Wednesday, March 10, 2010
What we give each other
When we teach, we find our voice with our students. Stories are woven into our lessons. Somebody laughs. Another person shares a perspective, a drawing, a thought. We grow together as a community as we live in four cinder block walls amid the art we create. That beautiful poster from last year has to stay up. We know the smile of the Flamenco dancer as she twirls in infinite space. The basket of markers on top of the filing cabinet is a comfort to us, bright colors that express our feelings across the page.
As we live together in this classroom, we create the courage to speak. A student says: "I don't think that test was fair." We say, "Why not?" and listen. We learn something more about our students. They learn that we have ears to hear. Trust blooms and even the shy student, who digs little furrows with a pen in her black and white composition notebook, is with us. Her eyes are connected, but soon the words will flow, one at a time until she can speak her mind. If you build it, they will come.
But what happens next is a surprise. These connections we have made with the students have given us strength. Energy moves around the room and intensifies the power of each person. We take their stories home with us when the day ends. We hope that they do well in the game, the piano recital, at their older sister's wedding. We want to see pictures of how the tux ended up fitting or how the gown, dripping with lace and tiny beads, looked at the prom.
When we teach, we find our hearts growing bigger. The profession heals because it teaches you to care deeply and then let go, hope for the best, remember.
Years ago I read Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha. I remember the ferry boat driver whose life was spent going back and forth as he got older and older. As a young woman, I thought, "What's the point?" but now I know. That ferry boat driver is a part of the lives of all he touches and they are part of him. He must accept that all things must pass because his life is lived on the rushing water.
On graduation day, every year, I think of that guy. The empty hallway is my river. I go back to my classroom and put a few things away, smiling at a hand made card someone has left on my desk. It is hastily done in a red crayon and has a drawn heart with my teaching name, "Maestra." I feel a tug. "Let go," I say, "we are at the shore."