A student recently passed by my classroom and asked, "Mr. Chidiac, why are you always so happy?"
I replied, "I love what I do. I love being a teacher."
The student seemed satisfied and went on her way.
I thought further about what she asked and about my response. I really am extremely happy, and I suppose that people can see it. Where does this happiness come from, however?
When I was reading one of my favourite books with my students, Viktor Frankl's Man's Search For Meaning, I came across the following lines in the forward:
"Success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it does so as the unintended side-effect of one's dedication to a cause greater than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it."
That is indeed the answer to my student's question, and I suppose the deeper meaning to the answer I gave her.
This does not mean that being a teacher is the only meaningful work in the world, only that it fulfills my sense of purpose. My neighbour can have a completely different cause and yet experience the same joy. That which gives our lives meaning is something that we can only discover for ourselves.
So what is it about teaching that is so significant to me? First and foremost, I see something in each person I encounter which is great, though undiscovered. In over 30 years of teaching, I have never met a person who is not a gift to the world. Perhaps the greatest joy I experience is when I meet a former student who is now an adult. They are all doing amazing things, often things I would have never guessed; but, my vocation is not to guess, it is to inspire and empower.
Another reason why I find teaching so meaningful is that I know how important it is for good people to bring healing to a hurting world. My role is vital in letting others know, just as I have discovered, that there is great happiness in dedication to a cause greater than oneself.
As I've advanced in my career, I have been fortunate to be able to teach what is most meaningful and inspiring to me. Foreign languages, for example, open the world up to my students and promote global understanding. They also allow students to expand their reach in impacting the world, just as they have done for me.
I also appreciate the fact that I am given a great deal of freedom to teach topics that are of great interest to me. For example, in my Social Justice 12 class, we examine the most horrific violations of human rights the world has ever known, yet we see, as Gandhi stated, "the way of truth and love has always won... Think of it - always."
It then becomes our task to be the voice for this powerful message.
Looking back over decades of my career, I see how happiness and success are intertwined. I continue to find more opportunities to teach, often without consciously trying. Writing, for example, has allowed me to reach a far wider audience than I could ever contact within the walls of a school. I find tremendous joy in putting my ideas and my ideals in print, and I have watched my readership continue to expand.
The key then must be to find something to believe in, something which we know within the depth of our being will make a lasting, positive impact on the world around us. When we can find this something, the pursuit of which is coherent with our talents and interests, happiness and success are all that can ensue from our selfless efforts.
I am so fortunate to have found this something. I really do love being a teacher.
-- Gerry Chidiac is a champion for social enlightenment, inspiring others to find their greatness in making the world a better place. For more of his writings, go to www.gerrychidiac.com.