How Teaching Nourishes My Soul

by Mandy Lau
Guest Author

As the holidays approach, one becomes more reflective about life. Like, what did I spend all of my money on this year? Or what is the true meaning of the holidays? Well, from the perspective of an educator, those are easy questions to answer.
During the holidays we think of those we love, cherish moments that we have had and enjoy the company of people we value most. As a teacher, many of those whom I love and care for are my students. I think about the money I have spent over the past year and recall that much of money has gone towards decorations for the classroom, prizes for my students and books for my babies to read while we have Silent Sustained Reading.  What can I purchase to help my lowest readers? What about my students that need a challenge? Will they be able to digest something like, The Tao of Wu, written by Wu Tang Clan member The RZA? All these questions I ask myself when thinking about the ones I love the most during the holidays, my students. There is no denying that there are family, friends and significant others, but the truth remains that when you’re a teacher, and you love what you do and what you love, your students come first.
So what makes teaching so fulfilling? The knowledge that you are helping someone empower themselves through their own education would be a good start. It is amazing to see a student, who secretly wants to be writer, come back to your room and tell you that they want to borrow a philosophical, wise and extremely insightful book such as the Tao of Wu over Thanksgiving break to just read because they can’t stop being interested; student, who just last week received a beating to her face by an angry parent.  
There are so many times when my significant other and I, who is also an educator, have wanted to adopt some of our students but alas, we do not have the resources nor do we have the ability to take them as our own. The environment that our students live in does not change. I have taught in Compton and Eastside San Jose and the issues remain. The fighting, the violence, the drugs are a constant reminder of what our youth are fighting against. We are a nation forged on capitalism, so it’s every person for themselves. Thus, it is very powerful to see young students who can educate themselves, to see students who want to learn, and to watch them get excited about learning. It is because of these actions, because of the way we see our youth rise, they become the leaders we always knew they were. It is here, as teachers, we fight. Fight to struggle through the tiresome days and nights of grading hundreds of papers, assignments, losing sleep over creating lesson plans. I work at least a 15 hour day on providing education that is accessible for my students. That means that I breathe, eat, and even dream education. To me, there is enough greed, anger, subjugation and hatred in the world due to a lack of knowledge and a lack of understanding each other.
Teaching to me, is creating that counter force.
It is a way to show my students that someone out there believes in them, cares about them and hopes that they can do more than I was able to ever achieve in my life.
Teaching is the nourishment to my soul.

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