To be honest, it wasn't a decision I was equipped to make at 18 years old. I feel very fortunate that a decision that I made as an old child (more than a young man) has worked out as well as it has.
My favorite answer to the question is that, like a lot of kids, I didn't have an easy time with high school. It wasn't terribly problematic, but it wasn't a walk either.
While I was there, though, I had the good fortune of encountering some teachers who treated me with interest and respect. I saw that it didn't matter to them if a student was different, didn't have money or wear the right clothes, play the right sports, or quite fit in. They also seemed to genuinely enjoy their jobs, to be having some fun with it. Yeah, some content you had to grind through, but that didn't mean you couldn't keep it entertaining along the way.
On a very basic level, these people were reasonable and decent enough human beings to make time for kids, and not seem put out by the effort.
So, in deciding my career I suppose that my thinking went something like, "Hey, I'd like to be a reasonable and decent human being. Those guys were good people who made me feel like I was good people. Kids have a hard time. I'm going to be the kind of teacher that makes school a more inclusive and fun place to be."
You'll notice the relative lack of depth in my process. I certainly didn't consider the fact that there were absolutely no jobs for history teachers.
What I think is reflected here is what I valued most in my education, all academic advantages aside, which is the value of relationships. I'm sure that somewhere in there lies the importance of education to a democracy, and a desire to promote critical thought and individuality. However, I got involved in this business to help kids, and have some fun in the process.
This is a terribly simplistic view of a teacher's job. Don't get me wrong, I also understand the professionalism involved. If I took myself too seriously I would reference my degrees and years of experience. I might even provide a copy of the electronic documentation of my satisfaction of the state of Ohio's professional standards for teachers through the albatross that is the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System, the evidence, the artifacts, the pre and post tests, the all important data that supposedly proves my worth. But these things hardly demonstrate the value of a good teacher intent on providing an environment that facilitates the relationships necessary for a quality education.
Coming out of 2015, I feel as if I've spent an inordinate amount of time and energy in a political fistfight to defend the ability of public school teachers to do just that.
It's too much.
This is not why any of us got into education.
So I guess this is about a New Year's resolution, then.
In 2016, I'm going to focus on being a decent and reasonable human being, accepting of the students I encounter, focused on making school a fun (or at least more tolerable) place to be, just like many of my teachers did for me.
I'd like those in legislative, and other power, positions to consider the same resolution from their own perspective. Strengthen the ability of public school teachers like myself to provide a quality education.
If 2016 is another year of excessive high-stakes testing, the demonization of teachers, unconstitutional school funding, the absurdity of championing a failing charter school system, furthering a process that facilitates the privatization of public schools, and then purposefully misleading the public (I'm looking at you Dick)...
Well, if that's the case, I'm not afraid of the fight.