I am a freshman teacher. I started this job as a lowly substitute and worked my way up to a full-fledged, first year teacher complete with my semi-own classroom. I say semi-owned because I co-teach with another person who ~trust me on this one~ will occupy SEVERAL chapters in the book I am going to write about this when I retire. (I still have to see if they will publish a memoir with a chapter called "Why I almost lost my teaching certification by killing my co-teacher in the first six weeks".) But I digress.
I entered this field with a dream: The dream that I would change the life of every student I taught. That I would inspire in him/her maybe not a desire to learn, but at least a desire to be more than they dared to dream for themselves. I would make a difference. I had dreams of seeing my students years after they would leave my middle school classroom and they would have become more than the "punk-kid" who got sent to an alternative school. Doctors. Lawyers. Architects. Analysts. Writers. Whatever they could conceive (other than a baby at age 14); they could be.
I talked about my dream to any teacher who would listen. And I was warned. Veteran teachers told me it could not be done. That I would learn that there are some kids you just can not get through to or teach. They said my heart would break if I got personally involved. They would sigh and get a knowing, sad smile on their face as they suffered my foolish fantasies. Like an old man who can still remember when he was young and thinks to himself of a youth so long ago. Still I talked and dreamed...
Today I sat in the restroom and cried. I realized my dream was dying right in front of my eyes... and death wears the face of my very first student. The pupil who was to be my defining accomplishment. My pride. My proof to the pedagogical society that ALL students could be reached and taught. He was to become more than the gang he so desperately wants to join. Somewhere deep inside I knew I was going to have to learn this lesson, but I had hoped it would be later. Not now. Not with the first child to sit in my classroom. Not with angelic face of a child who carries the emotional scars of an abused 50 year old.
But I will not give in. I will not allow my dream to go quietly into this good night. I will fight. If not for him, for the ones that will come after him and the ones that will go on to win the good fight. I will go on so that one day, if only for one student, I will have made a difference.