Teaching Is An Expression Of My Authentic Self

Hi, I’m Mischelle Duranleau. This is #WhyITeach.

The question, “Why do you teach?” is still one that makes me pause even after 20 years as a classroom instructor.

I teach because I must. This is my best answer.

As an elective teacher in a small high school, I wear many hats. I have taught every level and form of art common in schools, psychology, sociology, health. and even home economics. No matter the specific subject and projects, I am blessed to teach much more than that. I teach students to believe in themselves, to celebrate failure, to build relationships that have a lasting impression.

It is difficult to draw one story from my memory banks that stands out as the pivotal “Aha!” moment. In twenty years, I have chosen to be open and honest with my students so that they could see how to face challenges with integrity and grit.

My true purpose is to teach the skills of embracing uncertainty and learning to be brave. When I was diagnosed with stage two, uterine sarcoma, my students shared in the emotional and physical transformation which was chemotherapy. Even though I was exhausted, bald, and frail, I made the choice to continue teaching during treatments. If I am to be completely honest, my students gave me their strength when I felt empty.

We talked openly about courage, fear, and embracing life just as it shows up.

Several years later, my school was rocked by the unexpected death of a very popular senior student months before he was supposed to graduate. His suicide rocked me to my knees. I questioned, “Was my presence of any value? Was I really making a difference?” The answer was clear when I came into the building the next day to a classroom full of students looking to me to help them navigate the unimaginable.

At that moment, I knew that teaching was more than information delivery.

Teaching is the courage to care, cry, and be human with my students. I must teach hope, integrity, and the skills needed to know that life will continue. To impart the ability to perceive and rise above to each occasion, knowing that we are in this together.

My room is a place of belonging, is safe to fail, feel vulnerable and to face life’s challenges with bravery.

I teach because it is an expression of my authentic self, essential as breathing.

Connect with me on KDP’s Educator Learning Network!

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