I was having a hard time. I was down in the dumps, stuck in a slump. Things weren’t going quite the way I’d planned in my life. I was going through a move, a break up, loss of a friend and heart ache. My emotions were high, my mood was low and stress inescapable.
I was certain it reflected in my work. That’s the thing about teaching, you always have to be on. But when you’re not feeling so great, it’s much harder to teach in the same way. In the way students need you to. But still, I tried. I went into that school every single day, and I did the best I could. I put on that smile. I taught those lessons. I did the best I could given the circumstances. I always tried, but my heart wasn’t always in it.
One day, at the end of my morning beginner level class, a student stayed behind after all the others had left. Her name was Mabrura, and she had been in my class for about two weeks now. She was from Saudi Arabia and always wore the most beautiful robes. Despite her tiny stature, she was probably in her mid 20s, and she was very shy, and very quiet. Her English level was quite low. She always did as told, though, she always made a great effort in my class. She pushed herself to speak to her classmates, and she worked really well with them, despite her language limitations.
She looked up at me as I gathered my books that day and said, “teacher, thank you.”
And I smiled, a polite smile, and I told her she was welcome. It’s really not unusual for my international students to thank me after classes. But this time, I felt kind of undeserving. Like maybe I hadn’t necessarily earned the acknowledgement. I headed past her, toward the door.
“No.” Mabrura spoke with more urgency than I’d ever seen her show. “Really, thank you, teacher.”
“You’re welcome,” I smiled more honestly now. “And thank you for being a good student, too.”
“Teacher wait!” She ordered right before I walked out of the room. I turned around. She hastily reached into her backpack and pulled out her electronic translator. She explained sheepishly as she typed, “my English, no good.”
She flipped the device around to show me the screen. Across the top were some words in Arabic and the translation below read, “you make me love learning.”
“Wow,” was all I could think to say. That was such a nice message. “I’m so glad.”
“Really, teacher.” Mabrura confirmed. “Sometimes, I no like to learn English, but with you is very good.”
She excused herself then, satisfied that she’d gotten the message across to me. I stood alone in the room astounded, tears dancing in my eyes. Suddenly, the world didn’t feel so rotten. It felt really good to know that even in my darkest period, I still had the power to positively impact others. It was a necessary reminder of why I love teaching.