute found that the salary gap between teachers and similarly seated professionals has reached its "widest point ever" within our country. So the question must be asked: Why would anyone want to become a teacher, let alone a special education teacher (where the challenges faced often feel insurmountable)? Maybe the following, which has been liberally adapted from "The Star Thrower" by Loren C. Eiseley can best answer this question?
Once upon a time, a pessimistic old man was walking along the beach after a big storm when he noticed a child picking up a starfish and throwing it back into the water. The grumpy old man inquired of the boy "What are you doing?". The little boy replied, "Throwing starfish back into the ocean." "Why?" asked the elderly man. "The tide washed them ashore last night and they can't return by themselves." said the boy with a hint of befuddlement. The old man laughed at the boy and then sternly replied, "There must be hundreds of starfish on this beach, child. You're not making a difference!" The young boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish, hurled it as far as he could into the ocean, turned to the crotchety old man, and said, "It made a difference to that one!"
That anecdote defines for many within the field of education, the very essence of why we choose to enter the teaching profession. We teach because we have a drive to make a difference in the lives of children. More specifically, we teach because we love to nestle in the joy and satisfaction of knowing that we played a small role in helping a student achieve a personal, social, behavioral, or academic milestone. We teach, not because we get our summers off but because we want to help shape the next generation. We teach because we desire to give rather than to take. Finally, we teach because when we went to school we were touched and inspired by a teacher who took extra time out of their day to help us get back to where we needed to be, much like the boy does with the starfish that have washed ashore.
Why do we teach? Because we care and because we can!