Whenever I need a refresher on my motivation to teach, I catch up on reading student letters. It's a Monday and I'm tired. I have emails to catch up on. I have plans to make. I have grades to enter. Yet, for the last twenty minutes or so, I've been answering student letters.
And there it is - this is why I teach.
I read a letter from a student telling me she just finished reading a biography of Anne Frank. She did a fantastic job describing the plight of Anne's struggle through the holocaust, including details that would make your eyes water. But, the most gripping sentence of her letter came when she answered the prompt to describe why [Anne] is important, why [her] story should be told at all. This is a paraphrase of what she wrote:
"In the book, Anne heard that it would be important for individual stories to be told so that the holocaust wouldn't be reduced to a bunch of stats."
I about jumped out of my seat - quite a feat for me any time before 9am.
Hurriedly, I wrote out my response. "This is exactly why Literature is important! The best is intended to bridge the gaps between each generation, race, and culture to ensure we make connections with one another! In this way we can stand up for each other, advocating for one another during times that are evil; and maybe we can avert another holocaust."
Today, I'm teaching with energy.
And it doesn't matter that this student is the exception, not the rule. It doesn't matter that the very next letter I read was horrible. It doesn't matter that the first class I taught today was difficult because of a couple students who won't follow directions.
Steering one student toward her incredible potential to think, and maybe someday to write, is all worth the other junk. In fact, it allows me to unleash an energy on those difficulties I didn't have before.