Sunday, December 13, 2015

Remember me?

           It never fails. A student, long-graduated, stops by my classroom at the end of the school day and asks the same question, “Remember me?”
            I sometimes think this is sweet vengeance for all the pop quizzes I may have given over the years. And truth be told, after getting my education degree more than 30 years ago, I can’t possibly begin to recall all the names of students gone by.
            But that doesn’t mean I don’t remember.    
            And so I want to once and for all say to each and every student I have ever had:
            Yes, I remember you.
            I don’t care if you were the quietest student in class, or the one who competed for attention daily. It doesn’t matter whether your hand shot up with every question I asked, or if your eyes darted to the ground each time, praying you wouldn’t get called on.
            I remember you.
            You see, even as an English teacher, I can do the math. And we spend 180 days together –for close to an hour a day. Together. I realize that the time I spend standing in your presence might be longer than any amount of time you spend with many of the adults in your life who share your last name.
            Trust me, I never forget that. It matters to me. You matter to me. Because you, your story, and your personality are unique and belong only to you.
            Sure, you spend a good portion of your school career trying to fit in, blend in, be in. But what I honestly remember about you is your uniqueness.
            I remember you, my student who got so mad one day about the school lunch. This seemed a petty concern to me until I finally discovered your free lunch was the only meal you’d sometimes get each day. And yet, when I’d offer you food, you’d turn it down unless everyone in the class got food too. I’ll never forget that.
            And I remember you –the one who wouldn’t look me in the eye for the first half of the year. But in one writing assignment, you pulled the veil completely off and showed me who you were. And it was beautiful.
            And of course, I remember you—the student who left class every day announcing, “Thanks for the class –have a great day,” while paying no attention to the rolling eyes of your classmates behind you.
            And I remember you, and you, and you.
            The one who barely talked.
            The one who talked too much.
            Somewhere, in my heart, I remember you all.
            True, I cannot recall your name as often as I used to.  Honestly, I can’t recall the names of my current students all the time.  Maybe it’s a cognitive overload thing; maybe it’s a getting older thing. But don’t for a minute confuse recall with remembering.
            Because, I swear to you, I remember.
            One day, you might understand the difference. And on that day, far from today, you most likely won’t remember the name of the crazy English teacher who got so excited each day when she stood in front of the classroom and introduced a new novel or writing assignment. You may not recall what imagery is and you certainly won’t care about prepositions. And that’s ok. I don’t kid myself into believing you will remember most of the things I taught you. 
            Sure it’d be nice if, after my class, you sounded more intelligent when you spoke or wrote something. And I truly do hope you would have learned that reading is a gift, not a punishment.
            But beyond all that, whether you will remember my name or my curriculum and learning goals, I want the most valuable thing you learned from me during our 180 hours together to be one very important fact that I tried to teach you each and every day:
            You are, indeed, worth remembering.