I was a teacher. I loved it. I quit.

What inspired me to become an educator, what pushed me out of the classroom, and where Ms. Fab is heading next.

I started teaching because I strongly believe in the power of lifelong learning. Nurturing children’s natural love for learning seemed like a worthy goal, I thought, yet I grew frustrated within a broken system that does exactly the opposite. What follows is what inspired me to become an educator, what pushed me out of the classroom, and where I’m heading next.

My enthusiasm for teaching started at a young age. I was a curious kid who could talk for hours about my musings. I loved learning new things and had a natural way of explaining them in ways that captured people’s attention. As I grew older, I realized that my enthusiasm for learning was contagious. To share my passion with others, I decided to become an educator.

Through Ed School I gained hard skills and hands-on experience. Learning to teach children with varying capacities and needs wasn’t easy. By age 23, I had my own classroom, where I focused on stressing the value of education and the importance of lifelong learning. I knew that if I succeeded in instilling a love for learning, academic success would follow.

In my classroom, I created a student-centered environment that made it easy to want to come to school everyday. I pushed my students to seek their own interests and explore their passions, even when this meant deviating from the curriculum. I tried to be flexible, providing choices so that my students felt empowered over their learning. My hope was that they would continue to carry this passion for education through the rest of their lives.

To my surprise, as students moved on to the next grade, some got less interested in school and forgot the joy of learning. Many stopped taking risks and asking questions, and others began to dread things they used to love like reading and writing. It seemed like a common trend, even for students who moved on to good teachers in middle and high school. Why had my students lost their interest in learning?

Young children are curious and have a built-in desire to learn. As they get older and enter school, learning becomes forced. Students have no choice in the subjects, the pace, or the way lessons are presented. They enter a system that leaves little room for choice and exploration. No wonder they lose interest!

I started questioning our education system and my role in it. How can students be self motivated to learn if they are not given the opportunity to explore their curiosities or the things that excite them? How can teachers cultivate in students a love for learning that lasts forever, when they are forced to teach a one-size-fits-all curriculum that rewards grades and standards over creativity and choice? Pondering through these questions, I decided to reevaluate my role as an educator, and I left the classroom in search for new approaches to teaching and learning.

We need a system that links success to self-directed learning and creative exploration. One where students spend less time inside classrooms and more time exploring their interests. One where the teacher’s role is to spark curiosity and provide the tools that guide students to carve their own paths. One where students embrace their own education and growth. A system where children want to learn because they understand the value of education and the importance of lifelong learning and not because they need to pass a test.

I believe - today more than ever - in the power of lifelong learning, and I’m ready to explore alternative approaches to teaching that will make children lifelong learners. While I left the classroom, I’m still a teacher, and I plan to be for the rest of my life.

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Ana Lorena Fabrega