Teaching, The Gift That Keeps On Giving...
In what feels like my former life, I was a teacher. My perfect job was teaching fifth grade. I loved the curriculum, challenging students, opening their minds to new ideas and concepts. I loved the maturity level of a ten turning eleven year old. I best describe my former students as testing the boundaries of their independence, but still very easily influenced.
Early on in my career, I found myself working in a school that had a diverse population. The majority of families were working class, many of my students lived with grandparents, aunts, a single parent, and even foster homes. None of that affected the expectations I had for them. Due to societies comfort with social promotion (pass them even if they academically weren't prepared or mastered grade level skills/concepts), my students' abilities ranged from second grade level to seventh grade level. They all had different needs and it was my job to meet them. With thirty some students it was a challenge, a challenge that I embraced.
I can't quite explain how it happens, but sometimes you have a class that leaves a strong imprint on your heart. It's the students that you easily remember their names, their parents and siblings names, and you often wonder how they are doing. My first fifth grade class was one of those groups for me. A handful of students kept in touch with me over the years, writing me letters, sending a new school photo each year or on occasion I would randomly run into one of them in the community. I always loved seeing them and catching up on how life has unfolded over the years. Now of course thanks to Facebook, I am friends with about a dozen former students as well.
Just the other day, I had the pleasure of sitting down to lunch with five of my former students from my first fifth grade class. They are now 20 years old! Gasp, how can that be?! When I sat down at the table with all of them around me, I felt so fortunate. Blessed to have the opportunity to see them again, catch up, look at how they've grown up. Their faces are the same, as some of them joked I'm just not as tall anymore. I guess I did tower over them when they were 1o years old. They all work, three of them are in college, one is in a specialized training school, and the other works two full time jobs.
You know what the best part was? They are all responsible, mature, kind, and driven. We laughed and told stories from nine years ago. As for me, I'm content having been a part of their lives for a year and having the privilege to see them grow into women. Isn't that why the majority of us go into teaching, to have an impact on other's lives? I'd bet my bottom dollar it's not for the salary.
Here's a picture of us together. Thanks to a few easy clicks on picnik, I protected the identity of the innocent...