Sometimes I get really tired of my job. I mean, I love teaching, but sometimes I am just so incredibly tired of making copies, alphabetizing worksheets, dealing with friendship dramas, keeping track of permission slips, worrying about art projects……
Sometimes I just feel depleted, and I start to wonder, “Why do I bother?”
Then I have a day that reminds me of exactly why I do bother. A day like today.
I have a student who is a whirling dervish of charm and energy and need and nerves and joy. She makes my head spin. She is literally incapable of walking; she flits and she zooms and she scampers. No matter what I say, she simply cannot walk. Sometimes that makes me scream. But sometimes it makes me chuckle. Today I was feeling weary and worn, as I gave my class some directions. My little roadrunner immediately jumped up and tried to sprint to the door. But as she flew across the room, she suddenly crashed right into me. We both staggered, and I drew in a breath to reprimand her. Before I could find the words, though, she threw both arms around me, sent out a delighted peal of laughter, and shouted, “I KNEW you needed a hug!”
She is why I bother.
Another one of my students is sad, withdrawn, often quiet to the point of silence. I have to work hard every day just to get him to raise his hand, even though I know how smart and thoughtful he is.
Today we had a mid-year conference, and he showed me his student portfolio. He talked about his work, and then, completely out of the blue, he began to talk about last April 15th, when he went to see the Red Sox play at Fenway Park. He told me how he walked out of the ballpark with his mother and sister, hoping to find a place to eat. Instead, they found themselves running with the crowd of terrified people, away from the site of the Boston Marathon bombing that had just happened just a few blocks away. My little student spoke quickly and quietly, with an intense maturity that belied his tender age. He told me that his family was at first confused, then afraid. His Mom speaks little English, so the responsibility of finding a safe route home fell onto his fragile shoulders. He spoke softly, describing his desire to keep his family safe, trying to find a way out of the city, trying to find a place to be safe.
He talked to me about the dreams that he has had since that day, wondering “What would happen to me if I was there, if I was closer.” I told him that I was sorry for what he had been through. I told him that he was one of the bravest people I know. I didn’t mention the country that he left behind to come here, or the struggles that he and his family have faced since then. But I held his hand, and I told him that he was strong, and brave and a person to be admired. He didn’t smile. But his dark eyes held onto mine, and his hand responded to my grasp. He nodded, looking so much older than he is. “Yes,” he said, “I am very brave.”
He is exactly why I bother.