I am a little emotional today. I just came back from school. Having taught for many years in different classroom settings should have made me immune to the feelings that I am feeling today, but surprisingly they have not, and I think this is a good thing.
This has been a tough year, as I transitioned from a regular high school setting to alternative education. I experienced some pretty horrendous things during this time. However, I got a chance to work with some of incredibly smart students who, for some reason, were not motivated enough to be successful in a regular high school classroom. It was my job to get them interested in their education and working toward success by acquiring a high school diploma and setting some goals for rest of their lives. Of course, it was not an easy job, but it seemed that these were the kids who needed me the most.
It was a normal day at work. You know: grading, trying to get kids to do their work, yelling at them, laughing with them, having to move a few from their assigned seats because they were a little too chatty, and obviously getting frustrated because a few still needed to turn in their work despite the fact that finals are right around the corner. After having one-on-one’s to update all of them about their grades and missing assignments, I kept hoping that they would take advantage when I offered them that little extra time that some always need.
However, I’m not tired today, as I usually am after a day at work. That’s because today, my kids made me realize why I’m a teacher. I gave a pep talk to my graduating seniors at the end of the day, the same things all teachers tell their students all the time. I told them to believe in themselves and continue to pursue their dreams because they all have the potential and ability to make it in the world.
Ironically, the ones I had yelled at the most during the year, the ones that I thought hated me the most, were the ones who gave me big bear hugs and said goodbyes with huge tears in their eyes. It dawned on me that these kids were so grateful and emotional because I probably was that first person in their chain of frustrations that had not given up on them. I made them push themselves and work towards graduating on time. They reminded me that they were the ones I aspired to help when I started teaching all those years ago.
I’m sure you and all other teachers know that when an 18-year-old who is about 6 feet tall, gives you a bear hug, thanks you, and tells you that he is going to miss you with tears in his eyes, it can have a pretty emotional effect. I experienced that today, and I’m not tired. I’m feeling proud of myself, my students and all other teachers, because we all make a difference in the lives of young people who are going to run this country and world tomorrow.
Today, I’m proud and happy!
Arooj Syed teaches English and Social Studies in the Willow Glen Plus program. You can click here to learn more about the program.