The blessing

happy sprout

Today was a gift, a blessing. Let met tell you about it.

It has not been easy lately. Now that term is over and there are no more classes my job is down to two hard things: the huge slog of marking the last masive batch of tests in record time (I have currently done 180 this week) and the delicate and thoughtful business of helping the school decide whether a pupil should move up to next year's class. That is obviously a crucial decision in any school: it could mean that your child would have to repeat the year. At the Gymnasium where I currently teach it can also mean that the student would need to leave school entirely. The maths score has a strong role in deciding marginal cases, so my marks have more power than I am sometimes comfortable with.

So getting the marks in is important and attending the meetings is important, but I am only really happy when engaged with a room full of kids and I no longer have that. My classes have gone cheerfully off to their holidays and I will probably never see them again. I was too experienced to expect them to miss me, but I grieved a little.

While I was waiting in the corridor for the previous meeting to end Armin, one of my second year students came past. Armin is big, bluff, smart and earnest. He works hard at everything and is always on the move, but today he stopped to tell me something. "I am really sorry you are leaving Mr Noyce. You were one of the best maths teachers I have ever had. You took time for both the smartest and the weakest. Thank you."

Damn. I had to take a moment to process that.

No crying. I thanked him gravely and told him that the pleasure and privilege were entirely mine. Which indeed they were.

That was a blessing, for which I am deeply thankful. Armin reminded me why we do this hard thing, why we write bright human letters on the blank face of this world. Teaching is the long train that links us to the first gift, the first moment of passing on knowledge and caring, the long train of light back to the beginnings of humanity. If I have made Armin a little stronger, a little more able to be his own self, I give thanks.

I went into my meeting, tried to say useful things and got back to my massive pile of marking. Halfway through the pile I got a call. The school where I first encountered teaching, where I fell in love with teaching, wants to hire me. They offered me a job, teaching a wide array of pupils, so it will be a new challenge, a new track for the long train.

Without love, where would we be now?

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