Sometimes I wonder if I am the right person for the job. My knowledge of things Jewish is minimal – moderate at best. My Hebrew maxes out reading the translated version of Cat in the Hat. My vision of a teacher is one who maintains knowledge deep enough to elicit some confidence in her students about their own abilities to emulate this knowledge. No?
Leave it to a student to teach me otherwise. Actually, to be honest, it took two students for me to get the message.
If you stop and think about your best teacher memories who comes to mind? Is it the honors English teacher who graded you harshly, simply because she expected more from your abilities? (Grrr.)
Is it the teacher who told you that it was ok to take Earth Science instead of Chemistry even though doing so would rule out your chances for admission to a UC school? (Sorry, that was a personal low moment.)
Was it the one who left her purse open just enough so you could spot her mini bottle of J&B in it? (Sure, she was a drama teacher, but still….)
Was it the hard-ass, hard-body who gave you a D in PE because you protested the mile-running requirement by walking it? (What do you expect when PE is first period in 9th grade??)
No! Of course not. The best teacher memory is always the one when you nervously went to a teacher, tail between your legs, asking for help of some kind; taking an emotional risk, praying that this adult in your life would be the one who wouldn’t make you feel less-than or small. This teacher is the one who recognized the vulnerability in your approaching them between classes. S/he noticed your need for compassion and simply, gracefully obliged.
My students opened the door for me to peek inside this week. I saw their hope that I would be this teacher for them. I saw their faith that I could. And through their eyes, I saw myself. “Teacher” is a big broad term soaked in subjective interpretation. I am grateful for having been schooled in this lesson by my very own slight, but significant teachers.
Baruch Oseh HaShalom
(with thanks for the reminder)