The Difference Between Us And Them

Eric Hoefler:

I left teaching a year ago and took a corporate job. The people with whom I work are talented, smart, and exceedingly professional (and still manage to be fun, interesting people in the process). The job serves the Children’s Bureau’s efforts to review and continually improve the Child Welfare Program … a noble goal.

None of my co-workers write poems about the nobility of their calling.

I’m not saying you’re a bad teacher if you write poems, but my personal experience tells me that the best teachers are far less concerned with the noble calling than with getting the job done, and done well.

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. I am compelled to comment and say that the talk about teachers teaching because it’s nobel does not ring true for me. At all.

    I have been teaching for three years, and I left a very short engineering career to teach. People assume I entered teaching for all the sentimental reasons you’ve been touching on. But that’s not really the story. I did not become a teacher for the nobility of it, though I did want to do something meaningful with my working life. I probably could have found something meaningful to do as an engineer. Really, I think the challenge of teaching effectively and creatively is what drew me to teaching, and I know that is what will keep this job interesting and worthwhile for me.

    My own education as a teacher never involved any of these feel-good ideas either. My mentor teachers were not sentimental about teaching. They didn’t write poems. They never talked to me about nobility. The teachers and professors who lectured to me about education theory never talked about nobility. If anything, the message was, “It is hard to be a good teacher. You need to know what you’re doing, and you must always strive to get better. You have to be a professional.”

    My mom and my mother in-law are both elementary school teachers. Both love love love love love their students. They both read endlessly about teaching, mentor new teachers, and constantly strive to improve their own practice.

    In the high school where I teach I am part of two departments — science and math. I swear, these people don’t have a sentimental bone in their bodies. The majority would scoff at poetry of any kind.

    A bigger problem for me, at least in my school, is negativity toward students — their behavior, their attitude, their clothes, their stupidity. Honestly, I’d much rather work with someone who is a little sentimental about the job than someone who hates kids. Right?

  2. As a counter-point to my own comment, I would add that my workplace treats me like a professional and assumes my competence, so I’m never tempted to take solace in the nobility of my work.

  3. I deeply wish teachers weren’t so dichotomous in their embrace of professional standards. Seriously. It’d be much easier to work here.

  4. Did I forget to mention that yours is the only teacher blog that I really hope to see updated when I open my news reader? You’re my teacher-Kottke.

  5. Oh, and by the way? The real issue here is not that teachers subsume their incompetence in writing odes to teaching, but that most odes about teaching, such as the one posted over at the Faculty Room, absolutely suck.

  6. Teaching a noble calling? I don’t know. I guess I love teaching for selfish reasons- that’s not very noble. Teaching meets my needs, and I don’t mean my need for a pay cheque and time off in the summer.