I’ve been waiting for the time in my schedule to write about starting a new school year since the school year began on August 6th. That just hasn’t happened, so I am taking a break in the midst of preparing for tomorrow’s classes and longing to climb between the sheets of my bed.
I still can’t believe it when I say it, but this year begins my tenth year of teaching. I have been in three schools, six classrooms, and have taught hundreds of kids. I am not sure what the exact – or even close – number is because of students that I taught for multiple years and varying class size, but I’m guessing the number is around or over 300. While I thought I would be the teacher who never forgot a student, I find myself running into kids at local restaurants or stores and sometimes remembering their face but not their name, or not remembering them at all, at least at first. After some conversation and a few gentle reminders, I can often place them.
This summer I ran into a student I know and love well. I taught him for two years, and he was a founding member of the first creative writing class I ever taught. He is in his third or fourth year of college, majoring in pre-med and preparing for medical school like he always dreamed of doing. When I saw him this summer, he told me that he still had the journal I had given him as a gift, and that he keeps it in a “special pocket” in his backpack so that he can write in it when he wants to. He also told me he still kept a letter I had written him, tucked away in the journal, and that as recently as this past school year had pulled it out on the first day of a class he knew would be difficult. I was left speechless with tears welling up in my eyes. What could I have possibly said to him that was worth saving over the years, that he would find encouraging on the first day of an upper-level college course?
I work very hard not to take my job lightly. Students in my class spend almost 100 minutes with me a day; more time than they might spend in the same room with their parent or sibling. What I say carries weight and has an impact – temporary or permanent – and I never know how long a student will remember something I said to them, good or bad. This can be a very overwhelming thought, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I tell my kids I became a teacher because I love literature, but I’ve remained a teacher because I love students. The day I stop loving my kids is the day I find a new career. I’m so thankful for a job that I look forward to going to every single day. Here’s to year ten of best practices, kind words, and lessons learned.