The other day, two boys from my class brought tadpoles to school that they had fished out of some lake in Tokyo. Since having tadpoles in the classroom had been a dream of mine for years (yes, I do realize that my dreams are very small!), I didn’t object to keeping them. I had no clue what to feed them or how to change the water when necessary, but the kids had some good ideas and so we learnt how to take care of tadpoles together. (And no, they don’t eat salad leafs from the cafeteria, no matter how small you cut the pieces.)
Let me tell you one thing about tadpoles: Given the right food, they grow so fast. They develop and change so quickly. They grow tiny legs and then tiny arms basically over night. It was delightful to watch, for one thing because they are just so darn cute and for another because the changes could be seen instantly, every single morning.
With educating kids, this is not the case. No matter how hard you work on things as a teacher (or parent) every day, certain positive changes in kids can take months or even years until you can actually see them. In the words of my grandma: “Educating children means saying the same thing a hundred times.“ It happens that you keep repeating yourself like a broken record player every hour of the day and feel like you’re going absolutely nowhere.
That is because unfortunately, we can’t look into a child’s mind and soul to see the changes as they are happening. It’s an internal process, hidden away from the adults. So the only thing we can do is to keep soldiering on, hoping that our efforts won’t be entirely in vain. On some days, I just want to throw in the towel. On some days, I think that I’m not what or who a particular kid needs. On some days, I feel like I shouldn’t be educating kids at all. It can be frustrating and disheartening.
Until one day, the changes I was hoping and praying for are suddenly visible. When I thought I would never get there, but then I finally am. It’s shocking and wonderful at the same time. In these moments I realize how far I’ve actually come. How it was worth it after all. And how what I’m doing as a teacher can’t be all that bad. (Maybe even something to be mildly proud of.)
For a moment today, as I watched the tadpoles swimming about (using arms, legs and tail!) I secretly wished that my students would develop at this speed, too. That if I taught them something, they’d remember the next day. That if I told them to be kind and not kick each other when they’re angry, they won’t ever do it again. For once, I wanted to feel the satisfaction of instant results.
Then I realized: That’s not what my job is. It’s not my job to magically transform kids over night. It’s my job to go on this journey of development with them, to be by their side and guide them in the best way possible. It’s my job to help them up when they fall, and celebrate with them them when they succeed. It’s my job to be there and to have faith in them, because when I do, they have a chance of learning to have faith in themselves.
Faith to be able to turn into anything they want.