As I crutched it out of the school building today about an hour after dismissal, a friendly voice called out, “Hey, Ms. Rogers, how’s your foot doing?”
I paused and looked up to see a boy riding toward me on a bike. As he got closer, I squinted to peer at the face under the helmet. He looked familiar, but I still couldn’t quite place him. My mind whirred as it finally clicked the pieces together – he had been a student in a classroom in my hallway either last year or the year before.
(As you can tell from that account, my memory isn’t the greatest – especially with placing faces. Earlier this year, I talked to one of my former students, and I couldn’t remember if I had her last year or the year before….and I only had those two options! And she was my own student! I don’t think I’ll ever be that teacher who remembers the name of every kid she’s ever had. But I already get teary-eyed when I reunite with many of my former students, so it’s not that they don’t make an impact on me and become a part of my life forever. ❤️ Plus I eventually remembered which year I had her..that just doesn’t bode well for 10 years down the road when I have many more classes to think through.)
As recognition dawned on me, I smiled brightly at the boy. He slowed his bike as he approached me, pedaling slowly. “It could be better,” I replied honestly, “but it is healing!” He smiled back and continued on his way, a “cya!” thrown over his shoulder.
I continued crutching to my car, but the smile stayed on my face. As simple as that interaction was, it’s situations like those that I’ll miss so deeply when I move on from this place. Even just being a third year teacher, I’m a part of this community. Kids in younger grades whisper my name excitedly as they talk about what teacher they might get in 5th grade (along with tons of other great teachers in my school!), and those older kids who have gone to middle school keep in touch by writing me emails and they spread the love by telling younger kids how lucky they’d be to have me as a teacher.
I am fully a part of this community, and I love it with all my heart. I love going to sporting events, choir concerts, and plays at the middle school to see my past students doing things they love. I love volunteering at the family market that provides food to many families in my district. I love being a known teacher at the school with kids waving and smiling every time I walk anywhere.
I know that nothing can replace the spot I have in the lives of the students who have been in my classes over the past 3 years, but sometimes I feel guilty for planning to move on. I won’t be a part of their community anymore. I always remind myself that being comfortable somewhere is never a good enough reason not to explore other places in life, but it’s definitely moments like these that pull at my heart strings and make me know that this community will always hold a special place in my heart.
Last year, at Open House night, a student came running in waving a paper excitedly. Open House night is the first time the students see who their teacher is. “You’re at the top of my list for what teacher I wanted to get, and I got you!! How lucky am I?!” she chirped excitedly as she hugged all the air out of me while showing me my name at the top of her handwritten list. She went on to explain that I had subbed in her room for a bit one day last year, and that from that moment on she knew she wanted me as her teacher. As I thought back to that day, I had to laugh! When we’re short on substitutes, teachers are sometimes assigned to cover a classroom for half of their planning period. At the most, this would mean I was in the girl’s classroom for 30 minutes. I remember walking into the fourth grade room, sitting down, and looking out at the students as they worked on worksheets that they had already started. I think I introduced myself and said something about how some of them might be in my class next year, but I’m pretty sure that was the extent of it! From that small interaction that I barely remember, this girl had chosen to hope and wish and write a physical list with my name right there at the top. Small moments often remind me how big of an impact we can have on someone else (especially kids) without even realizing it, and this was definitely one of those moments.
At the same time, moments like my interaction with the past student on a bike also remind me what an impact such a small situation can have on me. It’s often these tiny, unobtrusive moments that most make me stop and think about how much I’ll miss this community I’ve found for myself here. ❤