the smile

I am definitely no educational saint nor wannabe humanitarian savior (too decadent and selfish, obviously), but I must admit that seeing an extraordinarily socially awkward seventeen year old, after nine or ten months of teaching him and assuming, from his totally blank and robotic facial expression that he hated the lessons, and me ( and the other students ) – and so massive kudos to the rest of the class for accepting, and even nurturing him to the point where he feels like something frozen, slowly, thawing and coming alive : to see him laugh and smile unabashedly, finally, after all this time, is something exceedingly precious and beautiful


Filed under Flowers

54 responses to “the smile

  1. I love hearing good things like this. I hop he keeps it up and enjoys whatever life may bring.

    • Thank you lovely.

      There is so much hate and misery in the world that I thought I would share.

      It has been a very hard very spectrum slog but it honestly made my heart sing ( more like a full chorale in truth )


  2. Good for you. I once threw an oval shape blackboard eraser (anyone here knows what it is?) and hit a student’s head when he ignored my warning and kept chatting loudly with his classmate in class.

  3. This made me smile. Thank you for sharing this.

  4. That’s a lovely story, thank you for sharing it. I have some young mail relatives with similar struggles, so it’s particularly moving.

    • It does seem to be more of a male thing – but not exclusively. You know me – expressively the horrendous opposite : maybe that is part of the catalyst – my absurd emotionality dislodging some previously fixed rock

      I am slightly crying thinking / talking about it

      glad you and other people have reacted – I did hesitate x

  5. That’s great. I saw a similar thing with a younger male coworker a few years ago. He looked super intense and very serious. After several months he started to smile and showed a great sense of humor, and several of us (women) who worked with him were thrilled. Kudos to his manager for bringing him “out of his shell” (an expression I dislike for some reason) and helping him be himself more in front of his coworkers.

    • This sounds very similar: some people really do put on a very severe protective front when they lack confidence inside and it is easy to react negatively to it: at times in truth he really got on my nerves and I assumed he would quit the class(and half hoping we would, then really pleased when I saw he was continuing).

      I had never thought about bringing someone out of their shell as irritating, but I can see it now actually – it suggests the person is a mollusc.

  6. Nelleke Oepkes aka Booknose

    I almost feel like this student. Read it in one giant breath. And then the apotheosis of the SMILE. A very very dutch proverb says those are the raisins in the pudding!!

  7. Nelleke Oepkes aka Booknose

    I was very inside myself as a pupil and not gregarious. And I loved the teachers who made me smile. I studied like hell just to make them make me smile.

  8. Elena

    I know that feeling. It’s rare but it feels like a huge victory, not in the ego-related way but like a victory of human connection. Heartwarming!

    • Re me saying I am no educational saint nor humanitarian wannabe by the way, I think that came out wrong and sounds as if I have a cynical attitude towards such people when the opposite is true: I think I sometimes feel guilty about the fact that I am not more like them. I could never in a million years be one of those ‘teachers of the year’ types who give their heart and soul completely to their students, nor an aid worker in an impoverished region somewhere. For me this is a job, and in terms of preparation, I do what is needed (in truth, often the bare minimum) but don’t have much of a grand scope nor well thought out yearly curriculum – it just happens as it happens.

      When I am actually IN the classroom, though, I do generally make a huge effort and do everything I can to make a connection. One thing the students say is that I create a relaxing environment in which they can express themselves and I do love it when certain students emerge from themselves a bit.

  9. matty1649

    A lovely story.

  10. Ann

    He will remember you always. I was a bit like him at age 12 and Miss Mudge took an interest in me…..went from second last in Latin in first term to second from top in second term. I still think of her…..tall, gangly Miss Mudge who was probably only in her twenties at the time.

    • Was she literally called Miss Mudge? There is a teacher character in one of the American grammar textbooks with the same name: or was it Mrs Mudge?

      I agree though. My English teacher had a profound effect on my confidence: you don’t forget these things.

  11. YESSS. The glow of a job well done, mate. Most pleased to hear it. I know how you feel at times. So happy I changed career at 49. (Although not yesterday. But that is another story).

  12. Hanamini

    Such a lovely post. Well done. One never forgets those teachers and how they made you feel. Just think how you will be in the memories and conversations of all those students throughout their lives. It’s easy to forget, in the day to day. May it give you an extra boost when the days are draining and bleak.

    • Not bleak as such, but definitely draining sometimes : as you say though, these exchanges and connections can be very important in someone’s life and I am glad to be part of them

    • What are your own best memories of your teachers ?

      • Hanamini

        A gym teacher was incredibly handsome but had no patience with the unsporty schoolgirl I was; I’ve never forgotten the feelings of shame and incompetence, and even now, when called on to perform in some physical way (eg, dance!), they resurface and interfere with free, happy movement of the body. But I also had a philosophy teacher (I was in a French school) who had incredibly thick, lustrous black hair like a storybook Egyptian; it could barely be contained by any scarf or band. This luxuriance combined with her air of mystery and her open-ended questions were so inspiring that they led directly to what I did later. She was not warm or pastoral at all; she was just intriguing and otherworldly. There are many ways in which all our teachers shape us in some way or other. My oldest child is now a teacher, and she seems to be weaving some magic on difficult teenagers at her school. It makes her so happy and buoys her, when the other aspects of teaching are tough.

      • How utterly beautiful to read.

        I am in love with your philosophy teacher ( and a little bit with your PE teacher ).

        Glad your daughter is thriving and having a good impact ; I am VERY lucky in that I have zero paper work apart from taking the register ( which I regularly forget to do). No curriculum ; no input, interference, training, almost no observation – I ‘just’ have to get good evaluations and results – but the way I get there is entirely up to me

      • ( I was lucky btw : the PE teacher hated me – because I refused to participate in anything and was willfully beyond useless – but fortunately he was married to my English teacher ..

  13. Robin

    I can’t think of any more impactful adults in my life than the several quietly magnificent teachers and professors I’ve had. My parents were remote at best, but those extraordinary educators gave me the warmth, attention, guidance and especially the validation I craved. Without their influence, I think I would have really been a mess, self-loathing and bitter.

    • The power in this had me hesitating to answer for a few seconds :

      validation, yes. I am no fully conscientious teacher like the ones you mention above, as my mind is on other things. But at the human level, I do truly LOVE being able to encourage the kids that are left out, ‘freaks’, can’t communicate, hate themselves, and I know I have helped to lift some of them out of their state of misery : it’s an honour to be in the position to be able to do that.

      • Robin

        Don’t forget about the hidden neediness of the high achievers in the classroom. It’s truly invisible, covered up, the vulnerability and lack of self-worth behind the armor of good grades and seeming confidence. She may be desperate for the recognition that she is more than her accomplishments, lovable for herself — including and especially her imperfections. At home, she may be being treated like a bad person, a burden, a mistake. I would imagine that the Japanese culture might foster more than a few students of my type!

  14. That is so beautiful. It really made my heart feel happy. When teenagers can be so cruel at times, it is so heartwarming to know that they helped this one student to open up and thaw his icy demeanor.

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