Tuesday, 27 September 2011
By Tom Zuniga
This weekend I’ll be taking an academic test in my first step toward becoming an eligible substitute teacher in California. I’ve been tutoring middle-school students for over a year now, and I’ve determined subbing to be my next educational course of action. I relish the one-on-one aspect of tutoring, and I’m not sure about the completely different dynamic of teaching an entire classroom of students. And so I want to experiment with substituting to discover whether this whole teaching business is something I would indeed enjoy doing until I’m 83 1/2 years old.
I long to live a life of purpose and impact, and someone once posed this question to me: what better way to achieve such aims than by becoming a teacher? That statement has always resonated with me.
It took driving across the country to start a new life last fall to discover my love for tutoring; it took an insane summer adventure in Milwaukee to uncover my love for students in general. I started tutoring this one particular boy last spring and am still blessed to work with him this fall. Out of the dozen or so kids I’ve tutored over the past year, he’s the only one I’ve retained from one season to the next.
He’s impacted me in ways he’ll never know. He’s listened to me, learned from me — shown me I’m not completely worthless, purposeless.
I’ve experienced nothing but joy in helping him totally turn around his math grades. Over the months we’ve grown more and more comfortable around each other, and it’s been neat to witness the evolution of our sessions together. It doesn’t have to be math-math-math all the time. I love learning about his days and sharing some of my own life-story with him. At times I genuinely feel like I’m his older brother or something, as his entire family has been incredibly gracious toward me these last several months. Makes me miss my family back in Georgia; makes me long for my own family. A son.
I know I won’t be this incredible boy’s tutor forever, and so I’m striving to leave a positive impact on his life while I’m still privileged to be part of it. An impact that reaches far beyond understanding algebra problems and achieving As on tests.
Like helping him come up with ten sentences on Harry Potter for an English exercise:
No, but seriously. I just want to matter to someone. It’s why I’m similarly drawn to blogging: I want to leave my mark on this world (specifically, my Thomas Mark). My incredible YouthWorks summer has unveiled my eyes to the power of every fleeting moment.
The power to build or to destroy with every fleeting moment.
Or the power to do nothing at all with every fleeting moment. We truly are here today, gone tomorrow. It’s not just a cliche; it’s reality.
Today, I’m this one middle schooler’s tutor; tomorrow, he’s graduating high school.
Today, I encounter a man picking through trashcans in the park; tomorrow, he thinks back on our encounter with either a positive or a negative memory. Or maybe he doesn’t even remember me at all.
Today, I blog; tomorrow, I enter eternity.
I suppose this post could serve as a sequel to my initial “brother” intro, but that’s the gist of these types of posts: my interactions with the human race.
Tutoring is only the beginning. Brotherhood abounds all around. I’m still learning, struggling to look beyond myself at the world around me. I’m here for a reason, here for a season.
Who will I — you — impact today?