Wednesday, September 27, 2006

It's nice to be missed

The highlight of my trip to the States last week (other than that whole possibly pregnant thing) was a trip back to the school where I last taught. My main reason for going was to visit with a couple of colleagues from my department, my very good friends who I miss terribly. But rather than meet them off-campus during a free period, I ventured into the school itself. And I was just amazed by how good it felt. So natural.

I started by surprising one friend's high school class. She had suggested this since I had taught most of the students in that class at least once. While I haven't been gone for that long in the grand scheme, it was my first reminder of how quickly the youngsters change! I chatted a little with some of the students as they finished their group work; several hung around at the end of class to ask more questions, my son being a favorite topic for us all.

My friend had another class to teach after that, so I headed up to my department and caught up with my colleagues there. Then I walked around the school a bit, my old haunts, and found some of my other friends. Some had been informed I was coming and welcomed me enthusiastically. Those who weren't expecting me did a double-take. As one former colleague said, "My initial thought was a simple 'Oh, there's Mouse," because you belong here. And then I remembered that I don't see you every day anymore."

After my two friends were done with teaching for the day, we headed off to the nearby Starbucks, ordered our drinks, and then caught up on gossip. Just like old times. It was so comfortable and I realized just how deeply I've missed them.

Throughout all of this, I had not counted on how emotional it would be to see all of my former students. I knew I'd be happy to see the kids in my friend's class because they're the ones who have chosen to go on in my favorite subject. But in the halls and the lunchroom, even though I tried to keep a low profile, there were the inevitable squeals (those would be the girls) of "Ms. Nest!" Many smiles and hugs. And it was interesting to notice that the students who sought me out, who were truly excited to see me there, represented the whole range of those who taught. Students who had struggled in my class, probably detested what I taught them, ran up to me with just as much enthusiasm as those who loved my subject. Two students who had ultimately had to repeat some of the material begged me to come back. Kids who had been so happy to be free of my subject after junior high asked about Canada and my son.

Seeing these students again reminded me about the impact of teachers. Several of my highest achieving students, the ones who I had realized early on were talented and who seemed to connect with my subject, hung around a little bit more, asked a few more questions, actually seemed nervous. The advanced student I had taught her first year at my school--when I gave the students topics for a project, I specifically picked out a more difficult one for her, telling her about its literary background and indicating that she could learn more about it in high school if she stuck with the subject--and there she was, in that very class. Another student I started out in my subject during my last year who was so amazingly bright and whose mother emailed me to say how much her daughter would miss me--she was practically at a loss for words, but smiled so big. And it hit me--I'm one of those teachers they'll remember.

So I'm still riding high on that feeling.


Lisa b said...

Wow. It is so amazing to have that feeling that you made a difference. It is such a privilege to be able to see the students a few years on and see the details of the effects that you have had.

Mouse said...

I went into teaching knowing I could have a real impact; after all, I remember a bunch of my teachers very vividly. But there's a difference between knowing it and experiencing it. And it was especially touching because they were the same students I carry in my heart.