You know what I loved about teaching? It wasn’t the enormous salary or the fabulous overtime pay. It wasn’t the big clunky desk with the three stuck drawers, or the little bathroom that I shared with 25 other adults of both genders.
I didn’t love teaching because the 14 meetings a week were so riveting or because the sound of the copy machine was music to my ears. It wasn’t the 15 minute lunches eaten at my desk or the joy of lugging 20 pound curriculum boxes up and down stairs.
None of that was what kept me teaching for three decades.
I loved teaching because there is nothing as exciting as watching children discover their inner power. I loved being in the presence of children who were learning to stretch their tender wings. Watching them learn to take risks, to open themselves to the possibility of failure, to push themselves to take on challenges that loomed so large in front of them…those were the moments that made me catch and hold my breath. Those were the moments that brought tears to my eyes.
Children grow, and stretch and carefully inch their way into adulthood. They do it with joy and fear and a constant sense of wonder. When you are in the presence of children, you are filled with the sense of the possible.
In the past week, I have watched hundreds of children turn their rage and their grief into powerful action. The young people of Parkland Florida have humbled me and brought me to tears over and over again. They are articulate, using the force of all that emotion to perfectly express what so many of us have been feeling for years.
They are unfiltered, because they are honest. They don’t know how to twist the truth of what they lived. They don’t try. They lived through their worst nightmares, and they are determined to make us understand what that was like for them.
They are powerful. They believe that they can change the world, so they will. They are still innocent enough to believe that there is justice in this country, so I will believe that for them. They have faith that there is honor in those who sit in our seats of power. But they are wise enough to know that if that honor doesn’t shine at this terrible moment, those seats can be taken away.
Like every one of the children I taught, these young people humble me.
The future belongs to them, and they are beginning to understand that. The students of Parkland, Florida, the students of my home state of Massachusetts, the students in Newtown Connecticut…all of them lift me up. They give me the courage to stand beside them, to keep on fighting, to speak truth to corrupt power.
Children are what keeps this very sad, discouraged old teacher lady going.
Thank the good Lord in Heaven for kids today.