Here’s a secret: I am terrified on the first day of class. I have been teaching for over 10 years now, everything from PreK to 12th grade, and you’d think that it would get easier to stand up in front of a group of students and speak but honestly, it doesn’t. My work has grown to involve speaking in front of peers and conducting professional development trainings. Yet I am nervous every single time.
For me, being in education means risking yourself every day, having the difficult conversations (with students, families, colleagues), not looking away when something seems to be going wrong, and failing at something almost daily. It is a job that is never done and never over. My students drive me crazy ten times a day, worry me so much that I wake up at two in the morning, and break my heart on a regular basis. Just writing this blogpost makes me feel incredibly vulnerable and anxious.
So why do it?
I have now been the teacher of many children from all walks of life. They are unique, amazing individuals with different strengths, stories, and challenges. I tell them all: you are always my students. This work and relationship doesn’t end when class is over, or when your final project is turned in or even when you move on to graduation or GED or another school or a job. Recently I took on being our school’s Curriculum Coordinator. Initially I was worried that the change would mean I was less connected to our students until a friend of mine set me straight. “Oh that’s great,” she said when I told her about the new part of my job. “They are all your students now!” True. When I look at it this way, I now have a homeroom class of over 200.
I feel the same about the children in refugee camps Goz Amer and Djabal in eastern Chad. I have never taught them directly or spent a day in their classrooms. I am just learning their stories, just beginning what I hope will be a long-term relationship with this community and these passionate people at iACT. But they are already all my students.
In education, we talk about being “in the arena.” Collaborating with Little Ripples is one of the ways that I am working to do that on a personal and professional level. I don’t have a lot of money or time. Some days I just to hope to make it out the door with both shoes matching and children relatively clean and fed. But this work and this program, which helps refugee communities find ways to empower one another, support their families and educate their children in the middle of instability, violence and food scarcity, is important. It is worth it. My first year of teaching, a mentor reminded me that the word “courage” comes from the French word couer, meaning “heart.” I act because we find courage for that which we love.
Written by Elizabeth LeBlanc, Little Ripples Expert Teacher Advisor
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