I’ve often heard people remark to good teachers when they hear something kind, fun, or engaging they’ve done for students, “And those kids will remember that the rest of their lives.” I completely agree with that. I remember many moments with many teachers from my school days. But, as a teacher, I remember some students better than they probably remember me.
I’ve been in education for 17 years…I remember Kenny from my first year of teaching. He was a multiply-disabled first grader with a huge smile and tight hug. I remember other teachers warning me that his hugs can sometimes be “inappropriate.” I hugged him anyway. I remember getting almost no support from the sped department, I modified his work myself. I remember how bad he spelled most days, but loved him in spite of it.
I remember Erin from my second year of teaching. She was the epitome of “precious six-year-old girl”. I remember how her parents (not educators, as a side note) took time to write me very encouraging and complimentary notes throughout the year. That impacted me more than they know. As a parent, I’ve tried to do the same for my children’s teachers.
Fast forward a few years and I remember Thomas. He came from a very dysfunctional home. I remember asking him if he wanted me to bring in treats for his birthday, knowing no one from home would do it. I remember baking him a birthday cake for his 9th birthday after finding out he’d never had one. I remember wishing I could bring him home with me.
I remember having his sister, Greta, the next year in class. Her personality was the opposite of his withdrawn one. Academics came easier for her than they did for Thomas. And I loved them equally, and as much as I could knowing they didn’t get much love anywhere else.
I remember having Juan twice – once as a kindergartner and once as a second grader. He was a handful. He required extra patience. He would miss school because he couldn’t wake up his mom. But he had the biggest smile and a need for affirmation. He’s way bigger than I am now, as an 8th grader. He still wants to give me hugs when I see him. They are modified to what I call “half-hugs”, but I still give them.
I remember Trevor. This adorable, tiny second-grader had such thick walls built around him for being so young. He had been through so much, at such a young age. I determined to break through those walls so that he knew there was someone who believed in him. Six years later, his life is no easier, and probably more difficult. I love that kid still. I’m tearing up as I write this thinking about him and how much he needs people/teachers to see past his rebellious disrespect and just invest in him….Speak truth into his heart that he does matter…that his life is important.
There are so many more students who still hold special places in my heart. Each taught me something different. Each grew me as a teacher. I will remember them long after they have grown and forgotten about an elementary teacher they once had. And that’s okay. As a teacher, you can’t choose who is in your class, or who remains in your memory. But you can choose who you will invest in (and I hope it’s every single student in the class!). Sometimes you can even choose who you let into your heart. I’m grateful for each one.