You taught me this

For all the times when teaching feels harder than the Saudi desert…

For all the times when students don’t show up to class or don’t show up on the pass list…

For all the times when I ask myself, “Why am I here? Why am I doing this? Why do I pretend this matters?”

For all those times, there are these stories.

One happened during our Pre-Final exam, the one in which all the students in one level, hundreds of them, gather in one room to take one exam all together. It happened toward the end of that, when many students begin to leave and many others begin to sweat the answers they hope they saved in their memory.

A student stood up with his exam in his hand. They’re not supposed to stand up. He bolted toward me with a smile on his face. He wasn’t supposed to do that either, especially since I wasn’t his proctor.

“Teacher,” he said, “you taught me this.”

I looked down to see a picture of some screws. Next to it, where he was pointing, he’d written, “These are skews.”

He didn’t know what they were called before. He’d asked in class weeks before. It wasn’t me. I didn’t know he didn’t know. I only helped him find the answer, both on that day in class and then by extension on the exam.

He’d forgotten how to spell the word, but he hadn’t forgotten the plural and how to write that.

I gave him a smiley face. I couldn’t write it on his exam.

He taught me this.