As I was laying in bed trying to decide what to set up in my classroom the next time, I started to wonder: What is the point?
This year has been so heart wrenching, I have started to lose faith in my role as a teacher. Why do I do this? How much do I actually affect the lives of these children? Sure, I spent 8-5 with them, five days a week…but that is temporary. How much can I actually help them in the long term?
I actually don’t think teaching is the most important job. In fact, if I had it my way, there wouldn’t be a need for teachers at all. That idea isn’t a new one for me, but I always saw it as a flaw in a larger system, and I was helping pick up the slack. Children rarely have one, never mind two, parents who they can rely on for consistent care – so here I am, helping them build a strong foundation.
But really, aren’t I just a part of that system? I’m not sure. Nevertheless, those were my night time ponderings.
I babysit a child that was in my class last year every week. It has been really wonderful getting to continue to watch her grow, start school, experience new conflicts and make new friends. Every time I pick her and her sister up from the bus stop we walk back to their house and they tell me all the things they didn’t agree with, didn’t like, don’t understand, or really loved ( but usually the latter).
L told me that a boy was lying to her because boys can’t control themselves because their cells are built differently, and we had a wonderful conversation about testosterone, and the myth of ‘boys will be boys’. O told me her teacher punished the class for not listening by skipping their math lesson – and we talked about if those two things correlated and what O thinks she could have done instead.
This walk always helps brighten my day, after what is always a hard day at work.
O was a part of my project work group last year that explored expressing emotions through various art mediums. She painted her saddest memory, not being able to climb tall trees. She painted beautiful purple trees.
We walked together past a coffee shop that for a few months had displayed the project works art work. We reminisced on their work and she giggled before admitting, “You know, I never told you this but…the trees weren’t actually purple. That was just my best color. They were actually brown.”
When we were at the library another child also from our project work group happened to be at the library with her father. She ran up and gave us both a huge hug and we spent the next hour reading books together. When she had to leave, O whispered sort of to herself, “Oh I love her so much.”
I don’t know why I do this. I don’t know how much of a difference I actually make. I don’t know if I am simply perpetuating a system I wish didn’t exist. I don’t know.
I do know that for now, I am a part of these children’s lives, and I will make the best of it. I can give them good memories, first best friends, and someone to talk to that will truly listen to them – even if it is temporary.
Maybe all I am is a memory – if so, I’ll make them good ones.