Sometimes you make me crazy, but more often, you make me a happier human being who really loves her job
Whenever I tell people I teach high school, they look at me with a mixture of confusion and wonder, as if I suddenly transformed from a forty-six-year-old woman in khakis to a chiseled Spartan soldier in sparkling regalia.
After this reflexive response, they usually add a Southern phrase of empathy or comfort, a line one might speak at an unexpected death or family tragedy such as “God bless you.” They follow with a hyperbolic statement such as “I could never do what you do." I respond as most educators do in the midst of required small talk; I smile, laugh, and say, “You gotta make a living, right?”
However, driving home this afternoon, my mind filled with snippets and fragments of a day in my classroom newly laid to rest. I suddenly felt the upwards tugging of my lips into a whisper of a smile. Granted, on many days this trip down memory lane is not quite so pleasant. Often it is filled with frustration, anger, sadness, disappointment or even, I am grieved to admit, a whisper of regret for choosing to continue in an occupation that costs so much to perform and pays so little back.
Nevertheless, on this particular drive, my thoughts wandered in a wonderful direction. I thought of one female student in my class whose energy reminds me of a sparkling, glowing ferris wheel. Then I thought of another child, a quiet fighter who refuses to take “B” for an answer. As images of these children flooded my mind, I was reminded why I love my job and its most valuable commodity-students.
This love letter is about them. It is my response to all those “Why do you do it?”s by unknowing adults, but more importantly, it is my anthem to all children great and wide who unknowingly made me fall in love with them.
The great Shakespeare asks, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate.” Well, googling temperament and finding it means “showing moderation or self-restraint,” I guess this line does not wholly describe what you are to me. As a matter of fact, my love for you springs from your inability to be temperate.
Your passions are the sails which oftentimes fling you hither and thither as you come into my classroom each day. Perhaps it is a broken heart which has steered your poor soul into a tempest. Maybe it is a burning desire or a crumbling family which you carry so heavily upon your shoulders.
Regardless of the winds which move your barge, I am mesmerized with the force of your feeling. Not yet beaten down into the numbness or weight that long years of logic and realism forge into a spirit, you are alive, truly alive, in each moment, whether it be pain or pleasure that kindles you into motion. That vitality seeps into my stagnant heart, filling it with the fires of ambition and, as Martin Luther King states, “the urgency of now.” You make me feel alive; I am helpless to resist your charms, and, for that, I am eternally grateful.
I love you for more than just the way you bring colors to my world; I love you for your honesty, your “realness,” your lack of pretention. The world is full of people who wear, as Paul Laurence Dunbar states, “the mask that grins and lies.” They cover their true identity with little white lies, eloquently phrased platitudes, and political correctness. You shine with authenticity, bravely wearing the badge of your own uniqueness.
Colors of the rainbow dance upon your hair, your thoughts neon billboards on the bland landscapes of life. You do not raise your hand to speak; your roar your opinions, your outlooks, with the confidence of a king and not the subtle hints of a coward. This is what makes me love you; you have a voice and are not afraid to use it.
I love you for what you do for me. You make me see the importance of my life, the purpose behind my profession. When I look in the mirror, I see your eyes looking back at me — the way you hang on my words when you are struggling for hope, the pauses you take when you are creating a new idea, or the simple silence of your thinking-that wonderful brain of yours widening and expanding, creating connections, becoming more fully the instrument it is supposed to be. This, for a moment, makes me a hero, a mentor, a VIP of the human race. It makes me feel beautiful, important, and vital. Sometimes, I love myself because you love me.
I love you because you notice me. You see me. All of me. You can tell when I am in conflict, when I am wavering, on the brink of hopelessness or frustration. You notice a new haircut, a foul mood, a crisis you cannot explain but you can feel, because we share our daily lives with each other. We are connected.
The short bouts of time we share together help you see me in all my complexity, just as I see you. Some days you tread softly. You sense that I need space, knowing intuitively that, for some unknown reason, I am in danger of falling off the deep end. You know when it is better to be silent, rather than pushing the boundaries of my emotions. Give and take; give and take. That is what we do daily, and you know innately when to do what. Just as I do.
We are souls in tune with the other, playing a minute by minute melody, changing instruments, volume, and pitch to create a masterpiece. This is our connection, our daily conversation, and it feels so easy.
I love you because you make me laugh; you help me lay down the heavy burdens of my existence, if only for a moment. You remind me that life is best lived sometimes in the now, in the glorious seconds of mirth, the moments where a smile or chuckle can ease the enormity of human responsibility.
You remind me that happiness is not an option; it is a necessity of the human spirit. By breathing, by taking a moment to see the less serious side of the human condition, you help me recover my balance in a world that seems far too serious and too demanding. Your words? "Let's watch a video," or “Can we color?” You help me see that sometimes we all need a breather, a break from a world that takes, takes, takes, and never gives back. You remind me to relax and put things into perspective. I take your advice and feel happy, even though a minute ago, a smile seemed impossible.
I love you because I forgive myself through your lives. I see the scared, timid soul I use to be, and the strong soul I am now. I realize that time is a teacher and that growth comes through mistakes, not perfection. Fail big, I tell you. You have the rest of your lives to play it safe, to conform. I realize that I am like you, trying to move forward on my stairstep of dreams.
Through your mistakes and hesitations, I see my own life, my own battles with insecurity and stagnation. We are all, as writer Henry Wadsworth Longfellow writes, “ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing.”Your hopes and dreams echo my hopes and dreams; your struggles illuminate my struggles, and sometimes we gain comfort in knowing our journeys are the same.
Separated by years and experiences, we work together to gain understanding, to exert some control over a world that seems chaotic and illogical. We are connected by our desires and by our need for direction. We are partners, comrades, searching life’s caverns to find a map that will help us find our place in this riddle of a universe.
Teacher and student. Mentor and mentee. We are inseparable. Together we create a love story.
Thank you for the many gifts you give me daily. Thank you for the way you help me realize life is an amazing journey, a path we all wander through with amazement and anticipation. You are my hope, my dreams, and my purpose. I love you!
You teacher and your student,