My eyelids let in light that triggers an internal alarm. They open with urgency. I check the time. 8:00. I am late. Later than usual. I am late and exhausted. My busy brain was unsettled with the noises of the settling of my room. My dreams were filled with an intensity that would not allow rest. I wanted more than anything to hide from the world. To hide from life. My feet rushed through my room, my eyes still wide open. I had plans. They were ruined when my alarm didn’t wake me up. Curse my alarm. Curse my ears. Curse school. Curse my students.
Loneliness and frustration settled in at lunch as I sat by myself and reflected on my student’s indifference and the teenagers they had become overnight. Alone, homesick, pity.
3:10. Impromptu speeches. My student asks “What do you think about education today?” Dread. I begin to speak hesitantly. Opinions generally result in conflict. Conflict. I speak with more conviction. I speak with more passion. They listen. They are interested. The indifference is no longer within them. It has been replaced by brilliance. I am transformed. I am John F. Kennedy at a podium trying to make the country a better place. I was Rosa Parks sitting in the front of the bus. I was Diego Rivera expressing myself in a powerful way. I was Martin Luther King Jr. sharing my dream for the world. My dream for my students. I stand there and talk to them with a burning desire for them to feel the same passion as I do. They do! Feedback. Debate. They share openly their opinions. The classroom had turned into a safe haven for all of us. We all listened. We all respected.
Confidence. Love. Respect. Change. Passion. Integrity. Brilliance. They are vivid.
“People need to change because the world is changing. The world is changing because people are changing.” “Creativity, passion, imagination, critical thinking, curiosity are all needed in order to change.” “They just tell you what you need to know for the test. In order to get good grades. In order to get into University. In order to get a good job. In order to make money. Money will make you happy That’s what we learn.”
14 and 15 years old. I barely spoke when I was that age. I was not able to form these kinds of opinions. I was terrified of opinions.
My students astounded me.
4:50. I walk home. A smile took over my face. I approach my new friends. Their van, painted in several different vibrant colors. A scarf covers her head. Her stomach can be seen through her loose layers of sheer fabric. She will be a mother soon. The man, who I assume is hers, says “Hello Teacher!” They both have genuine faces. They are young and happy. I greet them. She giggles. “Taylor” she says to the kind man. He thought my name was Michelle. I giggle this time. I ask if I can have a Cha Yen. He picks up two aluminum cans and begins throwing the red liquid from one to the other. It seemed as though gravity was not existent. He defied the laws of Physics. His last poor was into a plastic cup with ice. There was a single stool in front of this colorful van owned by two people who were good. She said gently, “Taylor, sit down. Re…Re…Relax.” She stuttered as she thought of the correct word. I did. We talked.
They’re from Malaysia. They find Thailand very hot. The down pour earlier in the day was their excitement.
That is what I learned that day. As well as passion and yearning for change. That day my students taught me confidence, conviction, and authenticity.