Once a day, I find myself browsing the Cosmopolitan section on SnapChat. I am not looking for advice on how to lose a guy in ten days, or even how to snag a guy for that matter. I look because sometimes they have interesting articles. One of the articles recently was about a college professor and fourteen things she learned about teaching at the college level. At first I didn’t think I would take anything from it considering I’m a high school teacher, but I read it anyways because as a teacher I look for advice or “wisdom” from my colleagues no matter what grade they teach.
As I suspected, I scrolled down each number on the list nodding here and there–stopping to roll my eyes and revel at the fact that even at the college level it’s a mission to get students to be as passionate as you are about the subject you’re teaching. When I thought I had reached the end with no “a-hah!” moment where the clouds part and God’s light shines through to pour all his glorious wisdom on me, I was ready to call it cosmo-quits for the day. And then POOF! There it was, #14. I read it slowly, and then again, and then again, and then one more time. I have read it five times since reading this blog because I could have not said it better myself. #14 is the reason I am a teacher. Students are f**king awesome and I wish they would realize it as much as I do. I wish I knew how awesome I really was in high school. I wish I had a magical magnifying glass that allowed me to focus in and magnify all the super bad-ass traits my students display on a daily basis.
My students restore my belief in humanity when all else seems lost at times. It’s not because they bought tickets to Lenny’s upcoming theatrical performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Exam” to show him support. It’s not because despite their physical and personality differences they still interact, laugh, and tolerate one another. It’s not because on Vicente’s own birthday he brought cookies for his classmates. It’s not because Anas, who is a former student from Afghanistan, was applauded for his brilliant and hilarious speech about fast food “death meals” instead of being berated for the fact his nationality happens to belong to a country we are not in good relations with currently. No, it’s none of those things. It’s because in the best and the most difficult students I have, I see through them and I see into their beautifully engulfed and radiated souls that are so full of life.
Now that I look back, I can’t believe I was so engrossed with people that never meant that much to begin with. Don’t get me wrong, I will never deny the love I had for my ex-boyfriend of four years. The love I had for him (and the tiny bit I will always hold for him) does not compare–or even come close–to the love and compassion I feel for my students. Nothing would make me happier than seeing all my students become successful by living the life they’ve always wanted. I had another brief romantic fling and we never saw eye to eye when it came to the world. Where I practiced empathy, he practiced detachment. I’m not at all accusing him of being heartless, but his career revolved around sins, evils, and criminals. I have to believe this undoubtedly affected his outlook on people and humanity. When I said that I would have no problem giving up my life for my students in the face of danger, he adamantly argued with me that in a “fight or flight situation” I would act differently… that my life might be more important than my students so I wouldn’t be willing to sacrifice myself to spare them. In the bottomless pit of love that is my heart, he is wrong. I know without a doubt that I would sacrifice myself for my students on any given day. First off, I have lived much longer than them. Secondly, who is to say my life at any point is worth more than theirs? Thirdly, I got into this profession because I genuinely care about kids. My only request would be that they live one hell of a life if I die for them and that they do good every day.
I would hope that I would never have to be put in that type of situation and if I could somehow protect my students from all the dangers of the world I would, but I can’t. Just like ducklings that follow along until they are ready to go on their own, I can only guide my students until their ready to move on to something greater. I hope my students will find some comfort that in the times where they feel lost, hopeless, worthless, or unloved, that there is at least one person who loves, cares, and supports them at any time, on any day, and with no judgement.
The last sentence in #14 is that my students give my life meaning and they most certainly do. Now all I can ask is that they find a passion that will give their life meaning too, whatever that might be.