" TEAAAAAAAAAAAACH-ER….Teaaaaaaaaaach-er…." I will never forget that cry. When I was 19 years old, I volunteered to be a substitute teacher at a modest school. I won't tell you how the students drove me insane…how I'd scream and rant to no avail. And I won't tell you how in spite of it all, I loved them. I won't even tell you how I cried the day they told me they didn't need me anymore; they'd found a teacher. What I will tell you is that I went there to teach sixty fourth graders, but to be honest, I think they were the ones who taught me.
Take the time I decided to do a "spot check" to see who had brought her book. I had my grade book with me as I went around and around the class. I was on a roll, and then I found her. As far as I could tell, she hadn't been bringing her book the entire week. Pure laziness, I thought. Well, she'd just have to learn that it was inexcusable. And so I asked her in my firm teacher voice, "Where's your book? Why haven't you been bringing it?" Her answer infuriated me." I don't have one." " Well, why not?" I challenged her back; I was not going to be taken advantage of. I might have been young, but I knew the tricks. As she cast her eyes downwards, and she fidgeted in her chair, I knew why not. And my cheeks burned with shame. The book was literally a mere twenty Dirhams… the cost of lunch at the cafeteria. For her family, though, it wasn't an option. I put my grade book away. And I learned the meaning of compassion.
Another day, I saw one of my students walking in the hallway. I remembered I hadn't seen her the day before. Asking her why she'd been absent out of politeness, I was horrified at her trembling voice. Her eyes watered and she looked at ME for guidance. "My sister is in the hospital. Something is really wrong, and the doctors can't figure it out". The words came pouring out of her mouth. I was speechless. I found myself thinking you never know what's happening with your students; students have their own worries and troubles. And I learned the meaning of sincerity.
One girl had really been frustrating me. Even though she sat in the front seat, she would literally stand a foot away from the blackboard every time I would write something. She'd stand up and walk toward it. I couldn't understand why she thought it was acceptable to stand in class. Again and again, I'd tell her to sit down and copy from her seat. " Can’t you see from your seat?" I'd scold her. I just couldn't concentrate with her standing next to me, putting her paper on the blackboard and copying. That is until I realized something. An idea began to grow in my mind, and I asked her if she could see from her seat again. Only for the first time, I really asked her why she wouldn't sit in her seat. And when she told she couldn't see, I really listened. I understood. She needed glasses, which were probably too expensive for her. She'd just have to stand. That day, I learned what it means to listen.
Not wanting to fall into the trap of reading everything myself, I thought it would be fun for the class if I called on students to let them read. I called on a few eager girls, and sat down, relieved to have a chance to catch my breath. But then the fighting began. Each girl was adamant she would read the first paragraph. I couldn't have the girls all reading the same part so I insisted that each read the paragraph I assigned for her. One girl came to me and said, "But Miss, I haven't prepared that part." I said, "Don't worry. I'll help you out on the big words. You can do it." She was a fourth grader, after all. Still, she repeated "I didn't prepare that part. I prepared the first paragraph." I felt a sick feeling in my stomach, and I asked her what she meant by "preparing". "I only memorized the first paragraph. I didn't memorize the one you chose", she said. She couldn't read. Unfortunately, she wasn't the only one. There were girls in that class who couldn't' read the word "the" properly. I learned that day that the cost of a teacher failing is too high for students to pay.
Sincerity, compassion, listening, and work ethic...these are only a few lessons my students taught me. Every day I saw them, they opened my eyes to something new. They never scolded me… never lost patience with me…never intimidated me. They were the best teachers any student could ever wish for.
P.s. Sarira Number 2 has joined and is now a permanent author in this blog (Yayness)- so now you actually don't know who wrote what, LOL.
P.s.s. Please check out my friend oldie goldie's blog. I convinced her to make it public (LOL, I'm giving myself all the credit). It's really great. She's from Finland. Now how many Finnish people have you met? ;) It's http://oldiegoldietheyoungones.blogspot.com/