by Babak Mostaghimi
"Dear Mr. Mospagetti, you're the nicest teacher I had since I been here, I like how you teach us thank for all your help teaching me."
Teaching is one of the most important, yet under-appreciated, professions in the world.
I'll be the first to admit that when I applied for Teach For America I thought of teaching as something easy that would allow me to lend a helping hand to our nation's children. What could be better than a job that gives you the satisfaction of directly helping the future while allowing you to go home at 3:25 each day and to have two months of vacation for the summer?
Nine weeks into my position as the new fifth grade science and social studies teacher in Shelby, Mississippi, I look back at that nave comment and I smile with the knowledge of what teaching is really like. Being a teacher is one of those things that you cannot understand until you do it. Even then, teaching is far from a uniform profession as it changes every moment within a classroom let alone across schools and states.
The first day of school was a day that Ill never forget. The biggest question on my childrens minds was not what are we learning this year or who would be in their class, but who was this new person that was teaching them. The first week was littered with questions of where I was from and what I was doing in Shelby. Being able to pronounce my name became the cool thing to do as kids would practice it in the hallways and would show off their knowledge of who I was to other students. I found my kids more interested in knowing my race and whether I had any idea about rap music and culture than they were in what caused volcanoes to erupt or hurricanes to form. I realized in that moment the importance of a teacher as a role model and a person that the kids would thoroughly investigate before trusting.
Teaching is not the 7:40 a.m. to 3:25 p.m. job that I had thought it would be. Being a teacher becomes a way of life, where every action is scrutinized under a microscope by your children and their families as they attempt to determine if they can really trust their children with you for the majority of the day. Especially in a town as small as Shelby, word of the smallest habit or action, such as my habit of eating a five-piece dark meat fried chicken meal at the local gas station after school, gets around quickly. Singing one rap song with two kids after school turned into instant stardom as kids from the elementary and high schools suddenly heard about my performance and demanded an encore presentation. The question of the day was not: What is my grade in your class? The question the children wanted answered was: Do your chain hang low?
While being a teacher is far from the easy profession I had imagined it to be, teaching surely is one of the most rewarding professions. There is nothing quite like the feeling a teacher gets when reading a note of appreciation from a child: Dear Mr. Mospagetti thank for all your help teaching me.
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