This day, September 11, is indelibly tied to my roots as an educator. In 2001, it was my 5th day of my first year teaching 9th grade Algebra at East Boston High School. Without any practice teaching or experience in a full-time classroom, I barely understood what it meant to teach math yet on that day. Yet, I found myself having to be an anchor for students when moments before, I didn’t even realize that was in my job description. The TVs were turned on in all the classrooms. Students had questions. Questions like, Do we still have football practice? Can we take the bus home? Are we at war? I mean, teachers are supposed to end their classes with “does anyone have any questions?” and then answer those questions, but I didn’t have any answers. We all just sat in our classes talking in muted tones trying to make sense of everything as parents picked up their kids throughout the day.
14 years later, I’m teaching 9th grade again for the first time in a long time. Some of our 9th graders weren’t even alive 14 years ago, and the rest were infants and toddlers on that day. But now I know the answers to questions, and even more importantly, I know the questions that lead to more questions. I know that empathy should be at the heart of all my interactions. I know that my job description includes “anchor” between the lines of the day-to-day tasks.
There are a bunch of 28-year-olds out there today who don’t know that I still think of them on this day, every year. Although the memories become less crisp each passing year, today is always a reminder of where I have come from in my chosen profession, and how much work there is still to be done.