So Why Did You Go Into Teaching? (8 Ways Not to Answer)


StrangerSo why did you go into teaching?

MeWell, it seemed like a rewarding way to… hey, I found five paperclips in my pocket!

StrangerThat’s nice. A rewarding way to what?

MeOh, you know, to help build a culture of… ooh, I forgot I had this paperclip in my hair!

StrangerUh-huh. A culture of…?

MeA culture of curiosity and critical thinking, which our country so desperately… hold on, there’s this metallic taste in my mouth…

StrangerDon’t tell me it’s a…

MeHey! A paper clip!

StrangerWhy do you have paperclips in all your clothing and bodily orifices?

MeHa! Yeah.

StrangerNo, seriously, why?

MeDoesn’t that happen to everybody?


Stranger: So why did you go into teaching?

Me: Well, I hoped to meet some gifted, hardworking kids, and then convince them that I was responsible for their eventual success.

Stranger: You… what?

Me: You know. Go teach great kids, who were going to succeed no matter what, and delude them into thinking I was some kind of inspirational force in their lives, so they’ll thank me in their Nobel and Oscar acceptance speeches.

Stranger: So your goal was to provide no value?

Me: Right.

Stranger: But still take credit for your students’ success?

Me: If I play my cards well, one might name an element after me! You’re not allowed to name them after yourself, you know.


StrangerSo why did you go into teaching?

MeOh, like any teacher, I got into it for the administrators.

StrangerThe administrators?

MeThey have this youthful idealism. So much energy and enthusiasm. They’re the reason I’m excited to wake up and go to work every morning.

StrangerBut you said “administrators.” Do you mean the kids?

MeGosh, no. Sure, the job requires working with kids, but I try not to focus on that. All the lessons I plan, the papers I grade, the after-school tutoring – it isn’t for the kids. It’s to try to make a difference in an administrator’s life.

StrangerAnd you find that… rewarding?

MeOf course! If I can raise my students’ test scores enough that even one administrator gets a bonus, I’m happy.


Stranger: So why did you go into teaching?

Me: [rubbing my thumb and fingers together]

Stranger: Money?

Me: No, that’s sign language for “fingers covered in whiteboard marker.”

Stranger: I don’t, uh… why would you even want your fingers covered in whiteboard marker?

Me: What am I supposed to do, sit around with boring old flesh-colored fingers?

Stranger: Yes?

Me: Clearly, pal, you are not cut out to be an educator.


Stranger: So why did you go into teaching?

Me: I have this theory: teaching is like a time machine.

Stranger: How so?

Me: Teachers choose their grade level because they want to revisit that period of their lives. For some, it was an especially painful or difficult time, when they could have used a supportive adult, and they want to help kids survive that struggle. For the rest, it was a time of great success that they want to relive and share.

Stranger: It’s always one or the other?

Me: Always.

Stranger: So which one are you?

Me: Oh, I don’t buy that psychoanalytic silliness. I teach because I enjoy it. No deeper reason.

Stranger: But you just said…

Me: Ooh, throwing my own words back at me? Nice try, Dr. Freud.


Stranger: So why did you go into teaching?

Me: Well, what are you doing this July?

Stranger: Uh, working. You?

Me: Waking up at ten and watching a movie every day.

Stranger: Oh.


Stranger: So why did you go into teaching?

Me: You know the saying, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach”? Well, I can’t.

Stranger: Can’t what?

Me: Can’t anything. At age 14, I got lost in my own house.

Stranger: Was it, like, a new house?

Me: Also, every time I boil pasta, it comes out a scalding mess.

Stranger: Do you use water?

Me: And when I tried learning to ride a bike, I ran over my cat and it died.

Stranger: The cat?

Me: No, the bike. I went flying. Cat was fine.

Stranger: And you teach children now?

Me: Well, I like to think that they teach me.


Stranger: So why did you go into teaching?

Me: Wait, is this… no. No, no. I’m a teacher?

Stranger: That’s what you just told me…

Me: But teachers should be scholars, leaders, wise and patient souls! I don’t know anything! I’ve wrecked three pasta pots this year alone!

Stranger: So you’re not a teacher?

Me: I sure hope not! Are you?

Stranger: Uh… yeah, actually, I am.

Me: But why?

Stranger: It’s rewarding. I enjoy the kids. The summers are nice.

Me: Okay, but when… oh, look, I found a paperclip!

14 thoughts on “So Why Did You Go Into Teaching? (8 Ways Not to Answer)

    1. I think so. I’m pretty sure you have to get the name approved by some committee, and they don’t take kindly to self-naming. But a cursory Google search didn’t turn up anything on that. I’ma keep looking…

    1. I teach elementary science, so it’s all kinds of odd things. Most common: small Lego pieces, the steel balls that go with the magna-sticks, small rocks, and things I confiscated from students because they were fiddling with them.

      1. Ah, I should have confiscated better stuff! Almost makes me wish my high-schoolers played with Legos and cool rocks. (Almost.)

        Pens would’ve been nice too.

    2. I used to have a game with a colleague: What’s in your pockets? At the end of the day we’d empty out our pockets and compare the random stuff we’ve accumulated.

      1. Ever come up with a razor-blade NOT attached to a handle, or a miniature lightsaber?
        I still live at home, and I play that game with my kid brother in the evenings. He usually has Legos and Nerf Gun bullets.

  1. One thing the first teacher could do is quit his job and use all the paper clips to trade up to a house.
    Goal 1: Have a house in all countries in the world.
    Goal 2: Plunge all of those countries into another global recession.

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