“Noah*, I see you have Art as an elective on your class schedule,” his English teacher commented as she glanced up from her roster. Noah was one of her most challenging 8th graders, and a bit of morning banter helped to ease both of them into the day. “Huh! I didn’t figure you were an ‘art kid.’”
“I’m not really,” Noah replied, his guarded tone cloaking a germ of pride, “but I like Mr. Minichiello’s class.”
This scrap of conversation was related to me by Noah’s English teacher the following week. She mentioned it in passing, yet it remains one of the most poignant moments of my teaching career. After all, Noah was among the most challenging students I’d taught over seven years at Terrance Foster Middle School. I figured that, despite my best efforts, he resented my class as much as any other.
As the semester progressed, I did indeed notice occasional sparks of enthusiasm from Noah. I held my breath as he continued — albeit haltingly — to bloom creatively and socially. Finally, June rolled around with its usual blend of excitement and wistfulness. After our last class, I told Noah I’d been tracking his progress and was proud of how far he’d come.
As clichéd as it sounds, stories like Noah’s really do carry a special resonance in teachers’ lives. It’s a resonance that I too easily dismissed as mawkish prior to starting my career, but now recognize as being at the very heart of education itself. Teachers work with students during the most intense and turbulent years of their lives, a fact which is all-to-easily forgotten while sorting through the minutia of a given school day.
* Student and school names have been pseudonymized to maintain anonymity.