So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend…
I cannot believe how the past 180 days have whizzed by (nor how, at other times, they have seemed so slow). My mind is consumed with all the successes of the year and how much more I wanted to get in. I have to say, I couldn't be any prouder of my team or my students.
This week, the final AIMSweb benchmarking report came out. My little guy with selective mutism who only knew two words and was "significantly below average” at the start of the year? His scores are now average! I have never been so proud of “average” in my entire life. During the benchmarking he made numerous vocalizations in the library, with many people around, and I almost started to cry.
Every new crop of students shows me something new about myself and helps me grow. So now I sit here thinking about whether I've made as big an impact on my students this year as they've made on me. Three of my students will move on next year, and I'd like to think they'll remember their time in my room fondly. Before I would have said “no way,” but now. . . .
The teacher across the hall from me is an ED/BD veteran—she's been teaching for almost as many years as I've been alive. Recently she shared a story that made me wonder how much my students really do remember about their teachers. A few weeks ago, this colleague of mine came home to a voicemail on her answering machine asking if she was so-and-so from such-and-such school in the ‘80s. The caller said she was a former student and left her number, saying she wanted to see what had happened to her former teacher.
Like any curious person, my colleague called her back. Though she racked her brain, she couldn’t remember this particular former student. A man answered the phone and it turned out to be the caller's father. He and his daughter were in Wal-Mart at the moment and he had to track her down (this part of the story cracked me up, as I have gotten lost in Wal-Mart numerous times).
The woman and my colleague talked; eventually the teacher remembered who the former student was. The purpose of the call was the student had always remembered my friend and wanted to say “thank you,” let her know she had made a difference. She even remembered specific occasions when this teacher had shown concern for her. Now a grown woman, she'd had a difficult life (as many of our students do) and had her own children in special ed. She said she often thought of my co-worker when she sat in her kids’ IEP meetings.
By the end of the conversation, both women were both crying. My fellow teacher had followed numerous students over the years through newspaper articles and word of mouth, but she'd never had someone track her down to such a degree.
So as the school year winds down and I send some of my students on to other schools and even other states, I'm crying myself. I will miss them, but I know I'm a better teacher for having had them in my class. I'm not holding my breath for any phone calls in 20 years, but I do hope the lessons I've tried to teach them have changed them for the better.
As I walk out of my room, shutting the lights off on the rows of empty desks, I know that in eight short weeks a new round of students and a new round of learning—for them and myself—will begin again.