My Student Who Stands Taller Than I Ever Could
Meet Sophia. She’s an 8 year old grade three student.
In class, she is well loved by both her classmates and teachers. She’s one of the most diligent and intelligent students in the entire section – always reciting, well behaved and she consistently gets high marks in tests and quizzes.
She loves to read. She’s updated with all the current events – from the most significant national news to the most trivial street chismis. She asks the most amusing questions too, the type of questions that can really make the teachers think.
She also wants to be a “diva” when she grows up – hoping that she can move people through her voice and change the world through her songs.
She’s the epitome of a close-to-perfect student. Sophia can be any teacher’s favorite student and anyone’s best friend.
But Sophia can’t walk. She’s paralyzed from the leg down.
Every day, she goes to school. Her sister carries her up a flight of stairs into our room. During recess, her sister comes to bring her food and when classes end, her sister and mother come to pick her up, bring her down the stairs and put her on a checkered red wheelchair before they make their way home.
Ever since the first day of school, I’ve always wanted to ask her the story about why she couldn’t walk. This week, I had the chance to finally ask about it.
Our conversation went as follows:
Me: “Sophia, kung okay lang sa’yo sagutin, ano nangyari sa legs mo? Bakit hindi ka na makalakad?
Sophia: “Sir promise mo wag mo sasabihin sa magulang ko.”
Me: “Oh sige promise. So ano nangyari?”
Sophia: “Nung kindergarten po, tinulak ako ni _________. May nabali po sa may paa ko, kaya ayun.” (I intentionally withheld the name of the person as he is part of the same class)
Me: “Ano sinabi mo sa magulang mo noon?”
Sophia: “Natapilok lang po ako.”
Me: “Hindi ka ba nagalit kay _______?”
Sophia: “Hindi naman po. Nakakainis lang siya minsan kasi ang kulit talaga niya.”
I was absolutely stunned. I tried putting myself in her situation and I would not have done what she did. I couldn’t have done it. I would have told my parents about how my classmate pushed me, I would have cursed or hated (at least for some time) my classmate had I lost my ability to walk because of him.
Within that short conversation, she probably taught me more than what I’ve taught her for the past 27 school days.
She never resented her classmate nor blamed him for what happened. In fact, we’ve all witnessed how she is the first one who comforts her classmate whenever he cries or gets upset in class. She actually genuinely cares for the student who took away her ability to walk.
When she became paralyzed, she didn’t hate, she held no grudges. In the process, she actually learned to care and love more. She learned to make the most out of what she had. That’s something we could all learn from; to think that she’s only 8 years old. While we dwell on hate and grudges and regrets, she dwells on love and caring and just simply making the most out of what life gives her.
Despite all these, I remain devastated and frustrated because I know that at this point, I cannot do anything to help her walk again. I remain frustrated because I know how difficult it could be for her and how much more amazing she could become if only she could walk, run and jump.
Still, I hold a glimmer of hope that someday Sophia will be able to use her legs again. When that time comes, the world better be ready for her.
I cannot yet make her walk – but I can write and tell her story.
(No actual photos were included to protect the identity of the children. These are actual stories from my experience as a grade 3 public school teacher in Sto. Cristo Elementary School)