We lose heart, in part, because teaching is a daily exercise in vulnerability. No matter how technical my subject may be, the things I teach are things I care about and what I care about helps me define my selfhood. As we try to connect ourselves and our subjects with our students, we make ourselves, as well as our subjects, vulnerable to indifference, judgment, and ridicule.
Parker J. Palmer
Crude writings on the wall, dusty blackboard, fistfights at the corner, red pouting lips of a 14-year-old lady, thick books and thick lenses of bookworms students in the first row, and gazed of red eyes from the boys at the back. I stuttered, I thought I memorized all the principles of teaching and the handbook but my confidence sank low. Everyone laughed, giggled, and murmured. A seventeen-year-old lady, trying to look gleeful, courageous, and smart at the moment but failed on her first try.
I was a college student and I was assigned to the lowest section at the public school. Most of my first students were almost the same age as me thus they couldn’t see me as their teacher. I failed and cried a lot during those days, not knowing it was just the beginning. Tons of paperwork, insurmountable tasks, and meeting different kinds of people with different backgrounds and personalities. I was asking God if I would really pursue it. Hence, at the end of my stay with them, I learned to befriend them and to listen to their stories as well. Some of them were wounded and hurt, unsure about themselves just like me when I was their age, some were trying to pursue their dreams even though no one could support them, and some of them were getting into different vices just to forget they were broken. I couldn’t understand what they felt during those days but now I understand them.
I met a young lady who worked at night and slept in my class at times, with her messy hair and disheveled clothes. How I wish, she is still pursuing her studies now. And it makes my heart sings when some of them messaged me and asked out for advice or just greet me. I remember when I passed my board examination, they were so happy that I’m already a professional teacher and hoped that we can meet again. And it makes me so proud to see them achieving their goals now.
I was very eager to finally become a professional teacher and meeting different students is also meeting different kinds of homes. When I started to teach professionally, I was assigned to the primary level and I’ve met different versions of myself as well; my profession breaks me and heals me. I lose heart most of the time and teaching became a burden, yet it strengthens my faith, hope, and love toward people and toward myself.
I was eating my favorite chocolate when a girl slapped me and asked for a coin. I was shocked and didn’t say anything and I just gave my one peso coin. I was in first grade back then. I was a weak young kid and always stay at the hospital for getting a fever and having different kinds of skin diseases. When I was in third grade, I couldn’t even solve math problems and I remember my teacher was already shouting into my eardrums just to explain how to do it, but still I was afraid and couldn’t focus. My classmates were laughing out loud. I was assigned to sit beside a boy with his inhaler. He was sick. He always asked me to do things for him like a young nanny and when I didn’t follow his command he would say bad things toward me and hurt me with his tiny muscles. I cried a lot. I was in grade five when I was locked in the room not knowing if it was an accident or if someone did it purposely. I wasn’t photogenic in the pictures and not pretty as well just like what the mean girls often told me. A young boy made fun of my picture during our Christmas party, yelling that I was so ugly with my broken teeth. And when I was in my junior year already I thought no one would do mean things to me again but I was wrong my classmates when I was in elementary were making fun of me again though we were not classmates already. I was riding in a jeepney when she pushed me so I hit myself on the floor. I just ran kept my anger and cried.
Thus, when I was a young lady I apologized for being myself. I thought there was something wrong with me, I couldn’t express myself freely, and I hate the way I looked. Hence, my profession -my purpose is His way to heal me. It took years to finally see myself the way God sees me, change my self-talk, and begin to love myself the way God loves me and ask for counsel. Thus, I can freely express myself now and be confident that I am loved.
I’ve met different wounded kids who are mean to others. Most of them were broken and lonely at a young age and couldn’t express their hurt in the right way thus hurting others become the only resort. And finally, I understand those mean kids when I was young and forgave them.
At first, it was so hard seeing my students becoming mean to their classmates because I remember my younger version of me, who was left out and there was no one to run to. I always make myself available to the hurting and to the one who hurts. Trying to connect their hearts and teaching the value of kindness and forgiveness. But the hardest part is knowing the deep root of those who hurt others, it’s more painful and I couldn’t do anything about it, I just prayed about it and talked to their parents. And I’ve realized being a parent is the hardest job of all.
I learned also to reveal some parts of me that I thought I already forget and heal from yet each story breaks my heart and heals my heart as well.
In my previous school, we accepted students with special needs; we have inclusive education. And it was my first time handling unique kinds of students; some of them have autism, ADHD, cerebral palsy, and other conditions. And meeting and teaching them was heartbreaking but heartwarming, it was hard but fulfilling. I also started studying their conditions by reading a lot of books in order to understand them and of course listening to their parents.
I met this boy who has cerebral palsy, he couldn’t speak and walk properly but he likes to play basketball. Those things we take advantage of- were hard lessons for him just like writing and speaking. He always cries when he gets frustrated with himself: unable to trace the lines and unable to read words. I lost patience at times but when I gazed at his eyes, I saw his heart. He gets used to offensive words around but he was a tough boy; he was ready in any fistfights when others became too much but also humble enough to ask forgiveness when he hurt others. I am happy right now because he is improving, he’s getting better in sports.
In another year, I met a boy who has the most severe case that I encountered. He couldn’t control himself, he would just shout, he is brutally honest, he is a genius, and he is also loving. One day, he was triggered by his classmates, he was mad and locked himself in the room. I was outside and trying to explain to him. He was asking me if there was something wrong with him and why he wasn’t like everybody else. He was mad, kicking the door, and crying so badly. I get inside the comfort room and conversed with him while he was pooping. It was a dramatic scene hence humorous.
Our conversations mean a lot to me because they brought healing to my soul. Those painful words that I heard when I was a kid didn’t matter already because of them and I finally understand myself and forgive also myself for believing in those wounded people.
When I lose heart, I remember our conversations in the playground, in the cafeteria, on the swing, and even in the bathroom. When I lose heart, I remember they need love more than they need knowledge and wisdom. When I lose heart, I remember they have baggage too and they need someone to lift it and make it light. When I lose my heart, I remember they also heal me from my wounds.
This profession breaks me a lot of times but it constantly heals me and makes me a better version of myself. I’m on my sixth month of taking a brief break; a pause from the classroom setting and taking time to reflect on this calling. I didn’t like it at first but God knows I needed it this time. I thought those days were just a burden yet I need to experience madness and breaking from my profession so I would appreciate my healing and restoration deep within. Finally, I understood those five years are years of breaking, hurting, teaching, and equipping. Many things happened and I met a lot of people with different burdens. I learned valuable lessons in life hence I needed to take it slow, recharge, connect to my master and give up all the burdens that it wasn’t for me to carry. I am grateful at this time, resting in Him, and discovering something about myself. It is just this moment that I realized it happened so fast and I know I won’t surpass it without His grace.
When teachers lose heart, we become so empty and only God is the only great teacher who can fill us. We just need a break, a moment of silence then we will thrive again.
As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. So, don’t lose heart, don’t give in or give up don’t grow weary or be fainthearted.2 Thessalonians 3:13
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.2 Corinthians 4:16
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly inheart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.Matthew 11:28-30