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The Inspirer: A Teaching Dream Deferred

Helen Read

The Inspirer: A Teaching Dream DeferredAt six, maybe even younger, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I have proof. Teaching was in my heart and in my soul. I was called; I didn’t answer. 


Instead, I worked in a monotonous job in corporate America. I was lost. I had no purpose or drive. Miserable had become my middle name. For many reasons, I didn’t think it was possible to change careers. There were too many obstacles, so I let the misery fester and run. I was good at my job and took every training job I could in the company because at least I’d be teaching.


Years passed…more than a decade, while I just sat at that desk falling deeper and deeper into the gray world in which I lived. Langston Hughes described my world:


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A Dream Deferred


What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

                                                --Langston Hughes


This is my story!  I tell it to my seventh graders when we read and analyze Langston Hughes’ A Dream Deferred.  I use each line to describe my life when my dream was deferred. I make each line in the poem an analogy to what happened in my life.  I make the heavy load in the poem analogous to the weight that I gained as my dream festered and began to stink. 


I tell this story with great (and genuine) emotion for many reasons. First, I want my seventh graders to know what happens if they don’t make appropriate choices starting even at their age. I want them to know how much I love what I do. It’s more than just a job to me. It is my dream. I want them to see the poem connected to real, true, current life.


I hadn’t planned to share my story with the students the first time on the particular day that this story left my lips and tears rolled down my face. I saw a few students wipe tears from their own eyes as the room spontaneously filled with applause. Some of the kids even stood up. And one student said, “Mrs. Read, you should be an Inspirer.” 


An inspirer? Like that’s a career option or even a word. At first, I laughed a little. Then I thought. How amazing. Don’t we all aspire to be inspirers?


At least on one day, in one classroom, for one minute, I inspired someone. Tears filled my eyes again. This time, I was alone in deep thought and I was so immensely thankful that I get to live this dream. I am so fortunate to be doing exactly what I want to do exactly where I want to do it with all of my heart and all of my soul. I get to love what I do and do it with great passion. All of this while others sit in dead end monotonous jobs while their dreams dry up like a raisin in the sun.


I don’t want that miserable life to be the fate of my seventh graders. I want to do everything in my power to ensure that my students don’t have to defer their dreams. So, who are the real inspirers?


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