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HomeThey Ask Me Why I Teach

They Ask Me Why I Teach

They ask me why I teach
And I reply, “Where could I find more splendid company?”

There sits a statesman,
Strong, unbiased, wise,

Another later Webster
Silver-tongued.

And there a doctor
Whose quick, steady hand
Can mend a bone or stem the lifeblood’s flow.

A builder sits beside him —
Upward rise the arches of that church he builds wherein

That minister will speak the word of God,
And lead a stumbling soul to touch the Christ.

And all about
A lesser gathering
Of farmers, merchants, teachers,
Laborers, men

Who work and vote and build
And plan and pray into a great tomorrow.

And, I say,
“I may not see the church,
Or hear the word,
Or eat the food their hands will grow.
And yet — I may.

And later I may say,
“I knew the lad, and he was strong,
Or weak, or kind, or proud
Or bold or gay.

I knew him once,
But then he was a boy.

They ask my why I teach and I reply,
“Where could I find more splendid company?”

Reference

  1. Harmon, Glennice L., (September, 1948). They Ask Me Why I Teach, NEA Journal, 37, (1), 375.

NOTE

Glennice L Harmon captured the traditional optimism and satisfaction of teachers in her poem titled “They Asked Me Why I Teach.” Teachers and student teachers have recited and in other ways referred to these choices over the decades since its publication in 1948. It seemed an appropriate addition for Related Reading in Classic Education: A Learners’ View (ALV) of Choices during Teaching and Learning and in Teachers’ Mobile Reference: Guide to 1.0 Teaching. Harmon wrote this during an era when women who performed similarly to men were not always recognized in poems and prose, just as men were not always recognized who performed as did women. Today’s teachers recognize that men and women perform the tasks Harmon describes as being with “splendid company” and recognize that teachers of all faiths share the same optimism and satisfaction about teaching. Last Edited: May 28, 2015