Before I became a teacher, I was afraid of teenagers. They are rebellious. They think they are more mature than they are. They know it all. They are disrespectful. They think anyone older than 20 is “old” and lame. After more than three years of teaching, I gotta say I love them. People say children are angels, but I think teenagers are just the sweetest thing if they adore you. My students come from all ages and all walks of life. I have students as young as first graders and as old as 50-somethings. I swear I’m not a pedophile, but I just love teaching those aged between 14-18. 😛
The 18-year-old whose mom asked for my help a few weeks ago to console her during her break up is going away to study aboard. She will be gone for a few years, and I will be somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere next year for my PhD. We don’t know when we’ll see each other again. Today we had our final get together, and she gave me a handwritten letter. I went, “Awwww…” When was the last time you wrote a letter on a piece of paper? Isn’t that cute?
In her letter, she told me how much I mean to her and how I am the best teacher she has ever had. She wrote:
I don’t call someone my ‘idol’ easily. You’re my first! I think you’re a very strong, optimistic, knowledgable person. Even if you’re doing one million things, you always give your best in everything. You only show people the toughest side of you. I want to be like you. It seems like somehow ‘Nickyism’ has formed in my head. You’re right. If you can do it, I can do it!
Her observation couldn’t hit home any closer. I do intentionally show them the toughest side of me because I need to be strong for them. I remember the time when I was dealing with a very had breakup. I was crying until the moment I taught, but once I “took the stage”, I put all the heartbreaks behind, at least for a while. A student later on told me when I was dealing with a terrible work-related situation last year, she could see me look like crap when I was alone, but once I started lecturing, my face lit up in a split second.
I do all this not only because I love them. I take my role in their lives very seriously. I want to show them how strong a person who came from nothing, a girl born to a grade school educated construction worker father and a blue collar mother, can be. I want to show them how an underdog can still make it with hard work and strong will but not nepotism and Daddy’s money.
During my 3.5 years of teaching, I’ve received more letters, cards and gifts than I can remember. I take pictures of every gift, every homemade cookie/cake, every can of coke zero (my students know I only drink coke zero) I’ve ever been given. These letters will come with me to wherever I’m going next year. They will fuel me whenever I feel like breaking down. I know no matter how hard it is, no matter how much life sucks, I will be strong and prevail for them.