Friday, November 20, 2009

This Is Why I Do It

Yeah, this is going to be another "this is why I teach" stories. For those of you who don't cotton to those kinds of stories, just keep moving -- nothing to see here.

In the teaching world, some days are better than others. For every high of a class groaning when the bell to end class rings because they don't want the class to be over (yeah, that's happened to me), there is a low of a kid calling you a "bitch." There are days when I come home riding a natural high that comes from feeling like I'm truly making a difference, and there are days when I come home in the pits of despair, sure that I am failing my students. There is a lot about teaching that can be frustrating -- the miles of paperwork, the apathy of students, the ridiculous demands of parents, the lack of administrative support, the lack of funds to really do what you'd like to do in class.

And yet I admit that I wake up just about every day excited to go to work. (That's my big secret. And I should insert here the caveat that I am excited about going to work NOT about getting up at 5:45 to do so. I've long said that if my job could start at, like, 9:00 or 10:00 in the morning, it would be absolutely perfect.) When it comes right down to it, I made the decision to go into teaching because I wanted to help kids become better people. I saw teaching as my own little contribution to save the world.

This brings me to yesterday. I had a very long (but good) day at work. My freshmen are digging Romeo and Juliet, my Drama class has discovered the joy of Oscar Wilde, and my speech class was having fun with the challenge of creating speeches discussing the denotative and connotative meanings of the words of their choice. Add to that a pretty productive round of speech team practice after school, and I was feeling in the zone.

Who knew it would actually get better?

I got home, crawled into a pair of pajamas, and hit Facebook. There, on my profile page, was a message from a former student. Natalie graduated several years ago, but Facebook has allowed me to keep in touch with students like her. They find me and add me -- my policy is to turn none of them down. Over the past couple weeks, she's had a rough time as she was facing the likelihood that her college career was about to come to a halt because of financial problems. I had sent her encouraging messages, knowing how disappointed she must be but trying to remind her to hang in there. I knew she had been doing so well in college (and had been a strong student when I had her), so I sensed that compounded her frustration and grief as she realized all that she stood to lose. It was one of those times when I wished I had this huge amount of expendable cash to just send her, but, well, we all know how poorly teachers are paid.

Anyway, Natalie's wall post last night was one of those reminders for me that it isn't about the money. She wrote me to thank me and tell me how much she appreciated all she'd learned in my classes, how those skills have served her so well in college. It was a very simple, honest post, but it meant the world to me. Later that evening, I saw a status update from Natalie telling her friends that a grant had come through and that she would NOT be dropping out after all.

And that is why I do this.


Danielle Mari said...

Tears. Thanks Mel. I love you.

NICKI said...

I think I should look up some of my old teachers on facebook...I appreciated them so little when I was in the classroom.