Friday, November 03, 2006

Why I will go to work on Monday.

A student made me cry today. No, he wasn't mean to me. Although, that wouldn't be unheard of.
My first class of the day is a "general" English course. It's designed for students who did not pass English 9 the previous year, due to a variety of reasons. Sometimes the material was beyond them. Usually, however, it's behavioural issues. Non-attendance. Disruptive classroom behaviour. Not handing in any assignments. You know the type. I quite like this particular group. They are funny, creative, and they are never boring. The down side is they are loud, hard to motivate, and getting written work from them is like pulling teeth.
This morning during the class, one student wanted to chat. He was avoiding work, and quite possibly trying to suck up to the teacher. He asked me why I teach.
Why do I teach? How to explain that to a student. I told him I love teaching. It's what I do, and it has become part of who I am. I cannot imagine not teaching.
He looked around the room. M. was leaning back against the wall, trying to roll a cigarette without me noticing. K. was sleeping on his desk. Two girls were gazing into compact mirrors. J. was pacing, twitching, dying for the bell to ring so he could go for a smoke. D. was working on the assignment, but his head and foot were both bouncing in time with the music pouring through his headphones.
He looked back at me. "Even when it's like this? How can you not want to just scream at us on days like this? What's the point of trying to teach a bunch of potheads like us?"
I looked around. It wasn't as bad as I've seen it, but it certainly wasn't a serene, productive learning environment. I sighed, and told him "Once in awhile a kid gets it. Just suddenly, they learn something. It might only be a small thing, it doesn't matter. But if I know I've taught one person one thing, then it's worth it. And even when no one's listening, I know that somehow the words are getting in there."
He shook his head. "You teachers are fricken' nuts."
The bell rang, the hostages poured out of the room. I wished them all a good weekend, and went on with the day. Until 3:45. The last bus had left, the week was finally over. I was in my room marking when the chatty guy from first class tapped on the door. I expected a song and dance about how he'd hand in his work "next week, I swear, I have it done but it's in my locker/my house/the car". But instead, he said "Mrs. F.? Thank you."
"Thanks for what?"
"Thanks for teachin' us. Thanks for coming back every day, no matter how bad we are. Thanks for always thinking we can do it."
Then he wished me a good weekend, and loped off down the hall. After he left the tears came. I'm a softy that way, good thing he doesn't know. I can take the cursing, the late-arrivals, the aroma of pot every day. I understand the sighs and groans whenever I assign work that requires paper and pen. I can be authoritative, strict, the boss of the room. But a simple, unexpected thank you totally undid me this afternoon.
After I blew my nose, I fished out his journal and wrote him a note. "Today, YOU are the reason I teach."

25 comments:

Mary P. said...

Awww... I'm up late at night with the tedious beast Insomnia, but right now I'm glad I'm here, all teary-eyed with that lumpy feeling in the throat. What a terrific thing for that kid to do.

Tater and Tot said...

Came via Mary P. What an awesome story. I hope that that one thank you from this fellow makes up at least a little for the hundreds of thanks that you deserve, but don't get. Thanks for what you do - for giving these kids hope when so many tell them they are hopeless.

BeckaJo said...

Yes, yes yes. There is no other reason to teach. It's hard, the pay sucks, the disrespect is awful...it's those few students that make the difference.

Thanks for being a teacher.

Chatty said...

Aren't those moments great? They truly make all the other crap totally worth it. :)

Plain Jane Mom said...

What a great moment for you. And thank you so much for sharing it with us!

MiM said...

I'm a therapist for the same reason. I know not all my clients are going to "get it" and make changes. But if I can just help one person, then I'm satisfied.

Thanks for your story. It was a nice reminder for me!

Candace said...

That was wonderful.

Beth said...

You have such a talent for writing and for making me cry!!! Hope you don't mind, but I copied and pasted it to email to a couple of my friends who are teachers.

Katherine said...

I found my way here from Mary P. Wonderful post. My DH is a teacher.
I enjoyed reading a few months in your archives too.

Kristen said...

Mary P. sent me here - this was awesome. I wish I'd had more teachers like you.

lara said...

i also came via mary p. i'm a high school english teacher, too (well, in training to be - doing my student teaching now), and i totally relate. a few weeks ago, one of our more "at-risk" students came to ask me for advice, and in the course of talking to me about his problem, he said, "i trust you." i almost cried right there, hearing this big tough guy tell me he trusts me. those moments keep me going through the low points. thanks for sharing. :)

for what it's worth said...

Sounds like you made a terrific impact on that fella. And it may make such a difference in his life that one could never imagine. Well done! And enjoy work on Monday! ( I can hardly wait to have this surgery, get myself healed and back to class....)

The Teacher said...

Also, also from Mary P. Thank you so much for sharing this. I'm currently waiting on two different school boards to call me for an interview, and sometimes it's just SO HARD and I wonder if it's really what I want to do. That happened once or twice during my student teaching practicum in the spring.

Then something like this happened. Every time. It's like the universe was telling me to remember what I am.

Granny said...

Also came over from Mary P.

Lovely and a tribute to all overworked, underpaid and often unappreciated teachers everywhere.

Ann - CA, USA

wendy said...

what a gift you both gave each other! WOW. Good for you ! I know that moment when you see kid learn something right then and there it can be very powerful.
thanks for sharing that !

Anonymous said...

awww....tears in my eyes alright. Those are the kind of moments that keep you coming back alright.

Have you seen the movie Dangerous Minds? The teacher in that movie had a similar class.

kittenpie said...

Another Mary P referral...
I bet you have that kid's attention and respect for the rest of the year now. how great to leave him that note that will totally swell him up. Bet it's not what he hears too often.

debby said...

Okay..pass the tissues. THAT is why (despite everything) I have been in education for the past 22 years. Well said, my friend.

graceful said...

Oh....that even makes MY day and I'm not even a teacher! I know I don't have the patience to handle all that comes in a teacher's day. I adore all dedicated teachers like you!

KaY said...

that brought tears to my eyes ...

Gene Maudlin said...

this is such a nice day.....

Prego said...

Sh*t. I would have cried, too.

I have a joke I always tell my class.

"Have I told you guys today that I love you?"

"No," comes the chorus.

"Good. Because I don't!

Giggles always ensue.

Thanks for the story.
p

Bethany said...

Great post for me to read today... even made me want to cry. :-) It is ALWAYS nice to be thanked, isn't it?

Huerter0 said...

How perfect is that? His response, your response...it's all so amazing that these things come together.

gmanSet said...

Well, well, well.
That was so very heartwarming (*serious*)
Can I send it to other teachers that I know, who could use an encouraging story like this?
Please?