Bittersweet An Unexpected Visit

It was the end of a very long school day. I was standing in my doorway as a sea of students rushed past me toward the freedom of the outside air.
The day was grueling. I could feel it in my bones. My head was spinning as kids shouted parting words in my direction. I felt myself smiling, I vaguely heard my polite response wishing them well.
As the last few trickled out I began to lower my guard and let the exhaustion sink in. Then I looked up and locked eyes with an unexpected visitor.
The baby-faced fifth grader from two years before was now a foot taller. His face had slimmed, but his ears still characteristically protruded from the side of his head. He still had his glasses, sliding down the bridge of his nose.
I felt the fake smile leave my face to be replaced by one of genuine joy. He smiled and walked over, clearly excited to show off his recent growth spurt. He had all the swagger of a middle schooler parading his old stomping grounds.
He greeted me and I felt my jaw drop. The voice of a fifth grader had been replaced by the deep baritone of a young adult.
I could see the enjoyment in his eyes as he told me about his grades, his projects, and his friends. I thought back to the younger version of the confident teenager in front of me.

He was always compassionate. He cared fiercely, and his temper would flare at the thought of injustice. Together we had devised strategies for staying calm, we had identified triggers, and I had watched him develop control.

I felt pride and sadness mix as I saw the young man he’s becoming. I could see the real impact I had on a student. If not monumental, at least enough that he feels the urge to come back and share his success with me.

Moments like this remind me why I teach. The days are exhausting. The workload is overwhelming. But the reward is indescribable.

Note:

The story above is a representation of what makes teaching truly meaningful and rewarding. Another way I've found to keep in touch with students over the years has been through social media. As a teacher, I created an Instagram account specifically to keep in touch with students from former years.

Many types of social media are becoming more accepted in classrooms as educational tools. Now that I've created this account, former students interact with me on Instagram. I get to watch them grow up.

I would caution though, there are many implications that come with mixing professional and personal life via social media. This article, published in 2010, addressed the issue of friend requests from former students. Because of these issues, I've chosen to create a separate Instagram that isn't connected to my personal account.

As a teacher, hearing from former students is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. This article touches on that, sharing 3 reasons why students should continue to keep in touch with teachers after leaving school. I agree with each of the points listed. I feel that as a teacher, mentoring and guiding students never ends. I love that I am someone they want to come to and I am honored to continue to be part of their lives.

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