Something different happened at the end of this school year, though, that made the happiness gap between teacher and dad more tolerable, and at the same time, more difficult to live with. The irony lies in a surprise letter from a student.
Every year I ask my graduating seniors to give a brief evaluation of the class and the year’s projects. They sometimes use the assignment as a chance to be honest in their praise or criticism of my style and personality. I take both with several grains of salt.
However, this year a student said something so wise and so honest I was stunned. He recounted a moment from a class when a student asked me if the pictures on the wall were of my kids. I answered yes, and then apparently—I have no actual memory of it—said in a quieter voice, “they are my loves, the reason I get up in the morning.” I’m not surprised I said that; I think it all the time. I was just surprised that I actually said it aloud and that someone remembered it.
The student went on the say he then realized why I got so irritated with inattentive and obnoxious students on occasion.
He wrote, “I understood…why would anybody want to spend their precious days among minors who aren’t even eager to learn, when you could spend it with those you love.”
He went on to say he realized what really motivates us as people: our loved ones who give us “an indescribable sensation of pure bliss and joy.”
Today I sat with my daughter at the kitchen table, long after we had finished our Wheaties and bananas. She was practicing buttoning and unbuttoning the three buttons on my pullover. She would fasten them with great care (and some considerable effort on the last one that is always a little stubborn). Then she would unbutton them, and then start again. I was not even a little bit bored, or restless. There was absolutely no other place I wanted to be, except in that bliss.
I guess there may be some education taking place at school after all—I learned something valuable this year about what is really important to me, and why I keep getting up in the morning.