I’m almost fifty years old and I still reflect back on special teachers in my life. I repeat key phrases they offered to me like beach stones that never seem to show wear no matter how many times I rub them. I love to think about my high school art teacher Mr. S. He played Mott the Hoople records and cut thin slices of avocado for students during class. I was welcome in his classroom any time of day. When I went back to visit him during my freshman year of college he took me to lunch in the faculty lounge. It was sad in that lounge and I never went back to see him again but I think of those days and Mr. S often. My strongest memories are of my professors and the relationships we formed during my tenure in college. We went out for coffee, I was invited over to dinner where we languished over thought and art and poetry. I remember them but I doubt they remember me. There is always someone else in the next class or year.
When I query friends; their favorite teachers usually come out of high school, college or occasionally elementary school but rarely middle school. Middle School is a fuzzy period in my own history yet for the past twenty-one years I have been teaching in a middle school. When I began teaching I invested my whole soul into each student and each class. I believed I was making a lasting difference in their lives. When the semester ended and they switched to a new elective from mine I would wave and say hello in the hallway, suggesting they stop by. They would nod, look anxious to pass and rarely came by for a visit. Initially this lack of sustained interest saddened me. As quickly as the new group of students had moved in, they had moved on.
Over the years this has stopped bothering me because I have come to understand it. The adolescent’s life is “in the moment” a day can appear to be an eternity. What I have come to believe in though is that “moment”. Those times in my day when I connect with a student and we share a thought or a laugh. It doesn’t need to last an eternity to be important. It’s important because it happened. I try to connect with each and every student who passes through my room however brief, especially with the student who rubs me the wrong way. I look hard for their contribution. My recognizing something significant within them even if they don’t remember me is important. This I believe.
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