“Look, look,, the planet I made is Nomean People! Nomean!” The girl with long glossy dark hair and infectious smile giggled and showed me the little square she’d drawn on a piece of red construction paper. Our theme that day was space and the solar system, and as one of the activities we had the children invent their own planet, which could be any shape, color, or size they wanted.
One girl made two planets, both in the shape of rainbows, which she cut out and stuck on Popsicle sticks. She wrote her name in large, crooked letters on the back of both planets, but refused to talk whenever we tried to ask her questions. She pursed her lips and raised her chin as if she wanted to say something but was being kept silent by some unseen force. But that was okay; she was having fun and had understood the concept of what we were trying to do.
One of the boys, usually quite rowdy and impatient with the activities we give, made his planet out of black and yellow play-dough-like stuff that we’d brought with us. He told us that everything on his planet was black – the people, the buildings, the sidewalks, the sky, the trees, the food. He found the concept cheerful, though.
Others drew planets that looked somewhat like Earth, or else mashed up all sorts of colors together. They loved inventing, creating something of their own that they could take home and tell their families about.
The girl with the Nomean People planet repeated its name to any of us “big people” who was standing near her. She must have desperately wanted her planet to exist in reality.
The Teacher heaved a deep sigh as she clasped her worn brown bag. Her hands, no longer slender and delicate, were riddled with swollen veins. Her wedding ring couldn’t come off her finger even if she’d wanted it to. Thankfully, she didn’t. Her marriage was the one thing that still made sense in her life.
The Teacher’s hair had been dyed red so many times that it had taken on a slightly metallic orange tint. She knew she looked like a joke, and she definitely knew the various nicknames she was known by throughout the student body, but white hair meant being a grandmother to her. That word hurt her too much. Grandmother. She had almost been one, and if the loss hurt her, she could only imagine how much it had hurt her daughter. Hurt enough that she had cut herself off from her parents because, in her words, it had been too difficult to see their eyes wander to her barren stomach and then fill with tears.
The Teacher picked up her case and walked slowly down through the empty halls, littered with crumpled paper and the occasional forgotten textbook. She sighed again as she walked. teaching didn’t make sense anymore, and for the last few years, this simple fact threw her whole life out of skew.
Her students weren’t different. Perhaps there were more cellphones in class, more kids copying essays off the internet, but all in all, high-school hadn’t changed all that much since she herself had been a twelfth-grader. No, it was some general something that irked her. Maybe it was the fact that so many parents didn’t seem to care what or how the teachers taught anymore. Maybe it was the fact that Bobby Jones and Nora Lessinger kept showing up to school with no text books because the funding for students like them who came from very low-income families had run dry. Maybe it was the fact that her daughter wasn’t speaking to her, and every teenager she looked at in her class seemed to somehow remind her of her personal life.
The Teacher exited the school building, and the sun flooded down from between a few grey clouds. In the parking lot, as always, was her husband in their old dark green Fiat. She could faintly hear the first Led Zeppelin album playing inside. She smiled at him, gave a little wave, and walked over. At least something still made sense in the world.
Months ago, around September and October, my days were spent at work, studying to become a customer service rep, and at home, slaving away over essay after essay for the colleges I was applying to. I’ve been looking over them lately, and many are extremely similar since they were built over the same mold. Here is one, however, that I like because of its genuine explanation about why I’m so looking forward to college.
Many people, myself included, have a very hard time enjoying elementary and high-school education in and of itself. This is especially true here in Israel, where many school years begin with a teachers’ strike because our schools don’t get the funding they need, and thus teachers aren’t getting paid what they should. This, in turn, leads to ever-fewer people choosing teaching as a profession, which means that the teachers we students get are often there because teaching was their last resort, or because they once wanted to be teachers, but the years of working in a zero-respect job with hardly more than blank paychecks have made them bitter.
Another reason why many people don’t enjoy their high-school education is because we don’t really get to choose what to study. Certain things are forced upon us and then taught in such a way that leaves them joyless, the necessity of studying them rendering them dull.
I tried, as much as possible, to enjoy my studies to the fullest despite the way they were taught. I tried to make history come alive despite the droning quality of my teacher’s voice, tried to make literature exciting despite how it was hacked to pieces and dissected in class as if that was the only way to analyze it, tried to make the hours of grueling math homework on the weekends be cathartic and a source of pride rather than an unbearable chore. I succeeded, sometimes. But it’s hard to be enthusiastic about your studies when there’s little help or support from the school.
This is why I am so excited to be going to college in the United States, and also why I am reluctant to choose a major straight off. I’m so enthusiastic and willing to explore different subjects for a year or two before declaring my major, and I feel that this will rekindle my passion for learning new things. I do know that I might well end up majoring in English – but then again, perhaps I will major in Writing or Psychology or maybe even Drama. My interests are varied and as of now, I cannot choose which field I want to study exclusively.