Lessons I Did Not Teach You
I did not teach you to be a parent,
yet you will find yourself caring
so deeply for the children
who sit in front of you
on the multi-colored carpet
that it will frighten you.
You will come to love them,
as if they came from your own body.
You will not be able to help it.
I did not teach you to be a counselor,
yet you will find yourself
listening to Laura from 5th period
because you are the one adult she trusts.
Unable to comfort her and
unable to advise her,
you will hold in silent, angry tears
reduced to bearing witness,
and shouldering her grief
as if it were you own.
I did not teach you to be an advocate,
yet you will find yourself fighting
to secure services for your students.
Like Ysidro, whose parents don’t speak English.
You will help him navigate a winding labyrinth.
You will rage with him,
in defiance of a broken system
that demands a 15-year-old child
serve as a translator for his parents
at his own IEP meeting.
I did not teach you to be a soldier,
yet you may find yourself
crouched in a supply closet,
holding the doorknob shut,
as tightly as you can.
All the while,
brushing away tears,
and singing softly,
to the fourteen first graders
cowering behind you.
These are lessons I did not teach you.
But, hear me now.
To be a teacher is to live all these lives.
To give, to serve, and to love
with your heart outside your body
both depleted and made whole again
by the burnishing practice
of empathy and care.
By Katharine Covino
Katharine Covino is an assistant professor of English who teaches writing, literature, and teacher-preparation classes at Fitchburg State University. Prior to university-level teaching, she taught middle school and high school in Austin, Texas. She is also a children’s book author. Her latest book, The Insanely Awesome Pandemic Playbook: A Humorous Mental Health Guide For Kids, seeks to support children (and their families) in understanding, processing, and addressing the challenges they are facing due to the pandemic in a funny, accessible, and kid-friendly way. The book is available on Amazon and at www.insanelyawesomebooks.com