I officially started teaching today. As my teaching partner, Brian was out of the country in order to attend a wedding in the States, I was by myself. I was worried that my students would have forgotten about me—seeing as I only visited them twice last month—but I had no reason to be worried as my students remembered me. I had such an amazing day.
During my first class, I worked with a girl by helping her to read and write about The Great Fire of London. Reading with a non-English speaker forces me to slow down my own English (I talk quickly) and really examine the letters in each word. The girl and I also worked on writing sentences with the main vocabulary words in the story. The story was a history lesson for me as well because I was never taught about the Great Fire of London, although I am familiar with the Great Plague that preceded it. In fact, I can now teach the children “Ring Around the Rosie” as some people believe that this nursery rhyme was about the Great Plague.
After a coffee break, it was off to my fifth grade class, who I can say unabashedly are my favorite class. The students remembered me by exclaiming “Taylor!” and when my fantastic teacher, Merav, mentioned that I would now officially start teaching English, all my students broke out in cheers. I have never received a welcome like that, save for when Jacob and Noah, the oldest of the three boys I nannied for this year, would greet me when I came in the door of their house. My students were blowing me kisses and one of them, Dasha, came up to me with a note that said, “My name Dasha. Love you” and she proceeded to give me a hug. I helped the students with reading and spelling by playing Hangman and we worked on reading and spelling colors, shapes, animals, fruits, vegetables, cartoon characters and singers/bands. After playing Hangman and hearing who my students like to listen to, I now have to read up some more on One Direction and Justin Bieber, even though I find them incredibly dreadful. It will be time for a Beatles lesson soon.
I had one more coffee break and then it was off to the third grade class. I worked with three students, two boys and a girl, and I helped them make three columns of uppercase and lowercase letters in English and a column that had the Hebrew letter in print form. I can’t read Hebrew—print or script—so one of the boys helped out the girl who was struggling. His English is better than my Hebrew. When I told him that I didn’t speak Hebrew, he said “kaha-kaha” (“so-so”) and waved his hand, which is how I describe how much Hebrew I know. He’s a smart kid. My favorite moment was when the girl asked the other boy how to say “thank you” in English and he told her how to say it, which is how she ended up saying it to me afterwards. Once class was over, I said goodbye to my students and the smart boy from earlier told me laila tov (“good night”). Needless to say, I went back to my apartment with a huge grin.
I feel so…inspired. Maybe it’s first day bliss, but my students…I just adore them. I have been over today dozens of times, in my head at least. I have been repeating words and sentences over and over and over again to my cohort. I have been grappling for the perfect words because my students deserve perfect. But in the end, I have come to realize, there are no perfect words. In fact, there are no words at all. None at least that make sense and none that do justice for my students.
So I say it, or rather write it from my heart, a sometimes worn and a somewhat broken heart. Once again I bear witness to the obvious fact that there is indeed immeasurable and undeniable beauty that dwells alongside absolute and complete anguish and sadness. I also stand steadfast in my personal belief that without my students, who tell me that this earthly life is merely a station, a waiting place, that without that knowledge, I would not survive. I mean, my physical body would go on but my spirit, my soul, would be barren. I don’t know much these days, but that much I am quite certain of.
There is one other thing I know and that is, without a shadow of a doubt, is how simply amazing my students are—each and every one of them. They are the very best part of me. They have all seen so much over their lifetimes and still, they persevere, radiate joy and strive to do good in this world. Each and every day I know that my students will teach ME something about living. My students have witnessed things in this life that most parents try greatly to shield their children from. But my students have been immersed in various tragedies, but, amazingly, they emerge better. How can that be?
My students exemplify dignity and grace during the most unspeakable of times. Grace isn’t just a word anymore. Today, I was able to see grace with much more conviction and strength than before. Grace will always be with my students. Always.
I never imagined that I would be teaching students in Israel or having them teach me things, all in the same breath. Who would ever imagine such a thing? But I get to have this amazing chance and I am honored and privileged to do so.
After my month-long sabbatical, I am finding my way once again. I seem to have gotten good at that. I wonder perhaps, on some days, when I hear people utter that “life only gives you what you can handle,” that maybe I should have curled up into a ball a long time ago, cried uncle or sent my memo to the universe. But then again, what good would that have done? That isn’t how this life works. And, as to “my fair share,” well maybe, but life does not work that way, either. You aren’t doled out an allotted amount of pain and suffering and then suddenly some switch gets flipped and then enough is enough. It’s not that simple, but I wish it were. When I feel down, I can at least count on my students to lift me up. Children always do this for me.
Today, and in the weeks and months ahead of us, my students and I choose to go on with life with dreams, hopes and most of all, we choose to do it with GRACE.