I'm not sure why I decided I want to write about this, but the idea was tugging at me for a while, and today when the sentences started formulating themselves in my head I decided maybe I should sit down and sketch out my thoughts in some form of semi-cohesive text.
How I wish I could open up a door into possibly the deepest section of my emotional mind so that all of you could glimpse how I really feel about my job... I doubt anything I write here could possibly give over the exact feelings and meanings I want to portray, but I'll try anyway, so that perhaps at least one person will walk away from this post with a newfound appreciation for what I do.
Every job has its perks, its negative points, its benefits, and its acutely annoying aspects, but some jobs are innately more gratifying than others. I suppose it's a matter of opinion and personal taste, but there's a reason why so many teachers describe their jobs as intensely rewarding and emotionally satisfying, while most office personnel do not. There's something about watching children's eyes light up in understanding, about feeling little shoulders ease under a loving touch, about listening to laughter wafting out of brightly-lit classrooms, that almost can't be described in any other language than love.
I know a lot of you reading this are teachers and appreciate exactly what I'm saying. So big deal, Corner, what's the chiddush here? Why are you making it sound like you are different than any other teacher out there? Maybe it's just because as unappreciated and bashed the teaching profession is, there is still something glorious about saying you teach 10th grade Chumash, or 12th grade Bio, or even 6th grade Tefilla. But when you tell people you teach Kindergarten, most look at you, almost struggle to conceal the sympathy in their eyes, and comment, "Oh really? Ah...do you enjoy it?"
Are you kidding? Do I enjoy it?
It's my inspiration. My air. My life right now. I may be an overly passionate soul in most aspects of my life, but when I talk about my job, I feel such a pride, such a wonder, such a privilege to be able to carry out this amazing responsibility.
So many people consider early childhood education as a babysitting service. Parents drop their little ones off at school, run errands, go to work, take care of the real world while some Morahs keep an eye on the kids that "can't even read yet so how can they be learning...?" Our children are more than just learning--they're drinking up every word that's uttered within their earshot, putting words to things they're not even able to consciously understand yet, growing in self-awareness and self-worth, and building the foundations of love for learning that will be the cornerstone of every other lesson they'll ever learn for the rest of their lives.
The thrill of watching a little girl finally realize that the little black characters on the pages of books really mean something is simply breathtaking...As is watching from afar as a child with behavioral difficulties finally works out her own problem without resorting to hitting...As is hearing the exclamation of delight from the little one who runs by in the playground, legs pumping, heart soaring, flying by with nothing to anchor her to the ground...As is the glow on the face of the child who proudly holds up her clay masterpiece, explaining, "Morah, I made this for you..."
The vitality of life that permeates every square inch of my classroom is other-worldly. It is there that children develop their essences, their dreams, their pride in themselves, their life skills, their middos, their love of learning. We may not teach the difference between Rashi and Ramban, but we can help them discern the subtle differences between speaking nicely and hurting feelings. My girls do not yet understand how to add or subtract, or anything about the U.S. government, but they do know that they live in a community of chessed and middos and want to emulate those they see around them. Mitzva notes are not just a bribe; they impart to our children that not a single good deed goes unnoticed, that each mitzva is recorded, cherished, held close, rewarded. Creative play is not just a time filler; it's a forum for children to learn consequences of thier actions, how to interact properly and successfully with their peers, how to be mevater and be patient and be kind. To those who wonder what exactly their children are learning besides for the weekly Parsha, I ask, "What are they not learning...?" Pre-school is the workshop where children develop the tools they need to succeed in grade school, and more importantly, in life...
Maybe now you can see why I so adore what I do. There's no question about it--It's a physically draining, emotionally taxing, and sometimes very frustrating job, but I can't imagine another I'd rather be doing right now.
Seeing that life, that joy, that sheer bliss of being and living and learning and growing helps me strive to be and live and learn and grow myself. It's in my classroom that I learn anew how to be mevater and be patient and be kind. It's not just my students that are learning; I am taught countless lessons as well every single day.
So when those people who don't appreciate my achrayus look at me in pity, almost as if I'm taking care of something distasteful, I warm myself up with the knowledge that I'm making a difference in 22 different worlds...and 22 different future families of children who will comprise the next generation of Klal Yisrael...
My girls are each stunning jewels. And I have the privilege and the honor of helping make that first cut into the faces of those jewels so that at the end of 14 years of schooling, those same jewels emerge from the school system as refined, happy, polished, proud daughters of our King.
The director of my school has a sign in her office:
"Children are not human beings; they are human becomings."
And I have the opportunity to nurture those precious becomings...
My beautiful girls.