Snow day #8: A reflection on teaching

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Last week, I stayed late at school to work on the newspaper with the kids. Around 3:30, a former student came to see me. The last time I saw her, she'd been arrested for possession of heroin. We spent a lot of time together talking about her best course of action, and I encouraged her to keep writing, because she told me it was the only time she felt sane. She let me read a lot of her writings, and although they were so tragic, her writing is absolutely beautiful. Despite promising me she'd show up for the rest of the year, she stopped coming shortly thereafter. I hadn't heard from her since. 

So, last Wednesday, she came to see me and tell me about her life. She's back on track and completed her GED and enrolled in beauty school. But more than that, this week marks five months COMPLETELY clean and sober for her! I couldn't be more proud, and practically tackled her with a hug. 

We kept talking, and she told me that the hardest part is that it doesn't get easier. She said people keep telling her that it'll get easier every day, but that it's not... it's not easier yet. I told her that one day, she will wake up, and using won't be the first thing she thinks about. She started crying and said she tells herself that all the time, and I was the first person to verbalize it back to her. 

It was the most perfect reminder that there is a real reason that I teach. Do I love English and passing that love on to my students? Absolutely. Do I love showing the world to others via journalism and the media? Of course. Do I love working with my honors students? YES! 

But I also love the not so great parts of teaching. I had no idea where this student was before last week, and although I thought about her from time to time, I had no idea what was going on with her. But the fact that she felt comfortable enough to come back and tell me about her life and her achievements speaks volumes to me. 

We don't do it for the money. We don't do it for the fame. We do it because maybe one day we're going to say the right thing to the right kid and make an actual difference in their lives, and whether they come back to tell us about their lives or not, we've helped change them for the better. 

THAT is why I teach. 


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