Light in the Classroom

I might have already said that I’m not sure – at all – that I was supposed to teach. There were years of prepping and encouragement from friends and family. A lot of Oh, you’ll be GREAT!! But I have serious doubts it was truly my “calling” if you believe in such a thing about vocation. (I have a few thoughts on that if you’re interested.)

Anyway, I think I became an educator simply because it was expected of me. From the time I entered the music ed. program at the University of Illinois until I walked away a few years ago, I was destined for the classroom. Resulting in a remarkable display of weakness or mismatch.

Not that I think for a moment those years were wasted. Not at all. Not that I didn’t have a few successes here and there. Now and again. Some days were beautiful in “flow” – just moving with my students as if we were working as one, in the same direction, helping not competing, common goals. Common good.

But most of the time I was running as fast as I could just to survive day by day.

During those low times, though, when I felt so inadequate and small, my devoted Tim would bring me back to one truth: each year there was at least one student with whom I made a truly strong connection. A student whose tolerance for school improved because I was there every day. Or who kept going because I was was on her side or in his corner.

Some students kept it on the lowdown that I made their days better. Maybe they kept their distance, making sure they remained in charge. But they knew I would protect their safe place. They knew I was completely for them.

By Halloween, it was usually evident which student was my light for the year. My ray of sunshine through whom I could see purpose and hope. That kept me coming back, even when my lesson plans were puny or I was quite sure anybody could do a better job than me.

The first one was Jason. I met him the year I was the most woefully unprepared. My first year teaching. My first self-perceived disaster.

And then, for the next eleven, I saw the light in

Jamie – 2 years
Brothers Rodrigo and Miguel
Diego (the biggest surprise of all)
and James – who did the worm across the Honor’s Day stage

Those sweet young souls, in all their innocence, let the light peek through just often enough that I could keep a smidge of balance during the years I was a misfit in my own room.

I saw the light in them. I wish I could let them know just how much it meant.

This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post, with the prompt of “I see the light in…” Jump in at FindingNinee or Tamara (like) Camera.

Photo by Ingmar Hoogerhoud on Unsplash


  1. Aw! So heart-warming. I bet you were an amazing teacher and I’m sure each one of them remembers you with light and great memories as one of their favorites. You were all lucky to have found such deep connection. So glad you linked up!


  2. “…each year there was at least one student with whom I made a truly strong connection. A student whose tolerance for school improved because I was there every day. Or who kept going because I was was on her side or in his corner.”

    but…but! how cool is that! (yeah, throw them pebbles in the river/lake or pond; effect, detected or not, is inextricably a part of cause). To simply have an effect that causes another human, much less a child*, to feel more valued than less. surely there are few things as …well, as cool.

    *well, no, I don’t necessarily believe that is redundant but then, I’ve never been a teacher.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I used to work a lot with a literary magazine called “Fine Lines” – it was started because a teacher found a way to reach and expose the light of some very troubled students. Now it’s been going for over 20 years. You should submit work to it. Here’s a link to the teacher I mentioned:


  4. Maybe you can let them know. My mom spent time today with one of her old students and it was highly poignant for both.
    My mom was/is a teacher, my father was a teacher, my dad (technically step) is a teacher, my brother is a teacher, my grandmother was a teacher, and my uncle was one too. Funny that I wasn’t expected to be one and I would have been an awful one, but at least I know that about myself. I didn’t have the light in it – but I certainly saw that light in many teachers.

    Liked by 1 person

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