During my first year teaching I was green with envy of my friends in law school. While I listened to them complain about late-night studying, brutal professors, the large amounts of reading and the enormous amount of stress they were under, I tried to keep my eyes open, wondering how anyone could stay awake past 8 o’clock. I had finished a tiring day of teaching and had another one tomorrow. What I would give to stay up in the computer lab, pull an all-nighter and be able to sit in class, absorbing information, working as hard as I could knowing on the other end was a good paying job. That could have been me, I would think, adding another sticker to a math test. I could be surrounded by intellectuals, debating current social norms and dreaming of my future. I could be getting feedback on papers, knowing that if I worked hard I would get good grades. Instead here I was, falling asleep, purple marker on my arm, wondering how to teach Juan to read in English when he couldn’t speak it, and figuring out how to live on a teacher salary in an expensive city.
I believed in the public schools, I believed in my kids and I believed in my own ability to keep my head above water even when I thought I was going to sink. I made it through, every year getting a little easier, every year being a little less jealous. By my fourth year of teaching my law school friends were now lawyers entering the ‘real world’ for the first time. They were experiencing what it was like to work late hours for little rewards and trying to fit a social life into a demanding work schedule. I smile as I listen to them complain and felt sorry for them because at the end of the day they might get a large paycheck, but they will never get a hug from Rosa and a thank you note in broken English, thanking you for teaching her to read.