Over the past few years, I have run into several former students. I started teaching 1st grade 25 years ago so those 6 year olds are now about 31 years old! Lots of my past students are in their twenties. Every so often I bump into a student or get invited to a graduation party and visit with lots of past students and families It is always such fun. I have to say, the first few times I saw these amazing people all grown up, I felt a little old (actually, a lot old). After all, I remember these kids dressed in Osh-Kosh overalls and it doesn't seem like that long ago that they lost their first teeth. To see them all grown up made me feel a little bit old at first. But only for a few seconds because the fun of seeing them now makes being a little old so worth it!
It is a gift to run into a past student and catch up with how life is for him/her now. I actually teach with a few past students and I love that I get to keep up a bit with their lives when I run into them at meetings, etc. I ran into a few former students last year at a graduation party. And I've run into a few who have recently started jobs they love. I run into students planning weddings and students who are new parents. I remember running into one student who had just discovered a passion for social work while another had discovered that she loved robotics. I was able to see a few of my students in a high school musical last year and the talent was amazing. One student has gone back to school to become a nurse and another student I ran into shared photos of her toddler son. Last month, I ran into a student who not only filled me in on her own life, but on the lives of all of her friends that she knew I'd want to know about. It was fun to hear about all they were doing, but even more fun to know that the kids in that class were still such close friends years later.
Running into these students is always an important reminder of my role as an elementary teacher. I want my students to learn at that level that they have lots of choices about what to do with their lives. I want them to know what is possible and to find work that they love and live a life that they love. I want them to be happy. I am realistic enough to realize that most adults won't remember much about their elementary years. They'll remember a few highlights, certainly, but maybe not the day-to-day events of the school years. What they will remember is the feeling of being part of an elementary school and part of a classroom community. I want that feeling they remember to be one of joy and possibility. I want them to spend those formative years of their lives knowing that anything is possible and I want them to realize that learning and thinking with others is an amazing way to spend your time.
Seeing former students reminds me what it is that is important in my work with students. I am reminded that before I know it, these little children dressed in Osh Kosh and with missing front teeth,will be all grown up. This month, which is testing month for so many of us, is a great time for this reminder. Of course I want my students to pass these tests. But I want so much more for them than that.