Back during my vacation in the mountains with my family, I was walking around the campground with my mom and their new dog, Gibbs. It was the second week we were up there and a lot of folks who had been there the week before that we knew had already gone home. There was a church retreat over the weekend that had brought a new group of people up. While we were walking I saw a girl who looked relatively familiar to me. She eventually came up to me… “Senorita Gallagher?”
Wow! It was a student I’d had two years ago! It all came back to me. I almost felt bad for not quite being able to place her right away. However, after having been at Unionville for 5 years and having over 700 kids to know by name each year, I decided to give myself a break on that one. It was certainly unexpected and a surprise to see someone from school up at the camp, let alone a former student!
Willow talked to me a little bit and told me she was going into seventh grade this coming year. She asked where I was teaching and I told her I’d actually be at her school this coming year. She called over to a friend of her to say tell her who I was and that I used to be her Spanish teacher. Before we headed back to the house she gave me a hug and told me I was a good teacher and thanked me for teaching her some Spanish. I gave her a hug back and she went back to her friend. I overheard her saying something about having Spanish class at Unionville and that I was going to be at Piedmont.
Fast forward to 8:44pm on Tuesday, August 16. I’m sitting here less than 12 hours to go before I’m going in for my first workday at the middle school. Lots of things to be learned and put together. Questions will be answered. I’ve alternated between being really excited to wondering what am I getting into? I’m really excited that I’ll see kids I know and who know me from elementary school. I’m excited about the new grade levels but it also freaks me out at times. Some of this will be so new to me.
One thing has grounded me though and I’ve been thinking back frequently to that interaction with Willow just about 2 weeks ago. I wrote a post a couple years ago about a teacher’s job being about “full-time impact”. I’m getting a rare opportunity to see how the kids’ lives have been shaped by elementary school and matured from there. My brief conversation with Willow made me realize how important the lives we lead are – whether it’s in school, on vacation, at the store, at the gas station, etc. And the same applies to other jobs that end up touching the lives of others (lawyers, customer service reps, police, doctors, flight attendants, etc.). A brief interaction or prolonged contact (such as teaching over a period of time) can leave a lasting impression. That lasting impression can lead to great interaction and exchange in the future or build a wall between the two people. It can lead to understanding and acceptance in the future or negativity.
The fact that Willow came up to me and we talked for a little bit was huge. Her giving me a hug and making her comment about how she remembered me as a teacher was huge. That left a lasting impression on me and I almost felt undeserving but I suppose it just all caught me off guard. She’s the first student I’ve had a conversation with several years after moving on from the elementary school. A real chance to see who she’s becoming and to have heard first hand how she remembers me. It’s also been an up and down summer with wondering what the future held so it was a bit emotional to hear it as well. Above all, it reminded me that no matter what, it’s still all about the kids. That’s what is going to get me through it. No matter what, it’s still all about the kids and I am beyond excited about that.
The lives we lead will leave an impression. Most of the time we will never end up seeing the impact we make on another person. There are, however, those rare times we will get that chance. For a teacher, everything we do during the day can build up or tear down. The same with many other professions. When someone steps back into your life, even if it is for a brief moment, how would you want them to say they remember you? Would those from your past even come up to you to start a conversation? I know I want to lead a life both as a Christian and as a teacher knowing that I showed I care and I paid attention to them.