Why I Teach: For Them.

I’ve realized lately that some people reading this blog may be wondering, “Gosh, Ms. Mocha, if it sucks that much at work, why do you stay there? Are you some sort of weird glutton for punishment?”

I’m here to tell you that I’m not, even though my ranting and raving on this blog may suggest otherwise. Even with all the Vanilla Latte craziness, I do find myself enjoying my job immensely most of the time. Really.

Are there insanely hard days? Absolutely. Are there moments when I want to go back in time and wallop 24 year-old me as she applies for graduate school? You freakin’ better believe it. Are there days when my accountant friend tells me she caught up on Grey’s Anatomy while she worked at her desk and I feel my blood pressure skyrocket out of sheer envy? Uh, yeah.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t love my job as an educator. I really do love my job, even though it has its challenges. I love knowing that on any given day, I will probably be laughing, problem-solving, working with other amazing people, and connecting with my awesome students. Also, there’s always a good chance there will be some sort of dancing.

I get to have a hand in my students becoming the best possible versions of themselves. Who else but teachers get to do that?  I get to watch as they make connections between the novels we read and the world outside of their privilege bubble. I love the moments when they say, “but that’s not fair! We should change that!” And I love that I get to say, “You all should!” I believe they can, and if I say it enough, I believe they will.

I love speaking in Spanish to all of my students every day. I love to hear them speak it back to me, even the ones that don’t know it at all. I love it when they speak to me in French, German, Japanese, Chinese, or Greek.

I love their stories. Their stories about family, friends, sports, and weekend shenanigans. All of my classes start with sharing stories.

I hope that my Vanilla Latte students see me, a woman of color, standing before them and that subconsciously, their perceptions of what a teacher, leader, woman, immigrant, Mexican should look like, change. I hope that my students of color see me, and that any internalized perceptions of who they should be diminish enough for them to reach that glass ceiling and smash it to pieces. I want to be the shoulders they stand on. I don’t mind being showered with glass.

Maybe that last hope comes from a more selfish place. I didn’t have a teacher of color until I was college. I had some great teachers, believe me. But I never had one that had a name like mine, or that looked anything like me. I didn’t realize the impact that had on me until I heard my professor tell a story about straightening her hair and how impossible it was, and I realized, through my chuckles, that tears were streaming down my cheeks (I too, tried to straighten my hair in middle school, to disastrous, triangular results.). This lady gets me, I remember thinking. She gets our hair.

I hope that my students have moments like that as I recount my stories of growing up Mocha. And when it seems like my hopes are all for naught, and I feel like all I’m doing is fighting water bottle flipping, I get this:

letter to Ms. Mocha

Little do they know how much they inspire me. Truly, they are the reason I keep going back to my classroom every morning. Letters like this one are a good reminder to keep going back, even when I’m feeling like I just want to stay home, cry, and eat my body weight in Nutella and Takis (not at the same time, mind you. That would not be a fun combo.).

I see in them the potential to change the entire world. Maybe that’s naive of me, but that’s what I see when I look out at my students. That one will be a lawyer and fight for immigrant rights. That one will be a pediatrician and help babies. That one that can solve a Rubik’s Cube in 10 seconds, he’ll find a cure for Alzheimer’s. That sparkling Mocha student of mine, well, she’ll be President, you just wait.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll be back to ranting, but today, I wanted you to know that no matter how hard it gets, I’ll keep coming back. For them.


2 thoughts on “Why I Teach: For Them.

  1. Thank you for writing this. It is such a challenging job. I go through a similar process of thinking ‘why am I here!?’ It is invaluable to have children of color see themselves in me and I in them. Everything you wrote I’ve experienced and I’m sure many others have also. It’s encouraging to read pieces like this especially when I’m struggling.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello! I’m so glad that this post reached you. It can definitely be a struggle, but our amazing students are so worth it, right? Stay strong, remember to take time to take care of yourself, and keep on fighting the good fight! 🙂


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