Two days ago, I missed a family tradition: celebrating the 4th of July at the Washington Monument. Since 1999, the year I moved to the United States, my family has always celebrated America’s Independence to the sounds of the fireworks at the Monument. As I sat by myself in my room on July 4th, I yearend to be with my Mom, sisters, and brother, eating ice-cream or cotton candy—whichever I was in the mood of—seeing the bright colors lighten up the sky, and hearing the patriots should “USA!” I wanted to take pictures in red, white, and blue. This would be the second time I’m missing this tradition.
I’ve been teaching for a week and a half now, but it feels like I’ve known these kids forever. The bond I’ve formed with all my students is indescribable. The act of teaching in and of itself is indescribable. When I enter the classroom, all my students stand up and greet me. When they have a question, they stand up straight and then speak. Their every sentence ends with ‘Ma’am’ – “May I drink water, Ma’am?” “Can you explain that again, Ma’am?” “If a journalist is supposed to tell the truth, then what happens if there’s a conflict of interest, Ma’am?” Is this what authority feels like? My students—boys more than girls—crack jokes that make me laugh hysterically. I feel more like their peer than a teacher. I can’t help but feel so fulfilled when they raise their hands and keep answering a question until they get it right. Maybe I was meant to teach after all. Maybe this has been my calling in life and I’ve been blind to it all along.
Sometime in January during my winter break, I had dinner with one of my favorite teachers of all time, Mrs. Joan Reynolds. As we enjoyed our warm food at Bertucci’s Italian Restaurant in Old Town, we went on talking about what we had missed out on each other’s lives. I updated her about my summer 2010 experience teaching English, math and blogging at the Al-Imtiaz Academy, and she shared with me details about her life as a retired English teacher. It was she who told me that I should consider teaching, and what a rewarding profession it was. I didn’t doubt her one bit. I had experienced for myself how fulfilling teaching can be. It is this fulfillment that has brought me back here again; to Al-Imtiaz Academy, to my students, to a country I dearly love.