I taught high school for only a few years, but lost three students along the way. One died of suicide (which was perhaps the worst day of my life), one died of a freak illness and another died in a hiking incident. It has been nearly 20 years, but rarely a week goes by that I don’t think of them and feel for them. I can still see and hear each of them, and I will (barring brain damage) never forget them.
When I was a high school teacher, I tried to lead by example. So, if my students were doing something, I did the same activity. For example, if my students were watching a movie, I watched the movie (even if I’d seen it 100 times before). If my students were working on a class project, I was working with them on the group project (by going group to group and sitting with each group). And if they had silent reading, I read a book too. Never ever did I grade papers or do prep for another class while class was in session (as my mentor teacher said, if I am telling the students something is important but then not doing it myself, I’m sending the wrong message – so i tried to model the same behavior, and I feel like it helped me build bonds with my students). But I am thinking of one time in particular during silent reading, when I was reading along with my students but the book I was reading was hilarious (it might have been Confederacy of Dunces) so I kept chuckling; I noticed (out of the corner of my eye, since a teacher always tries to keep the peripheral vision going for obvious reasons 🙂 ) the students exchanging smiles then one finally said, not unkindly, “We can’t concentrate because you are laughing.” Then the entire class laughed. I loved that moment. It was a tender moment and thinking of it makes me miss my students. Those students were 16 at the time, and would all be in their 30s today. Wild to think about. But that moment is frozen in time in my memory.
We attended a community (rotary) luncheon where Daughter L was awarded student of the month. She is one of those great teens who doesn’t get a lot of attention because she is low maintenance (but on the other hand all the attention she gets is generally positive), so it was nice that she got some attention yesterday, and also she gave a thoughtful speech where she talked about the perspective she’s learned in school. I was happy for her, that all the blood sweat and tears she puts into school was recognized yesterday.
Another student who was there (was student of the month at another school) was impressive: she gave a thoughtful and heartfelt speech, wants to enter the Army or Marine Corps since her family all did that, then attend law school and become a District Attorney to give a voice to all people. I loved that. I hope she keeps that passion.