Photo: Unsplash/Ben Mullins

"That girl’s big heart"

"Thrown" from her high school teaching job to middle school and support teaching. A huge struggle, so much so that she was even angry at God. A teacher recounts what then changed everything.

"I am only a support teacher because of the government," is what I used to say, almost as if to justify myself. In 2015, a legislative measure flung me, without warning, from high school, where I had taught Italian and Latin for eleven years, to middle school and support teaching. I was stunned, shocked by this fact and, after becoming aware of it, I lived the moment as a serious injustice and was angry first at God and then at the government.

How could God, who has already entrusted us with two special needs daughters, want me act as a support teacher 24 hours a day? Why did I have to deal with disability at work too? I always experienced my work as my own little corner - a place where I could express myself, feel fulfilled, where I could communicate to my kids, through literature, poetry, the experience of good I have had in these years. At that time, I remember, I always went to School of Community bitter and not at all willing to value the great struggle I was experiencing in the classroom as an opportunity for me. Meanwhile, time passed and I was too busy licking my wounds and teaching Greek and Latin classes to notice what was happening to me.

Yet, I realized that despite my objections, I enjoyed going to school, I lived the relationships with my colleagues well, who helped me so much, and I enjoyed working with the girl I was tutoring. In short, it was a constant struggle between my idea of reality and the objective reality that I was called to live.

When this girl arrived, she was a humiliated and wounded puppy in her own shell, taken from her mother and entrusted to a foster home. She did not trust anyone, she always had a furtive gaze and spoke very little. There was a moment when, looking at her, I realized that I could no longer feel sorry for myself and, since nothing happens by chance, I understood that the Mystery wanted me right there and asked me to take care of her. During these years I have seen her blossoming, weaving friendships with her classmates, growing in self-esteem - in short, loving herself. I have often been surprised by gazes of tenderness, moments of emotion and prayer, asking for a good destiny for her. I witnessed an evolutionary parable of such beauty that I experienced how great God's work is and how it changes our lives - even within the same situations and fatigue - if only we trust Him and let Him operate.

The girl, doing brilliantly in her exams, wrote me a letter in which she drew a big heart and thanked me for loving her and above all told me that she was no longer afraid.

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She does not know how much she has given me. With her, I experienced that you are always an educator, regardless of the place and space; you can be in your chair or with the kids at their desks, but when the desire to communicate what is worth living for urges within you, when you want to tell your kids that everything is for you and has to do with you, you then discover that, as the prophet Isaiah reminds us, each of us is called to be a "rebuilder of walls, and restorer of homes."

Gabriella, Matera, Italy