Ah, the first day of school, the start of my career. For some teachers, it is a day they dread – it is the epitome of controlled chaos, and what may go wrong probably will. But for me, it was a day I have waited for. Finally, I was going to receive 120 kids of my own with 120 different personalities, 120 hormonal kids with 120 ridiculous attitudes. But, it is 120 chances to do something great in this world. And within the first two months, it took just one to remind me of my worth, my purpose, and to remind me that someone needs me…
On the first day of school, I called out every short boy in my classes. I asked them to stand up, and told the rest of the class, “If these boys are ever bullied, you will have me to deal with. The short guys are my best friends.” I remembered how it was to be bullied, and had no one to back me up. At a time where these kids are simply trying to find themselves, there is no need for them to be bullied. They need to have a fighter, someone behind them, someone to pick them up when they get knocked down. That person was going to be me.
And then there was little Pedro Rojas – the short shy kid in class that is dreading my speech class because he has to talk in front of people he does not know, all of who are taller than him. (By the way, I teach middle school – 12, 13, 14 year olds.) I could already see it in his face…he already hates this class and he hates me. But what little Pedro Rojas does not know is that I already picked him to work on for the entire semester. My goal with little Pedro Rojas was to get him out of his shell. And in just two short months, I was successful, and little Pedro Rojas has turned into one hell of a talker. I may have created a monster. But his mother didn’t not think so.
When little Pedro Rojas was going to possibly be changing electives, little Pedro Rojas’ mom threw a fit. For days, little Pedro Rojas’ mom was trying to get ahold of me. “Why me,” I thought. After some days, we were finally able to talk…
“Mr. Cabrera,” she said. “I want Pedro to stay in your class.” I smiled. “Why Mrs. Rojas?”
And this is my first teacher’s moment: “Every day Pedro comes back from school, he tells me what he has done in your class. I can see a change in him. He is so excited and happy and talkative. But ever since he told me he may be switching to LOTC, his attitude has changed. He has become grouchy. I think he felt he needed to switch because his dad was in ROTC. He tells me that he is scared to switch. But he says that you are teaching him not to be scared anymore.”
Teachers do not go into teaching for the money, or the summer vacation, or even the job security it may have once been. We go into teaching for the moments, the internal gratification that only teachers know. That I now know. My students may never know how bad I was two months ago. Because to them, teachers have no lives. Nevertheless, it may be an unfair burden to place on my kids, but they have pulled me through the worst time in my life. And wither they may ever know it or not, from my little mentee, to the kid who is known for being troubled yet gives me the upmost respect, to the girl who tells me all about her boyfriend, seemingly looking for my approval, they pulled me through. And little Pedro Rojas may never know it, but he gave me my first teacher’s moment, and I gave him the ability to be fearless.
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” – William Arthur Ward
Always remember to be the change you wish to see in the world…