Tech which makes Sense

I was a teacher for 25 years. When I started teaching at a cozy little independent school in the Hudson Valley, New York State, I was a young woman in my early twenties, newly married, just out of graduate school. She was so young that the stress of my first year in the classroom made me pimples. Now the stress just gives me insomnia and makes my hair fall out. I’m not sure which is worse. In any case, regardless of the stresses of the job, and there are many, none of it mattered. My work fed my soul and there is a reason for it: my students. I taught many young people in all those years – 6th, 7th and 8th grade.

Those are great years, during which children grow into the people they will one day surely be. Yes, human beings are “themselves” even as babies, toddlers, hair-flying second-graders, but in high school their faces, brains, and bodies begin the incredible metamorphosis that leads to “adults.” .

I know this because I keep track of my students to the best of my ability. I see the “after” (in many stages) and can remember the “before” with vivid clarity.

At the end of my first year in the classroom, there was still nothing of the story. I was a real newbie. And I was surprised, actually, shocked by the sense of loss that I felt. After graduation, I spent the weekend crying, from time to time. I was beginning to understand something I call “teacher love.” Like “mother’s love,” it creeps up on your heart and takes hold.

Maybe you didn’t realize that teachers love our students. I don’t mean the abstract and benevolent way that a deity loves the nameless humans who worship it. I mean, we are people who love each individual child. We know them very well. We see. We feel your joy and pain and all those harrowing struggles that go on in a classroom. Through the chaos, the hustle and the hard work of each day, we absorb, as if by osmosis, a part of each child’s soul. A teacher can understand a student more deeply and accurately than mere facts could predict.

And in a very real way, they suck us in too. That’s why I always knew how important my job was. He was not only teaching the children how to think critically, write well, and read deeply, but he was in relationship with them. And it could really mess up a child if he wasn’t careful. A teacher can be a human who loves (and praises, disciplines, encourages and scolds) like a human, but we have so much power over those mini-people, and our words, actions, mother. sight You can stay with them for a lifetime. I know. I have been told

A student once compared an approving look from me to a “God look.” That sure gave me pause.

So last week I took the commuter train into town and met up with several of my former students at an alumni event on the Upper East Side. Those opportunities to come face to face with these adults, 5, 10, 15, 20 years later, are beyond delicious. And having a beer with someone I once had to give permission to go to the bathroom has a charming irony.

My face starts to hurt after the first hour. I can’t help the happy smile from my goofy face. I hear them say, “You haven’t changed at all!” and I want to laugh at the absurd. What they mean is, “There you are! I’d know you anywhere.” I could say the same to them. They are no longer children, but themselves safely and positively.

When they were 12, 13, 14 years old, their faces were there, in full view. No matter how much time passes, that face is still there. The slanted eyes, the toothy smile. The smooth jaw of a child carved into a strong line. The awkwardness of a girl softened into the beauty of a woman. Her cheerful childishness morphed into confident warmth.

I’m tall, almost 5’10”, but I spend a lot of time at these parties craning my neck at the men whose heads once rested on my shoulder as the once-boys gave their teacher a hug. Last week, Brendan effusive, amused, towered over me. He and his classmate Eliza recalled with me the tortures I inflicted on them in my second year of teaching. We laughed. Though I was harsh with them, sometimes I expected more than they could give, for some reason they remember the experience, and I do, fondly. I guess we had fun too. In 8th grade, we made a movie. Brendan wrote the script and directed. We filmed on location and had a lot of fun, lots of laughs in between Brendan is now an independent film producer and he gives some credit to that experience, 23 years ago, which pleases and humbles me.

Several of my former students teach. That is one of the most beautiful testimonials a teacher can receive. Eliza became a teacher and has also become a good friend. Her children now attend school and we meet sometimes for dinner or a cold beer on a summer evening. We never run out of things to talk about and I rarely focus on the strange reality that the girl I taught to correct her essays for comma splicing is now a mother, a woman, a teacher like me, with perspectives, beliefs, passions and convictions. in common.

I met Alex, a soft-spoken, talented young woman whose musical talents blew us away when she plugged in her guitar 15 years ago and wrung out big sounds with her little hands. Now she sustains herself with her music. I spoke with Byron, who sells luxury real estate in Manhattan. He was a little boy, it seems, not too long ago, but that same smiling boy is now a man, navigating the big city/big boy world with quiet confidence.

It’s not even about pride, although I feel a lot about that. It is simply a feeling of fullness, affection and love. Some of these beloved students have found themselves. Some are still a bit lost. Some are happy. Some are suffering. Some share. Some avoid. They are all in my heart.

Permele and Emilie come 80 blocks after work to get to the party downtown. They line up for me in the gallery space and one of them says, leaning in for a hug, “We came to see you.”

Feelings flood me as I look at their beautiful, youthful faces and wide smiles and listen to their excited flow of words. I hoped they were there. “I don’t think so. I came to see you.”

The people I once taught interest me, inspire me, and make me think and laugh because they are fascinating and intelligent people and I am lucky to know them. When I first became a teacher, I didn’t realize I was making a lifelong commitment to every student I taught. I think I would go to the ends of the earth to share a few laughs, a beer and a good story with any of them.

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