After two months of teaching in the Samoan classroom, I shed my first tears at school the other day. However, they weren’t tears of frustration or sadness, they were tears of happiness.
For reasons I can’t discuss in this blog, one of my year 7 students missed three weeks of school, and left me wondering about him each day. Wednesday was his first day back at school and he came into my class with a smile I’ll never forget. I could tell he was excited to be back, and maybe even excited to learn.
We were talking about verbs that day and I had the students play “verb bingo” by looking for the verbs on the grid as I called out the different words. When the bell rang for lunch, I had the kids give me their bingo chips and boards as I walked around to their seats. When I got to the boy’s seat who had been gone, he handed me his papers, looked straight into my eyes and said "thank you" with a huge smile on his face. He reached his hand out to shake mine and I started getting tears in my eyes. I said "your welcome" and told him he was doing a good job. He was the last one in the room and before he left, I had to go to the corner and face away from him so he wouldn’t see me crying. He said, “have a nice day.” I managed to respond to his polite comment and told him to have a nice day as well.
At that point, for the first time since being in this country, I truly realized what my purpose is here. I felt as though I had been lifted out of this fog and could see my future here so much more clearly. This student’s simple remark of “thank you” and the smile that came with it, made all the hardships of the past six months worth it.
My mom has been a teacher for 30 years and my sister for nine years. I’ve heard them tell countless stories over the years of those students who said or did the most amazing things that reminded them why they love teaching. It’s not a job they took for the summer vacations or snow days, it’s a job they took to change a child’s life. After all these years of hearing their stories and not completely being able to relate to them, today I’m happy that I can.
The next day that is challenging, frustrating, and leaves me wondering what I’m doing here, I hope I can remind myself the way I felt this week and the way I made that boy feel after his time in my class.