All of these components make teaching a (mostly) rewarding job. But as I was thinking about what to write today, I realized that there was so much more to it than the intellectual parts. It is working with the students that makes teaching so very great.
The thing about working with students - particularly adolescents - is that you get to witness their best and worst selves. You see them when they are excited by a newly acquired skill or idea. You see them when they experience success. You see them when they forget their homework or fail a test. You see them set goals and work hard to attain them. You see them do careless things and then suffer through the consequences.
The truth is, few adults are this open about their success and failures. We hide our mistakes and pretend they didn't happen. Students don't have this luxury, and yet, they show up every day and are usually able to recover from setbacks. Certainly, we help them, but it is typically their own powers of determination and will that get them back on the right track.
Being able to witness - and sometimes take a small part - in this sort of redemption is pretty powerful. It is humbling and inspiring, no matter how messy or long the process of bouncing back takes. And if you pay attention in a classroom, it happens on a consistent basis. Mistakes are made. Sometimes the consequences are severe. But more often than not, students are able to reclaim their focus, salvage a bad day or triumph over a difficult problem. Being able to witness this every day - usually even before lunch - is the thing I love most about teaching.