Hi friends! It seems like I keep starting my posts by apologizing for not writing. Honestly, my career as a writer seems doomed before it even got started. Sigh. However, no use lamenting my lack of efficient time use…so I’ll just start.
As most of you know, I’m beginning my third year teaching in what we ex-pats lovingly call, “The Sandpit.” The funny thing is that it’s not particularly sandy where I am, (although lately it’s been SUPER dusty) and it is HUMID. Think the stickiest day ever in Houston, then multiply by a hundred or so, and you’ve got the weather right now in Abu Dhabi. That’s right, yuck! Weather notwithstanding, we are beginning another school year with new students, new teachers and some changes. That’s the one constant living here: change. You never really know what to expect, and in a way that’s kept me from becoming too comfortable and too complacent–but it’s also exhausting. The up, down, up, down, updownupdown roller coaster living can start to take its toll, that’s for sure. But for me, that’s when I dig in my heels, pull myself up, and force myself to keep going. I’m not going down without a fight.
So this year we are done with the co-teaching model. Thank goodness. That was rough! Man, if ever there was a time when I was ready to be done with this place, it was last year. But after seeing my students’ hopeful faces, after hearing their kind words of support, I just couldn’t go. After all, we teachers do the hard work we do for our students. They are the ones we get up for, prepare lessons for, agonize over, hope for…we teach because they come to our classes each day–some more willingly than others to be sure–but they are present. And we are present, and that very presence is what they count on. For many students, coming to school is the one consistent comfort in their lives. Think about that for a minute. Every year thousands of students leave chaotic homes–homes filled with abuse, poverty, and every kind of lack we can imagine, and they come to schools. These schools sometimes, all too often, mirror those homes. But, when they come into our classrooms, OUR rooms where we’ve spent hours preparing for THEM, that’s where the magic can happen. It becomes so much more than just a classroom–it becomes a haven for safety, for comfort, and for learning. We build, within our four small walls, a community of scholars. An arena where it is ok to make mistakes, where they will be built up, where they will feel encouraged, supported, where they MATTER. All of this is why we do the hard work of teaching.
I’m always so humbled and amazed at what I’m able to accomplish with students in the short time I’m with them. I feel proud and honored, too, especially later when they allow me to continue to be a small part of their lives. Recently I got to meet up with a former student in Paris. We were sitting outside in a little cafe right beside the Louvre (weird, right?), having a glass of wine, and the friend I was traveling with asked my student what I was like as a teacher. (Holding my breath) And his reply was this: She had big hopes for students’ lives. That I was one of the teachers who actually encouraged my students to go and do something with their lives. I smile. He didn’t say I was an amazing English teacher, that his life was forever changed from reading The Scarlet Letter. But he remembers my classes because there was an energy there where students knew that I believed in them…that I cared about them…and that I really wanted them to LIVE FULLY. Wow.
This year I will be teaching 3 classes. I will teach two 11th grade classes, and I am happy to report I’ll be moving up with one class of my girls from last year, so I’ll be teaching one 12th grade class well. As I embark on my 27th year, I want to remember why I do what I do. There are times, believe me, when I wonder WHY I do what I do. But running into a lovely young woman at a nail salon, here in Abu Dhabi, who tells me how happy she is beginning her time at university, and how she misses our times together in my class, or sitting outside a cafe in Paris, listening to a smart, funny, bright young man tell me about his life, about his plans, about his hopes…reminded me–it’s for THIS. And they say one person can’t make a difference…BAH!
Until next time friends. Keep doing what you’re doing. Dig in your heels. Do the hard work of your calling whatever that might be!
Next up on the blog: some traveling hints and tips. I’ll share some of my secrets for traveling and show you some of the places I visited this summer!