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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

9 3/4 Years

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I’ve been a teacher for ten years—well, 9 ¾ anyhow.

Some would say that it’s been ten long years.

Only, it hasn’t been…not really. It has only been long in the sense that the span of years has affected all of the children that I’ve taught over the past nearly-decade. It’s changed them. They are no longer children, but instead young men and women.

I don’t suppose that one simply gets up one morning and thinks, “I’ve been a teacher for ten years counting this one.” It’s simply not done in my world. Therefore, something must be the catalyst to get one riding on this train of untraveled thought.

My personal catalyst came in the form of a phone call at school yesterday; a call from a boy who’d been in my class the very first year I’d taught.

I listened to the young man on the other end of the line; the deep, bass voice from the phone carried with it only the barest hint of the tousle-haired boy I’d remembered. This boy who’d been a member of my class back at a time when Blink 182 was at the height of their popularity, and ‘cool’ was defined by whether or not you drew a picture for your teacher, and he hung it up on the wall behind his desk.

In other words—a lifetime ago.

This particular boy had graduated high school this past year. I’d thought about him several times over the flurry of lightning days. I’d often wondered just how he was doing, and what might be going on in his life.

Now here I was, hearing it all.

As he spoke, the groggy memory of visiting my old first-grade teacher, Mrs. Woodbury, the year I graduated high school flashed through my mind. I remembered walking into the old school, and how it was like being transported back in time. The school still looked—and even smelled—the same as I’d remembered. Walking down those familiar hallways were both weird and wonderful, I was seeing them all again through eyes which had aged eleven or twelve years.

My teacher was not the same as I remembered; she was older. I was hesitant upon entering her classroom, but this quickly faded away when I saw the kids still lining up on their knees in front of her, awaiting their turn for help. She was Mrs. Woodbury.

I spoke to her, and discovered that she remembered me, even though I’d only been in her class for half a year before we’d moved. While the class worked on their individual projects, she chatted with me for a few minutes. We reminisced (or rather, she shared and I listened) of moments of times past. I was amazed that she even remembered who I was, and when I left that day I felt important. Memorable even. Then again, how can you really forget that kid who was convinced that the ‘tunnel of love’ on the playground was a binding contract, and that animal crackers would come to life in your stomach if you didn’t chew them up properly when you ate them?

I shifted back to the present as I spoke to this boy from my own teaching past. He’d called to tell me of the events in his life, his accomplishments, and how he was doing.

I told him what I remembered from the days back when he was two feet shorter than I was, and the memories I had of back when he was my student…things like the time he’d written a song about germs with his two friends - and had even added an interpretive dance to make it better.

After fifteen minutes, the conversation drew to a close; I found myself sitting in my classroom, thinking over the chat I’d just had with this young man.

The years did not seem so distant, the memories not nearly so faded, the situations not so different.

Ten years. Two lifetimes. An epoch of moments.



Chrissy said...

I bet memories came back... Did it make u think that your own kids might do the same and call a teacher that impacted their lives? I've had a handful of teachers that impacted mine... and each one definitely made a difference... One opened my eyes to authors that I would never of discovered, another was open and honest which made made me come out of my shell.... another had a passion for Shakespeare, even tho at the time I wasn't too crazy about it...
Life is amazing isn't it?

Shannon said...

These are the rewards that cause teachers to remember just how important they are - that the influence they have on the existence of their children is not for a season, but for a lifetime. You've obviously done well Mr. Z, and I imagine that this will not be your last call...oh yes, I believe there will be many.

Rachel said...

Whoa! You just dated yourself! Ya old geezer. ;) I hear stories of teachers impacting their students lives. I can't think of a one. How sad is that? I'm sure it was because of where I grew up. I can name some teachers that impacted my life in a negative way!! But not positive.....

I'm grateful that The Native's are getting a much better educational experience than I did.

I'm not surprised you've had students call and chat with you. There will be many more to come. Of this I am quite certain!

Lori said...

The journey between my time with my students and their high school graduation was much briefer--sometimes only a year or two--but I understand these emotions very well. I see them-so many of them (teach over a hundred per year for 8 years and you get a lot of faces and animal cracker moments to remember)--when I'm out and about and it's so wild to see these kids-turned-adult all of a sudden, with careers, and sometimes even babies. I think, man, they're almost in the same place as I am--job, mortgage, kids...it's unsettling, but wonderful.

Richard & Natalie said...

Rachel, Let me just say how badly I feel for you.

Mrs. Craddock, Sixth grade. She became more like a friend than a teacher to me. We kept in touch until I had Ashton and then that whole "life" thing you wrote of happened. Perhaps enough life has passed to warrant a call like you recieved- of which I am positive there will be many more of for you for years and years to come.
Thanks for sharing, TF.

Mamma has spoken said...

I've had several pass students come in and say hi to me. It's always wonderful to have them come in and tell you how/what they are doing. This year, I have a former student's daughter. That made me feel old......

Teachinfourth said...

Chrissy - I guess what goes around really does come around. There are those teachers to whom I still think about often.

Shannon - I hope that there are many visits and calls from students in the future. There's something great about it which words just don't seem to capture properly.

Rachel - Well, self-dating is better than no dating at all, right?

I'm just sorry to hear that you didn't have any teachers which stood out (in a good way) for you. You are welcome to 'sit in' in my classroom anytime. I'll see what I can do…


Lori - It is a great thing, isn't it? Like you said though, it is easier for me since I have between 20-30 per year and am with them for 6 hours a day.

Natalie - I think that getting in touch with this teacher again is EXACTLY what you need to do. Heaven knows that he'd probably love to hear from you again.

I know that I would if it were me.

Bonnie - Luckily, I haven't had the kids of students yet…I don't know if I could really handle that. Of course, it would be another 12 years or so until I have to worry about it...

Gerb said...

I love the picture from back when you were, what... 15? This post brought back some of my own memories of the past 10 years, too. It's amazing how much change can occur over a decade, isn't it?

Cheeseboy said...

What a great post teachinfourth.

I teach first grade and I am currently in my 6th year. Thus, I have a ways to go before my first class graduate from high school. It's going to be a very strange day.

So cool to see other male teachers blogging!


Teachinfourth said...

Gerb - That was the year before I had a digital camera. Craziness…

Cheeseboy - It's a strange feeling when they finally do graduate. It must be neat for you to see them for the next 5 years after they've been in your class; you know, how much they've grown and changed over the years.

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