My highest purpose isn’t as simple as teaching. My highest purpose is to teach, to encourage, to engage, to ignite interest, to create, to mold, to calm, to manage, to listen, to act, to....well, to help others find their highest purpose. Being a middle or high school English teacher is not just about reading books and talking about them. Coming up with creative but realistic projects and activities in order to cover concepts is the easy part. I love literature, and sharing literature with students is amazing and wonderful. Everything else that comes along with the job—the hormones/emotions, conflicts, parents, goals, obstacles, breakdowns—that’s the hard part, but also what makes it all worthwhile. The incredibly difficult aspects of teaching, the parts that make you break down and constantly reevaluate what you’re doing, those are what make it a “highest purpose” rather than just a vocation.
When I say that my highest purpose is, put simply, to teach, I think it’s important to attempt to lay out the way in which I want to go about this purpose. I want my students to know that I care. I want them to realize that I care so much that it’s annoying. I’m going to be on them to do their best, and I’m going to challenge them constantly. I truly believe, and now I can say I’ve seen it through experience, that if my students know that their success really matters to me, it will start to matter to them, too. I know that every student that comes into my future classroom will not be an avid book-lover like myself, but I think that English class is interesting in that literature opens up the door to all sorts of relevant and noteworthy discussions. This course is the perfect example. Just last Thursday, we talked about the N word, the hookup culture, Martha Stewart, and more all in the course of an hour and fifteen minutes. My English class will be the arena in which my students can explore their varying interests, and, hopefully, being their quest to find their own highest purposes.
Saying that I’ve found my own highest purpose feels a little premature. I’m only 22, and I really like the idea that your purpose can be an in-the-moment kind of thing. Teaching is what I want to do now, and I am really excited about it. I don’t know if it’s what I will want to do for the rest of my life, and I think I’m okay with that. It was not something I always wanted to do, by any means. I am a quiet person and I used to absolutely hate public speaking. I started taking education classes partly to appease my parents, who were a little worried during the spring of my sophomore year that yes, I really was an English major and no, I had absolutely zero idea what I wanted to do with my life. It was really challenging and very frightening the first time I taught a real lesson to a real class, but once I did it I was totally hooked. It was absolutely amazing being in front of the students, realizing that I really could engage them, and that I really could teach them. It sounds silly, but I think that I really had to step out of my comfort zone in order to learn about myself enough to truly find what I was meant to do. This is where I can relate to Liz Gilbert’s search for her own highest purpose. She had to get out, to get away (far, far away, in her case) in order to learn about herself. She needed to be removed from the bubble of routines and societal expectations in order to re-discover her role in the universe.