Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Corny Reminiscence and Cornier Fondness

Yesterday my wife and I received a wedding invitation in the mail.  I recognized the family name on the return address, but didn't make the connection (it was the parents' name with the surname, after all, and I know relatively few grownups) until we opened it and saw the photograph.  A former student of mine is getting married next week.  Big deal, right?  I mean aside from the whole fact that weddings are wonderful and happy--among the happiest--things, why would I be at all surprised?  I've had thousands of students, and odds are a few of them will get married once in while; why should I be particularly surprised or elated?  I'm not a young teacher anymore (remember: it's not the years, but the mileage), and, just like me, my past kids--as with everyone else in world, mortal or immortal--are getting older.  This particular young lady was a seventh grader when I taught her in one of my first classes down in little Payson, Utah.  I remember her clearly: a bright and vivacious young lady, sociable and eager.  She worked hard, did relatively well, and said goodbye at the end of the year with a sigh of mild regret, but marked enthusiasm for the coming summer and the subsequent advancement to eighth grade and the junior high school up the street.  In other words, she, just like almost everyone else in her class, would surely forget me and move on.  No big deal.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that this young lady is the daughter of one of my wife's cousins, whom my wife happened to see at a family reunion a couple weeks ago.  And of course I have to keep this in consideration (seeing someone at a family reunion can build up certain levels of internal, familial guilt for lack of communication over the years or whatever else) and not be too flattered that she maybe fondly thought of me after nine or ten years.  When Angie returned from the reunion, which I was unable to attend for a conflict of schedule, she had lots of items to report, indeed among them her seeing this former student of mine, who, apparently, was quite upset that I hadn't shown up.  After all, she was engaged and really wanted me to meet him.

In Mormon culture--at least Utah-Mormon culture--you invite friends and extended family (depending on the volume of the extended family of course, which, as you might guess, can get quite sizable) to the reception.  Immediate family and a very few of the best friends, get invited to the temple ceremony, where the actual marriage, or sealing, takes place, "For Time and All Eternity" --a truly amazing, reverent, awing, and sacred ceremony, at which there is terribly limited physical space for onlookers.  This young lady, whom I haven't seen in nine or ten years, and whom my wife just spotted at a family reunion, has invited the two of us to her temple sealing.

Now I don't think it's any great mystery that (1) I love being a teacher.  Also, (2) I happen to love--again, no great mystery--my subject, English (in lieu of my own classroom, I'm currently dedicating two blogs to it, after all).  Finally (3), I love kids and am a fair natural at getting along with them, relating to them, "getting" them, and so on.  If I've experienced any success (which I measure objectively and qualitatively by the making-a-difference marker) as a teacher, I think it's for these three traits, and not for any particular skill of instructional strategy or classroom management or any of the other things that otherwise qualify teachers, of which I know many, as good or great.  Along these lines, I also work hard at my job.  I want to do it well, and everyone likes to hear that their efforts are appreciated.  Lately--scattered throughout this past school year--I've received several messages from former students thanking me for having been their teacher, which messages flatter and humble me, and often bring a tear or two or a flood to my eyes.  Combine this with the fact that I really feel--deeply and to the corny little core of my heart--that my students are my kids.  Now imagine what this wedding invite did to me!

(If you are a former student of mine, please do not take this as a subversive message meant to incite guilt for failure to invite me to your wedding.  Really.  I probably won't be able to make it anyway; travel's expensive, after all, and I'm only a frickin' teacher for crying out loud!)

More than anything else, this whole thing reminds me of how important people and relationships and kindness and hard work are and all the other crap that goes with them.  I've been reminded similarly of how important my former teachers were and are to me.  I've even followed the example of some of these former students and written to a few of my old teachers (thank Goodness for Facebook, right?).

And now, well, this message is clearly petering out, losing its momentum (if it ever had any), and I've got no great or elegant/-oquent conclusion.  I just feel good, which is a good thing to feel, especially as this is my last year teaching.


1 comment:

  1. it's nice to be remembered and thought of when people have good news to share, even when the news is a "thank you." there is much power behind "thank you." this is a great post. :-)