There is no one for whom to pride oneself. We must toil strenuously. With patience and friendliness we can prevail in all things, with G‑d’s help. With a denigrating attitude toward others and inflating our own importance we lose everything, G‑d forbid. (Hayom Yom, 20 Iyar)

Maybe it was only because she was a perfectionist. Perhaps it was because of the three students handpicked by destiny to grace her classroom with their daily sneers, jeers and unending antics. Maybe there really was no reason; it was just, as the prophets of doom like to say, bad luck.

Those two years felt like a twenty-month sentence of the spiritFor whichever reason, she left her second year of teaching at the girls’ elementary school feeling disheartened, trying with the figurative hands of her imagination to block despair from planting its toxic seeds.

Those two years felt like a twenty-month sentence of the spirit. To be sure, there were uplifted moments, many more than she chose to remember. But it was not about the uplifted moments. They were few and fleeting, in her opinion. It was all about the students’ disrespect, their impudence, and the nagging, sinking feeling of not having been the star teacher she could have, should have, would have been. Incredulous, she remembered her poetry presentation in Grade Five. “You sure will make a great teacher” was proudly inscribed across the top of her assessment. She remembered her first year as a real teacher—having her own classroom, with eighteen students barely twelve years younger than her. She remembered decorating the classroom walls with patience and love. She remembered lugging boxes of materials borrowed from other, more experienced teachers. Most of all, she remembered her drive to succeed in this most noble endeavor: the education of precious children.

How she glowed when on the evening of parent-teacher conferences she overheard a parent comment to the principal that this born teacher—she!—was nothing short of spectacular in her teaching performance. She suppressed a giggle as she thought about it later. “Congratulations,” the doctor would announce, “it’s a . . . teacher!” She would march out of the maternity ward, all seven pounds eight ounces of purpose, toward her eager students.

It seemed simple and obvious back then. She might not ever be a very good accountant. In fact, she would be a terrible accountant. But she would always be a marvelous teacher.

Alas, she was not a marvelous teacher, but an increasingly miserable mess, mystified by this great cosmic joke. The born teacher, crying in shame. The born teacher, unable to succeed at the very thing she was born to do.

How dare she put on lipstick every morning and march into her classroom each day, when the students challenged her, ignored her, indifferently laughing at the lessons she found so inspiring and meaningful?

So, she was not a teacher after all. Things had taken a terrible turn. It would have been better, she decided, to work in a bakery. A botched recipe was nothing in comparison to the dismal disaster of her failed attempts in pedagogy.

She bid her students farewell, and closed the classroom door, feeling a curious mix of relief and regretIt was the last day of her twenty-month sentence. She bid her students farewell, and closed the classroom door, feeling a curious mix of relief and regret. There was no therapy or twelve-step program she would attend to recover from the indignities she had endured over those two years. She tried to chalk it up to a lesson in humility—one she was certain to remember. Occasionally, a twinge in the heart would remind: but . . . had she not once been a born teacher?

It was just one stubborn blade of grass making its way out of the snow-clobbered soil. Then, almost suddenly, a sunny spray of dandelions carpeted the children’s park. Her heart sang with the beauty of spring and its promise of renewal.

She sat on the park bench that Shabbat afternoon, observing a gaggle of preteen girls. A conversation soon ensued, and she introduced herself. One girl wondered if she might have taught at their school last year. She pleasantly answered that she had.

“We wish you could still teach at our school,” the girls exclaimed excitedly. “We hear we missed an amazing teacher.”

The born teacher quietly observed the fresh, eager faces of the young students seated around her. Around them, stubborn patches of snow insisted on ignoring spring’s call. But wait! They were indeed dissolving into puddles—giving way to the persistent sun. And those very puddles were watering the earth already busily bringing forth the colorful delights of spring.

The born teacher pondered the definition of success and accomplishment. If indeed she was a born teacher, then maybe she continued to remain a born teacher. Maybe she couldn’t teach in the manner she had hoped or planned, but she had shared—in the best way she could—her love and passion for life and its abundant gifts. And, yes, only a born teacher could succeed in this awesome endeavor.

She learned, as any conscientious teacher would, that it wasn’t so much about birth as it was about rebirth. Then, like any reborn teacher would, she applied for a teaching job (albeit in another school). After all, her students had said she was an amazing teacher.

The ones who did not make her feel like a born teacher, but rather, a reborn teacher.