School starts in only thirty-six hours! So much has happened in my life since I closed down my classroom in May that the beginning of classes caught me off guard. The best thing about teaching is the kids and we will have a terrific group this year. The start of school always coincides with former students returning to campus to see former teachers. The following is from August 14, 2006 and recounts a visit from one of the best I have known.
She was waiting when I emerged from the office following a scheduling meeting at the end of the day. I hadn't seen Sheela in four years so I had to look twice: the eighth grade girl I knew has been replaced by a lovely young woman. She's leaving for college and wanted to see me, more to reconnect than to say good-bye. We went to my classroom and talked for an hour and a half. After middle school at Westbury Christian, her folks enrolled Sheela in a prestigious all-girls academy here in Houston. She excelled as I knew she would. I told her how much I wished she could have stayed with us so I could have taught her again and maybe had her as a teacher's aide. During our ninety minutes, she told me her plans/hopes and we reminisced about junior high. I reminded her of the fight she had with her best friend, Lauren, and how I acted as peacemaker at the cafeteria table summit. In eighth grade, something came up about my address and Sheela knew it, prompting the other kids to call her Sting for the rest of the year. (For non-hip readers, Sting refers to the lead singer of The Police who vocalized the lyrics to the all-time stalking song, Every Step You Take.) Like many of our students, she has a diverse cultural background, her mother being Filipino and her dad coming from Pakistan. She told me about her life and the forces that have made her who she is. We laughed alot and she cried a little. We talked about the difference between success as the world defines it and excellence, which can't be calculated by a bank account. I predicted great things for her life and let her know how I proud of her I am, as I know her family is. The time came for her to leave and as she exited Room 258, she reached up and touched the LUKE 18:1 sign on the door, just as she had for one-hundred-eighty days as an eighth grader. I walked her to her car and she very proudly pointed out her UT Longhorn sticker in the rear window. I promised to pray for her in college and she promised it wouldn't be another four years until she visited. She drove off to prepare for the next stage of her life and I returned to my room to prepare for the next Sheela to arrive in my class.
In both Second John and Third John, the apostle makes reference to having great joy in the progress of the souls he had worked with earlier. That's how I feel when I come into contact with students like Sheela that have crossed my path throughout the years. Most experienced teachers could relate similar stories. Students make teaching possible; the Sheelas of the academic world make it worthwhile. She will never know how much I was honored that she came by this afternoon. To understand, I guess you just have to be a teacher or a coach ...or a parent. Tomorrow is August 15th- PAYDAY, our first paycheck under our new contracts. I'm not going to advise our business office to tear up my check but I'll let you in on a secret: I received my compensation today.
Applicable quote of the day:
"Education is a painful, difficult, and continual work to be done in kindness by watching, by warning, by praise, but above all, by example."
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org