Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Six Letters, Six Students- A Farewell

Last week, I decided to leave my school early. The decision was not an easy one but I am certain it was the right one. In the coming weeks, I'll try and write more about the thoughts and developments which prompted me to leave four weeks before the year ended. For now, I'll say that personal reasons and dissatisfaction with work, combined with  being accepted into a US based teacher certification program (which starts in March), convinced me that the best thing for my life at present was to go back Stateside. I'll be in Kansas City for the next seven or eight months to work through the program and do my student teaching. Afterwards, I hope to teach the history or the social sciences at an international school somewhere in the world.

 Although I'm certain that my decision to leave a little early was the right one, it was still hard to say goodbye to my students. Despite the hassle and difficulties that often arise in the classroom, I feel a strong love and attachment to the little six and seven year olds who also have filled the past two years with joy.

 It was a privilege to share their lives for a time. And there are six I want to write to here and now. 


-To Bio, the hardest working and most well behaved first grader.

I can't tell you how much your presence in my most difficult class made my darkest days so much brighter. You were in a class filled with so many apathetic students and yet you remained so attentive and so eager to participate in everything. I don't know how many adults in a similar situation would continue to be so steadfast. I hope you never lose that drive, that determination, that desire to be good despite what everyone around you is doing. On the other hand, I hope your greatest strength doesn't also become a weakness. I hope that your desire to respect authority doesn't stunt your creativity but allows it to grow. No matter what though, know you'll always be my superhero. 

-To Suveer, the most helpful boy ever.

Thank you for your endless eagerness. Thank you for your unfailing smile. Thank you for always waiting at the door to my office with your book in hand to show me where your class was at that day. Thank you for always being eager to lend a hand and help out whether it was by turning on the projector, testing out my markers, translating instructions or choosing a book.

-To Tua-O, the environmentally conscious genius.

 Tua-O, I know I haven't always been on good terms with you. I'm sorry that you found my after-school classes boring. Please know I never meant to make you upset. The truth is you were right on many occasions when you argued with me about leaving early. You, already fluent, able to tell me about wind turbines and explain the concept of evaporation in your second language, never belonged there in those after-school programs. You should be in an international school, not taking lessons with kids who are still learning how to put short sentences together about animals. However, you do have much to learn especially when it comes to being with others. If you can be as wise as you are brilliant, I truly believe you will do anything.  

 -To AA, the worst troublemaker.

 You were, like so many of the boys I met these past two years, difficult. But most distressing to me was how you could be so mean spirited and cruel. It was your pension for inflicting pain that convinced that children were not truly innocent. Each time I saw you in class you tested my resolve. You challenged me at every turn and you showed no respect to anyone including me. Some would call you a problem child. I called you, though never to your face, an asshole. Yes, it may seem harsh or cruel to talk about a seven year old boy in that way. But that is what you were. Please know though, that calling you out for this does not mean I am apathetic or cold towards you. Quite the opposite. I would still die for you as I would for any of the obedient students who sat still in their chairs. I've seen your energy in the classroom. I've seen your determination with certain activities. You have a charisma even at your young age. If you could harness that energy and determination you could be so much. Perhaps, no one in your life has told you this yet. Perhaps, I failed as a teacher to open your eyes to this. I hope you meet someone down the line who will.

-To Len, the jolly little dough-ball.

 You were always so warm and cheerful in the classroom. You started out wayward and distracted. Now, you focus so much more and do almost every assignment. I know you don't know this but this is a triumph for me. Whenever a student finds the will to participate it makes us teachers at the front all the more relieved. It alleviates some of the doubts, the weariness, the apathy that always hangs around our office desks in those moments of silence where we say 'What the hell am I accomplishing here?' For that little morsel of relief and ratification, I thank you.  

-And finally to Nana, the girl from another world.

 The first student I ever bonded with. I know I haven't seen you too much since last year. Know though that I've never forgotten your name when I've spied you on the playground between class periods. I've seen how you've shot up since first grade and how you stroke the leaves and massage the petals of the flowers outside your new building. Know that I will never forget you. You taught me much in that year we spent in the classroom together. I could tell straight away that you were different, lost in your own world and oblivious to the chaos of your thirty seven peers. Some would say you were learning disabled. I myself did. In hindsight I don't believe that was accurate. You were actually enabled in ways most of us aren't. The fact that I could somehow infiltrate your universe and become a part of it, is something that makes me feel proud. I will treasure the times you  wandered in the office and stay by my desk, standing still long enough for me to pull out flashcards and be astonished at how you seemed to absorb just about everything I had said in class despite having never looked me in the eye. I know it's not easy being so removed from everyone. I hope you can find others among your peers to share your majesty with. I hope someone can give a name to your wonderful state and provide you and those who love you with the right information. I hope they cultivate you as the rose you are, not the orchid they want you to be.   

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