To My Talmidim (Students)

I can’t believe that I begin my first day of teaching in the morning. While I have enjoyed my sabbatical over the past month due to Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simchat Torah and all the various educational seminars and trainings I have had to attend, I am ready to get to work. Still, it’s a bit nerve-wracking. The good news is that while I may be a twisted ball of misery and anguish—a complete, emotional mess—that doesn’t mean I can’t take care of children. I have been taking care of children for over nine years, from the time of my freshman year of high school up until now. It’s been a ragged progress of sorts. I am a late bloomer who’s needed to find out for myself and I have made a lot of mistakes along the way.

I worked as an Assistant Teacher for five years to infants, toddlers and preschoolers at a Bright Horizons daycare in Boston. An Assistant Teacher does so much. I cleaned the rooms, sanitized the toys, helped with drop-offs and pick-ups, organized activities, took observations and did a host of other things. When I entered my college in the summer of 2007, I wanted to be a Child Life Specialist. I didn’t want to be a teacher or a stockbroker (like my father), or a nanny for that matter, my profession since September of 2011. I was (as I still am, although it has faltered over the years,) enthralled by political science, with a focus on social issues.

At the same time, I love the social sciences. My B.A. is in American Studies; my focus was Popular Culture and Representation. I earned my 3.63 GPA and my admission into Pi Gamma Mu, the international honor society in the social sciences. Additionally, I had declared my major in American Studies during the beginning of my freshman year after attending a lecture by the head of the department. I took every course offered in American Studies at my college (and one of the four courses I cross-registered for at a nearby college counted towards one of my requirements) and was accepted into graduate school at that college last year—which I turned down because I didn’t see myself as a Public Policy Analyst. I certainly did not feel competent to teach Public Policy (the history, the politics, which I idealized—but that is another story, for another day). I had no confidence. Period.

Anyway. Teaching as a vocation or avocation in this culture is a suspect one.

After all the comments directed at me from both students at my college and in London over the past few years, I learned not to talk about American Studies, criticism of the media or my belief that the world should be better for children (the only thing that really keeps me going) because I was perceived as a snob, a prude or an airhead.

Early on in my college career, my advisor told one of my classes that one becomes more hopeless about the world when finding out the truth about it. That was the permission I needed and it was one of the things that led me to try and make this world a better place. I see the world for what it is…but I am determined to change it. I will be the best teacher to my students that they will have the privilege of knowing.

There are so many things I can and need to teach my students.

I want them to know that the most important bit, the thing above all else, is to do the best they can.

I want them to know when to say yes.

I want them to know when to use the correct tense of a verb and when to ask for directions.

I want them to know how to make a coherent sentence, how to count and how to write a friendship note.

I want them to realize that feelings like loss and sorrow don’t separate them from the world, but bind them to it and to each other.

I want them to learn from each other and to love each other.

I want them to be kind and to be silly.

I want them to understand that making a difference is more important than making a point and that if they make a difference, their point will be clear.

I want them to use their hands and to raise their voices.

My students are going to raise some eyebrows. My students are going to raise some Hell. I know there is no right way to help raise them, but I want to do my best. And I do this because children should have—and deserve—a big future.

About the Author
Taylor Jade King spent 10 months in Netanya from 2013-2014 as a Masa Israel Teaching Fellow and is a master's degree candidate at Suffolk University in Boston. She loves her Dunkin' Donuts coffee, Krembo, banana leaf print and 90's nostalgia.