I am a teacher. It is, much of the time, a thankless, challenging, frustrating, and maddening profession. I spend my day trying to teach children to comprehend everything they read, to analyze it, to turn it into something else, and to create new ideas based on what they learn. I spend my day trying to teach them how to write legibly, understandably, and cleverly. I spend my day trying to teach them to treat each other, me, and themselves with respect. Basically, I spend my day bashing my head into the figurative wall and asking myself, "why, why, why do I do this?!?" Because, much of the time, nobody cares about what I am trying to teach them. Nobody cares about respect. Nobody cares about figurative language or essays or Stephen Crane. As school ended yesterday, all I could think of was how frustrating this year was. All I could think about was that I didn't accomplish my goals with my students- I spent the year trying to get them to sit down and keep their hands to themselves for just ten minutes. I felt overwhelmed. Incompetent. Angry. Frustrated. I didn't want to live through this hell again. What did I get from it? What good did I do? And I remember sitting down last night thinking how thankful I was that the year was over. I was so thankful for a respite from the difficulties.
And then today happened.
I came home from work and found, amidst the junk mail, an envelope with just my name, and in the corner, the name of one of my students. I recognized her unmistakable handwriting, and as I walked up my driveway, I began to read her letter. In her letter, she told me how much she appreciated me. How much she learned from me. How much she enjoyed my class. How much I helped her to understand about literature. How I made her want to try harder. How she wanted to come to my class. How she will miss me. Before I knew it, I was standing in my driveway with tears coursing down my cheeks. Happy, beautiful tears of success and joy.
And in that few minutes, she changed my entire year. Every bad day- erased (well, at least smudged mostly out). Every difficult kid I couldn't reach- okay. Because I helped one child. Because I touched one life. Because one person that came through my classroom left it a better person because of me. It was all worth it. All of it.
And so tonight, I sit with a light soul and full heart.
I became a teacher because I had this idealistic belief that "if I could change just one life, it will all be worth it." After years of teaching, I realized this may not be a possibility. Today, I know it is. For this student has inspired me to continue, to push on, to face the challenge. She has taught me a lesson I tried to teach her class all year long. Never give up. The one thing that can never be taken from the human race is hope. And as my own faith and belief in myself waned, this child proved to me that I had only to reach into my mailbox to find a ray of hope.
My very favorite poem comes to mind:
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.