Pam Boynton is presently Chair of the English department at an all-girls' Academy. She has secured 20 years of classroom teaching at the Upper School level for Honors and AP English. Why do I teach?
I had no intention of teaching—ever. My mom was a special education teacher in a Massachusetts elementary school, so to forge my own path, I opted for a career in public relations in two hospital PR departments. Then, I parlayed my English degree into a corporate venue as staff writer, senior editor, and managing editor of two for-profit business newsletters.
When my daughters were born, I redefined myself as both mother and teacher! I realized how deeply I loved the sharing, the interaction, the gladness of the relationship that was nurtured.
The one point that served—for me—as the impetus to leaving the corporate world to shift into a full-time teaching career was the concept of “gladness.” Though well-respected in my field and solid in my knowledge of double-hull tankers and side-impact crash testing, neither infused me with a sense of inner joy.
I began to reflect on my love of the British poets that lightened my psyche after a strenuous deadline, of the epic struggles of the flawed “Beowulf,” and the satiric presentations of Geoffrey Chaucer's medieval pilgrims. And there I found my answer on Why I teach!
In his portrait of the Oxford Cleric in “The Prologue to The Canterbury Tales,” Chaucer writes with unconditional praise,” and gladly did he learne, and gladly teache.” I teach because it is a “glad” experience. I value and appreciate the give and take that solid learning engenders in the right caliber of classroom. This equilibrium of intellect and academic fervor sustains me as intellectual giver and receiver. In a classroom, I engender our mutual curiosities, our collective love of learning, the reciprocity between knowledge and doing. In a classroom, I’ve realized creative freedom and scholarly camaraderie. In a classroom, I’ve experienced genuine “gladness” in my professional life, in my creative life, in my intellectual life; it makes the journey so very worthwhile.