In my previous life, I was a math teacher. I taught for ten years; in a public high school in the Bay Area, a public high school in New York City, and then a private middle school. Each school had its strengths and difficulties, but I was drawn to teach, not just because of my love of the subject matter, but because of my love for the students. Many students were my first children; people that I cared for, worried about, cried over, and loved.
I have many weaknesses (I write overly flowery and long sentences, my arms and core are far from strong, I don’t have much self control, I feel overly “blonde” with current events, and I buy my kids too many toys) and annoying qualities (I nag, I easily get hangry, I am impatient, and I pick food from my husband’s plate). But I also know that I have a few talents (I am an excellent jump roper and a professional french-braider).. and I am also a good math teacher. I loved teaching — and someday will go back to teaching in a classroom (versus the private tutoring I do every single day now) — and it is because of my students and the connections that I became a good teacher. To me, it was not only helping the students become more confident with math, but also helping them become confident individuals who would make better choices and decisions in their outside life.
One of the students that had a profound impact on my life is Ruby Rodriguez. She was in 9th grade at Hillsdale High School in my first official teaching job post Stanford Graduate School in 2004. Not only was she incredibly beautiful, but she had a spark and way about her that made her stand out. She was defiant, difficult, sassy, and demanding. She was incredibly smart, but she didn’t want to work. She and I became close even though we had a strained relationship at times. When she cut my class, I would call her mother and get her in trouble. She would burst into my classroom cursing at me and saying horrible things. And then there were times that I helped her in the afternoons after school with work, counseled her on personal problems, gave her rides, exchanged presents and notes with her, and loved her unconditionally. Although I wanted to have faith that she would turn out okay, she was headed down a difficult path of hanging with the wrong kids, not doing well in school, acting out, and not believing in herself. I remember saying goodbye to her on the last day of school when she was headed to 10th grade and I was moving to NYC. I gave her a necklace, a letter, and an award: “Biggest Pain In My Booty.” I was nervous for her future and hoped all would turn out okay.
We stayed in touch via Facebook (which is why I love social media), and I saw her graduate from high school, college, go abroad, and earn a job teaching at her high school. I have always felt a tremendous sense of pride. Her drive, ambition, success, desire to help others, ability to commit and work, always make me beam and tear up.
Ruby is a success story and I, along the way, had the time to spend a year with her (she touched me so much that it seems like our time together was much longer!). I feel honored and grateful to have taught and loved her at the age of 16.
So to get to the point of this post, last week, I saw this:
Ruby’s post on Facebook alone is why I teach. I love you, Ruby Rodriguez and am incredibly proud of your ambition, talent, intelligence, motivation and drive. The fact that I could help one kid in a sea of millions, means the world to me.
For those currently in education, thank you for teaching our future. It is the teachers that guide our country and help form our children.