It took 30 years to figure out I was only a teacher

         I had a great day.....


..... yesterday.  But, even the greatest of days doesn't make it any easier to get up at 5:00 in the morning.  If only I could get to bed before 11:00 PM on school nights. That would make my life much easier.  With mountains of correcting being precipitated every day that possibility is basically impossible.  So here I am, shocking myself awake with a cold shower so I can stay alert for the approaching new day.


         I'm off to work before 6:15 am because it is critical to arrive at school at least 45 minutes early to complete any final preparations for my classes and to see if there are any further reports due for either the administration or the many state standards guidelines that make little sense to my students or myself.


         The busses arrive.  In come numerous students ranging from age 12 to 21.  Their entrance is noisier than a Foxboro crowd.  My classes begin with a review of what we had covered the previous day.  Most of my students now begin to pay attention but I always see in their eyes that they would rather be anywhere else.  They don't understand why they are being forced to learn something they think they will never use and probably soon forget.


         Looking around my room I see many of my student's eyes begin to half close.  I used to think my teaching style put many of them to sleep.  I discovered that most of these students have full time jobs after school.  Some students openly rebel by refusing to waste their time studying something they feel is useless.  I try to explain that in their futures they will appreciate understanding various ideas and concepts so they can successfully make correct decisions in their lives.  Most of the time I get comments about how an education is not worth anything except maybe for the fact that they can make more money if they graduate.


         I continue to explain that money is not an ends to life but a means.  Understanding is more important than how much they can make because, in reality, money is an empty goal. By now most of my students sneer at this explanation because they see what happened to me by choosing an intellectual life.  I became only a teacher.


         Every year I have more and more students sincerely believe they will not have the future their parents had These are the students who argue that if one doesn't take the opportunity to live for today, they will never experience life.  They have a difficult time delineating between their present and their future.


         A day never passes when I don't see one or more of my students with their eyes dilated because of some drug or alcohol abuse. I desperately try to reach these children in the hopes I can convince them to leave their bodies alone and give their minds a chance. They rarely answer me and only turn away for after all I am only a teacher. Many of my colleagues state that our profession has become less teaching and more social work. If this is what it has to be, so be it. For we are the only people left that can help these children. After we are gone, society's enforcement systems take over.


         The day ends like it began with many of my students displaying the same amounts of energy they showed when they arrived. I look around my room and see various pieces of crushed paper on the floor and on the desks. I know I can't dally because I usually have some meeting that, as of late, discusses how we can increase our test scores. It seems data is more important than my students. I try to explain that data does not breath. Data does not change but my students change every day if not every hour of every day.

         As I finish cleaning my room and the last of my students leave from extra help, one of my students enters and explains what I taught her about biological relationships between young men and women made a decision she had to make easier. As she was leaving my room she turned and thanked me for being a teacher; her teacher.


         I had a great day .....


Jim Fabiano, a teacher and writer who lives in York, Maine

He is a past recipient of the Maine Press Association’s award for Best Weekly Column. You can E-mail Jim at:

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