It is common to hear students who are preparing to become teachers express, as part of their motivation for entering the teaching profession, the idea that they feel “called to teach.”I was no exception.
A 1994 study about motivations for becoming a part of the teaching profession indicated that feeling called to teach, “signifies a high degree of commitment to a specific position to which an individual sees herself or himself specially drawn. Those who are called would not merely discover a field that would be an appropriate match for their talents; rather, they would be convinced that their line of work uniquely lends meaning or wholeness to their lives.”1
My experience as a school district superintendent taught me that many other professions, even the most lucrative, do not necessarily lend meaning or wholeness to individuals’ lives. I would regularly receive phone calls from strangers who would tell me their life’s vocational stories; the conversation always ending with the same statement and a question. The statement was, “I just don’t feel like I’ve made a meaningful difference. I’ve made plenty of money, but don’t feel like I’ve done anyone much good.” The question that followed was, “So, with my degrees and experience do you think there is a place for me in education? I really want to do something with my life that makes a difference.”
Feeling called to teach does not endow a person with the knowledge and skills to be successful in the teaching profession. In addition to having a conviction that teaching will bring a wholeness of life to students, as well as the teacher, an individual must be knowledgeable and skilled in both subject matter and pedagogy.
Teaching must extend beyond a calling and become an art form that lifts and inspires others to love the acquisition of new knowledge and its applications. When this occurs, learning becomes its own reward and remains the quest of a lifetime.
President David O. McKay, whose name distinguishes the School of Education at Brigham Young University, stated in 1934, “I think it must be apparent to every thinking mind that the noblest of all professions is that of teaching, and that upon the effectiveness of that teaching hangs the destiny of nations.”2
I am thankful for well-qualified teachers in my life that heeded the call to teach and lifted me to higher and higher levels of knowledge and understanding. What they did made a life-changing difference for me. I have seen it, too, in others. There is nothing that surpasses the influence of a noble teacher.
- Called to Teach: A Study of Highly Motivated Preservice Teachers, Robert C. Snow, The Journal of Research and Development in Education – Volume 27, Number 2, 1994
- The Relief Society Magazine 22:722 (1934)