The Noble Sauna
I, among many things, am a teacher. I teach English and theatre to “at –risk” high school students. When I say “at-risk”, I mean that they are at risk of dropping out of high school, and this alternative program is basically their last resort in the hopes of getting a high school diploma.
I love what I do. Let me repeat, I love what I do.
Some days are harder than others. The week before spring break was just the week from HELL. I wanted to go home and cry, or have an adult beverage, and/or both. What I did do, was go to the gym. Running always helps me relax, de-stress, and just gain some clarification, some perspective.
I was in the sauna trying to just sweat out my aggravation, when two middle aged Indian women and I struck up a conversation. Actually, I sort of invited myself into their conversation when I laughed at something they said. I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, but mind you, this sauna is all of five feet wide. It’s rather hard NOT to eavesdrop. Anyway, I digress. I laughed at something one of the women said, she was talking about how her son works in finance, and how he makes quite the salary. I laughed and said, “oh yes, they do.” She then asked me, “Are you in finance?” I said no, I’m a teacher. Her response?
What a noble profession.
I wanted to hug that lady right then and there. What a perfect antidote to my horrific day. Sometimes a person just needs to be appreciated. Sometimes a person just needs to be acknowledged for all that they do. Not just teachers, but all people. A little thanks goes a long way. Again, I digress. My new friends and I then went on to discuss education, on a global and personal level, as both of the women had children going off to college at the end of the year. One woman had a son, and the other woman had a daughter and the mother of the daughter was already feeling the absence of her child, it was so beautiful. She wanted to know if I had gone away for school, I said yes. She wanted to know why, and I told her because my mother had wanted me to, since she had not gotten the experience of going away to school.
My mother is first generation Italian American. My grandparents are straight off the boat from Italy, and my grandmother does not have any schooling beyond fifth grade. My mother is 56 now, and, when she was of the college going age, my grandfather discouraged her. He just wanted my mother and her sisters to become secretaries. That was a safe profession for girls. My grandmother’s response? Over her dead body. Her daughter would attend college, her daughters would get the education that she was essentially robbed of.
My mother commuted to a four-year university, and she is now one of the most successful and admired foreign language teacher’s in the school district that she works in. One of my aunts is a nurse, and now a Diabetes Consultant educator. The baby of the family is a marketing executive for UPS.
When I told these women the little bit of my family history, and my grandmother’s wishes, they completely understood her wishes, perhaps in a way that I cannot understand, since I am not a mother yet. But, it was the sense of understanding that you always want the best for your children, that you always strive to give them what you yourself did not have, and that education is paramount for the women today, tomorrow, and all future generations.
We stayed in the sauna for twenty minutes. For those of you who are unfamiliar with sauna practices, that’s quite a bit of time. I was a puddle of sweat when I got out, but the conversation put me on cloud nine.
Megan Minutillo is an English and theater teacher on Long Island, NY. When she is not teaching, she can be found directing in various theaters and schools, most recently for the Young American Writers Project at Stony brook Southampton. Megan obtained her B.A. at Binghamton University, and received her M.A. in Educational Theater and English Education at NYU. Her newest project, The Write Teacher, combines her love of writing, theater, literature, and education. The Write Teacher is a blog that reviews literature and theater for an extensive audience, stemming from adolescents to mothers of the latter, and everyone in between.