My cell phone rang loudly on Saturday morning piercing the quiet of the house. The ringing on a Saturday morning wasn’t unusual, but the caller was. It wasn’t my parents or siblings ringing to catch up. It was an unknown number. I debated for a few seconds about answering before my finger punched the touch screen.
It was my daughter, I’s, ballet teacher calling. She was following up on an email she’d sent earlier in the day, but I hadn’t read yet. Her father is ill and so she is taking some time off the lessons to be with him. I expressed my understanding and sadness at the circumstances. The children love her kind nature and the genuine fun that she creates every Saturday morning at the church hall on the hill.
“I’m an only child, so I feel it’s my duty and a privilege to support my parents. Hopefully the other parents will understand and not be too upset,” she said.
So much of a teacher’s role is managing the expectations of parents. Although I had learnt about the importance of this in the course of my teachers training, the share volume of this task day in and day out was not apparent until I was in a fulltime teaching position. The pressure placed on children by their parents is colossal; in an infant’s room to crawl and walk, and then to learn the skills ‘required’ for entrance to formal schooling.
Who knows what skills will be needed in the workforce years from now?
Are you really a failure at life if you are not able to write the full alphabet, uppercase and lowercase, when arriving on your first school day?
To my surprise, this wasn’t the main point of the phone call though.
Today, through the phone she shared part of herself, an idea. An idea for a set of dance classes for disadvantaged children provided at low to no cost, just to give back to the community. As she explained her vision I exclaimed and encouraged. Then it was revealed.
“We could work on this together in exchange for dance tuition… I don’t want to put you on the spot but I’ve been looking for someone, a teacher, a mother, to grow my classes with. Not necessarily someone with dance knowledge but classroom control knowledge, parenting knowledge, a care and interest in others. You don’t have to give me an answer now. Have a think about it and I’ll be in touch once I’ve spent some time with my dad.”
I was amazed by her courage.
We’d talked but a handful of times, stealing moments between classes. From the few minutes of conversation that we’d stolen I knew that this beautiful human was just that, a beautiful human who cared about others. She’d shared fragments of her life with me, single mother, strong mother, battler for her child’s wellbeing and her own, an injured dancer, teacher, a true lover of children. In return I realised that in these conversations I’d been sharing part of myself too. I wore my dreams on my sleeve and this beautiful human had read them, taken notice of them.
“All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them” -Walt Disney
You see, I’ve always wanted to give back, to contribute to something bigger than myself. It was one of the main driver that led me to choose teaching as my career. I’ve always attributed this to my upbringing in a low socio-economic area, surrounded by poverty and distress. My mother was a teacher aide for most of my youth, working with differently-abled children who became some of our closest friends. I volunteered in the same field during high school, then mentored ‘troubled’ youth, and at one stage considered specialising in early intervention teaching rather than mainstream. I’ve always wanted to make a difference to disadvantaged or what our Ministry of Education would call ‘priority learners.’
And here was a stranger, a beautiful human no less, sharing her idea with me and what’s more asking for a partnership that spoke to my heart, to make her idea a reality. Wow. It must have taken courage for her to make that call, to share that idea, that piece of her heart, and to think of it in spite of the challenges she is facing with her father’s illness. She fought the fear and phoned anyway. I’m so glad that I answered her call.
I’ll let you know how this new opportunity pans out.