I work in a school.
I try to help students learn to the best of their capabilities. I open their eyes to see the better choice. I encourage them that washing hands after each bathroom break is one of life’s greatest skills to have. I remind them to take a shower and put on clean clothes every day. I cue them whenever the need arises to excuse themselves and fart in the washroom instead of in the classroom—an event that is usually met with humor than disgust. I tell them that zombies will not take over their spirits when they sleep. I reassure them that it is alright not to understand a concept, that we will go over it as many times as needed. I motivate them to be nicer- to themselves and to others.
I work with senior high students at an alternative school whose learning abilities are different from those of their contemporaries in a regular school.
I work with special education and youth at-risk.
I am not special and what I do is not extraordinary. It will not cure cancer.
My friends who are nurses and IT’s and accountants and doctors would have never imagined me in this field although I have my degree in education and had taught overseas for many years. My family is vocal in their concern that my work environment poses danger (but what isn’t?) However, I had discovered in me that I have more patience to those who find learning quite more challenging, overly boring, and needlessly impertinent in their lives and the way they see their future. I had found myself more accepting of those who were otherwise rejected by others- by their families, by the school system. I see them as human beings with names and uniqueness regardless of the letters attached to them that would otherwise define who they are and what they are (in) capable of: ADD, ADHD, ODD, FASD, ASD, etc.
Is it easy? Not at all. I’d been screamed at, cursed at, told to shut up, told to go back to my country. Do I get frustrated? Yes. Do I get mad? Not really. Do I get hurt? Kind of. But I’m sure these behaviors are not uniquely for our kind of kids; they do happen in regular schools as well. I just see it as more bearable because they can’t help it most of the time. Their impulses always get the better of them. And honestly, I’ve been given the best of the lot. The kids in our class are the older ones and most of them have acquired coping skills. But sometimes, stuff happens. But every day is a new day. Like all the other staff I work with, I go to work each morning with the troubles of the past day all gone, erased. It’s a new day every. single. day. I see it like a magic erase board. Yesterday’s trouble: swiped and all gone. Clean slate every day.
So why do I stay and why have I been doing this job for the past 10 years? Because at the end of the day, I have high hopes that I can make a difference even with just ONE of them. That one of them would feel that someone truly cares, that someone shares their dreams.
And hopefully, that someone is me.
(Starfish poem by Loren Eiseley. Full context: https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/56782.Loren_Eiseley)