Anyone who reads my rantings here regularly knows that it is typically filled with talk of ed deform, labor, and opt-outs. Every now and then I will stumble across something that reminds me why we fight like we do for our students. Why we went into teaching in the first place.
This evening I wandered over to Ed Notes Online and read Norm Scott’s account of his meet up with a group of students he taught 37 years ago. You could sense the pride and the joy he had in his former students through every word of the blog post. Any teacher who reads it will know exactly what he was feeling. There are few greater feelings in life than knowing your past students remember you and appreciate you. In many ways you look at them as children of your very own as you take pride in the accomplishments they have made and the lives that they have left your classroom to build.
Teaching is the rare career that allows you to spend as much time with a group of kids over the course of the year as you do your family. In doing so bonds are formed that can last a lifetime. It’s what makes teaching the very best job in the world. This, of course, is why teachers will never view their students as test scores or as a metric. They are living, breathing people who we laugh with, cry with, and live our lives with. It is why we are protective of them and why we will never give up the fight for the public education system that they deserve.
If any of my former students were to read this, my hope would be that they know that it is always exciting, rewarding, and a real thrill to hear from them. It will literally always make my day, just as reading Norm’s story today did.
Here is Norm’s account…
I can’t think of a more fun day than I had on Sunday, getting together with a bunch of former students from my 5th and 6th grade class which graduated in 1979. This is one of the 2 classes I looped with and having most of them for 2 years made things so easy in the 2nd year.
We shared so many memories on Sunday and hearing how their lives turned out 37 years later is an amazing treat for a teacher. Given the poverty of the neighborhood and the dangers they faced and the stories of so many kids lost to the streets, it was heartwarming to see them with jobs and careers and families. And also rising above the poverty so many of them grew up with.
There were a whole bunch who couldn’t make this and we are planning on doing it again in the spring or summer. Lavinia (center), whose face is exactly the same as it was in 1979, said she would host.
There is so much I want to say about these students, our 2 year journey together and what I learned about them on Sunday. I just need to think some of this through in more depth. I hadn’t seen most of them since they graduated, other than the times they stopped by to see me when they graduated from junior high school or stopped by on open school night. I had some of their family members as well.
One thing that did occur to me ties into testing. I believe that 6th grade 1978-79 school year with these kids may have been one of the best I experienced. This past Sunday night I realized one of the reasons why. Around that time there was a coup d’etat in my school and the principal and assistant principal (who was a big support for me) were deposed by an assistant principal tied to the local political machine who became the principal. I was on her enemy list from the day she came into the school 4 years before and she divided the school into camps. But most important was that she was test-driven along the lines of the current ed deformers and viewed my teaching style as anathema to her total test prep all the time, leading to pressures on teachers that often creates tension with the kids. After that year even though I resisted that pressure as much as I could, I had to adjust for self-preservation and never again felt I had the freedom as a teacher that I had with these kids.
So these “kids” probably saw me in the last best light I had as a classroom teacher, though I did have a few years left through 1985 before I went on sabbatical and leave for 2 years before coming and the principal getting her way in pushing me out of the classroom and into a cluster.
Martina and Herbie.
Star and Martina, friends since they were 5. Star is a manager for Costco in Mass. Martina works in insurance.
Mary and Lavinia – I had Mary’s 3 brothers in my classes – we have seen each other over the years. Her hubby and brothers work for the MTA. Mary does childcare. Lavinia works at NYU Medical and we’re going to do sushi real soon for lunch.
Herbie was EMS and Luis works in medical field
Milly (on left) works at LIU library
This would not have happened if not for Facebook – grudging thanks to Mark Zuckerberg, who might have learned to be a better coder if he had me as his computer teacher (my 2nd life as a teacher starting in 1987).