I decorate my English classroom with quotes--some crudely done. Correction: most are crudely done. On half of a white poster board, hand-written in purple marker, is one of my favorites from Atticus Finch:
"I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do."
This quote hangs above my computer. Karl, a kid who repeated seventh grade last year, and who many accuse of being apathetic toward school, came back to have me sign a pass today. We are reading short stories, connecting them to hero myth structure, considering heroism on a daily basis right now, so the room is quiet and the questions are deep.
After I signed his pass, he didn't take his planner back right away. He stood staring at the poster, reading it slowly. I watched his eyes. He looked at me when he finished and said, in a dazed sort of way, "That's awesome."
We talked for a few moments about To Kill a Mockingbird, he went on his way, and I looked out at the thinkers in my class trying to become the best humans they can.
This is why I teach.