Are you shook? Most people are when I tell them I want to be a teacher. In fact, they protest the very thought and insist that I pursue another career path.
“There’s no money in teaching.”
“You won’t last long.”
Fuck you. Fuck each and every one of you who conjure such words with your mouth and force them upon me. I sincerely apologise for my inability to align myself with what you deem as worthy, but in saying that, I do not apologise at all. I want to be a teacher and if that unsettles you, then so be it. However, if you would like to open your mind for perhaps the first time in your life, then keep reading.
I’ve always been a little school obsessed. It may have verged on unhealthy, but I had to have the best grades and I wouldn’t let anything stop me. That was until something did. In year 10 English class, that’s sixth grade for you American folk, we were given the task to produce a piece of creative writing.
I had never been much of a creative writer. It required me to see things as more than they are and for some reason, I couldn’t. Nevertheless, I wrote a story, god only knows what about, and presented it to my teacher.
“It all seems very forced and I can’t find your voice. I think you know this isn’t as good as your usual work. Give it another go.”
It was the first time I had been truly critiqued and so naturally, I lost it. I read every tutorial I could find on creative writing, I wrote with a thesaurus wide open and I tried so desperately to channel my inner J.K. Rowling. A week later, I handed in another story.
“Again, it’s too forced. I don’t even know what half of these words mean and I’m pretty sure you don’t either. You’re overthinking this. You need to write about something you can feel, not about something you think you can feel.”
If I hadn’t lost it the first time, I had lost it now. In fact, I actually cried. What I thought was my saving grace was not, and now I had nothing to save me. I retreated into an empty classroom and sat against a wall, hoping it would taste my tears and chew me up. Although it never did, something else finally bit into my flesh and demanded acknowledgement.
After years of denial, my Dad’s suicide possessed me. Without my teacher, I don’t think it ever would’ve happened. I took a pen and paper from my bag and let his death write its truth. An hour passed, a single hour, and I was done. Still trembling, I typed it into an email and sent it away.
The next day after class, my teacher asked me to stay behind. She told me of how my words climbed into her head and screamed at her heart. A friend of hers and killed themselves a couple of weeks ago, and in my story she found her pain. She hugged me, thanked me and gave me purpose.
Ever since then, I have written with my soul on my sleeve.
What she did for me is what I want to do for others. I want to take their humanity, no matter what state it’s in, and nurture and accept it. I am not naive in this desire. I know that some students will torment me, hate me, ignore me and whatever else, but I also know that such behaviour is not without reason. There is a reason for their pain and although I cannot cure it, I can teach with words how to live alongside it.