19 July, 2007

Matej

His eyes were an emerald green - bright and yet cold. His black hair was often unruly with a part in the front that would drift into his eyes. He was small, skinny, and had eyelashes that women would pay large amounts of money to possess. He was beyond energetic to the point that I am still not sure that he was not taking something. he was funny, obnoxious, lively, and dangerous. The child was 11 years old and learning how to be a "bad boy" in a new world. I sometimes wonder what happened to him.

Teaching is one of the most difficult professions and yet, probably one of the more rewarding. I learned, in a very short period of time, that this was one profession that I could not do well.

The boy described above was one of my students. I, like a few Americans, went to the Eastern block after the Wall came down to experience the world that had been closed to us for so many years. I embraced that opportunity even though I did not speak the language and had never wanted to visit this country. Let's not forget that, other than working in a few summer camps, I had no teaching experience whatsoever. My idea of teaching consisted of lectures, office hours, and students who were paying to learn - not those who would happily drop a pencil or two to get a glimpse of my cleavage.

After a year of teaching I learned that there was another reason I could not be a teacher - my heart. I grew to honestly and genuinely care about my students.

I taught in a private school - these were the wealthy kids. The purpose of my position was simply to speak English. hey, no problem there. My grandmother ensured that I could speak English as grammatically correct as she could manage. (Incorrect speech is a genetic pet peeve I think as my entire family is very big on proper use of the language). I was well equipped for this job. I was not prepared for the cultural differences between these kids and their American peers.

Many American kids question anything and everything. They test their boundaries and explore their freedoms and limitations. (In my experience, not all are like this, I realize) My students did not. In the classroom they were amazingly well behaved. They did not question authority, did not ask questions outside of those that were meant to put me on the spot... "What is...dildo?" (Boys are the same, wherever you go!)

This was my first experience with people who "accepted" rather than discussed, questioned, and protested. It was my first opportunity to truly understand the differences between the world in which I lived and that of others. Everything was drab in color, dusty in texture, and sad. People looked at nothing and yet saw everything on the bus. No one spoke. People wore the same clothes every day of the week. Malnutrition was evident. This was a world caught between the East and the West. Within the year I was there, it would join the West by leaps and bounds. I probably would not recognize the city today.

The green eyed boy was different. He was the bad boy. He was "cool." It didn't take him very long to work his way into my heart. I never truly knew his story - suspected that he was exposed to far more than any 11 year old child should be - but never truly knew. he was passionate, alive, and bright and yet just a kid who sometimes looked like he had no where to go.

I wish I knew what happened to him. I hope that everything turned out okay, though at the time... well, I didn't thick that it would. Those green eyes would haunt me. How can one teach a class each year, give their hearts to each child in some way, and then let them go never knowing how their lives unfolded. I hope that someone helped this child; I hate not knowing.

And thus my teaching career ended. I became too emotionally involved. I wanted to help and knew that there was nothing that I could do. I wanted to tell this kid that there was so much out there for him. He had the brains and the charm to truly do something with his life... and yet, I don't know if he did.

I look at the Diva. Her teachers and I speculate on what she will be one day. I like to believe that the American dream exists and that she will be able to follow her passions and fulfill her dreams.

That is what I wanted for my students. That is what I wanted for those green eyes - a chance to fulfill dreams.

7 comments:

Scotty said...

I have always thought that teachers are very under appreciated..

Leiselb said...

Oh I love this post...you paint a very poignant picture....

The Exception said...

Scotty - I have the greatest respect for them especially having tried it. I can't help but allow my heart to get too involved with some of them. A good teacher I am not.

LeiselB - Thanks - he was quite the kid - it was quite the year and the experience changed my life in so many ways.

Ba Doozie said...

this is how I feel about social work, I don't think I can do this without becoming too attached to kids

'liya said...

Oh wow...

I found my way here from Ruby's blog.

I finished my first year teaching this year and I understand what you're saying .. my students were awesome (they sound like your American students but also a mix of your other students) and I felt like my heart was often getting too involved too. Although I didn't teach overseas (from this post I'm assuming you did), I found it very hard even to just let go of the students I had semester one and then switch to a brand new semester. It really is hard letting go especially when you've had such a good effect on them...

I loved reading this post, it was so beautifully written :) You say your teaching career is over? - I think it's just beginning! Who says a good teacher has to be one who doesn't let his/her heart get involved?! Those are the best teachers I had.

(sorry for the long comment)

Seven Seas said...

Excellent post. Made me think of all the teachers I had growing up. The ones that stand out the most are the ones who cared for their students. Those are the teachers that inspire their students to excel and make something of their lives. Caring teachers help dreams become reality.

The Exception said...

Doozie - Social work is another profession for which I have the greatest respect. I am all about accountability and responsibility. I think my anger, frustration, and my heart would come to rule my brain. I could be a child advocate but am not sure I could be a social worker. My hat's off to you.

'Liya - Welcome and thanks for stopping by. Ruby is fabulous!

There are many reasons I can not teach little kids, my heart being one of them. I care for all my students but grow attached to others. It is that attachment, as I felt for Matej, that I do not think a teacher should have. I truly would have done a lot to help that kid - all the kids, but especially him, the under dog, the kid that had so much and yet didn't seem to realize all that he had.

The teaching that I have done in the US has been a bit easier because I don't get as emotionally involved (life is more diverse). But I don't think it is ever easy to work with children and then watch them go - you know you have done your best, they have touched your life... and the paths diverge. Rewarding and difficult - bitter sweet.

Drop back by any time!

Seven seas - Caring is important. I think that the best teachers never lose a sense of caring for the kids in their class - an interest in helping them to find their talents and strengthen their weaknesses. It is sad to see teachers when they do not care about the kids. When their focus is on one or two over another one or two. Or sometimes they just burn out. Teachers see so much - I would imagine that they experience heart ache more than we ever really know.