The sun is blazing through the hazed morning sky and I am wide awake.
Today is the first reunion of the very first class I ever taught – on my own. I began my teaching career as a French teacher at Guthrie Public School in 1990. There were no jobs at that time – except for French teachers. At that time, however, there was a large anti-French movement in Barrie and some people even supported the protest against French with lawn signs. It was difficult to break through some of the attitudes of the parents – but the students loved French as did I. Eventually, however, I wanted my own class and so, I transferred out of area to Collingwood where I was given my first grade 7 class at Mountain View Elementary School.
It was exciting. I was new. The students were amazing. They were just as eager to try new projects as I was to launch them. We sponsored a child in Burkina Faso, wrote letters for Amnesty International, organized musical concerts, and helped with local elections. I got into constant trouble for going outside of the norm and breaking rules and the students thrived. We made paper in the classroom, developed solutions for how to get water from the regolith on the moon and how to design more ergonimically friendly chairs for the class. I learned math, science, and history. And as I learned, so did they.
Today – I meet some of them again at my house. Kari, one of the students in that group, suggested a reunion while I was sick with cancer. I was over the moon with the idea. Now – here is the day and I am terrified. They are coming as adults with their families. My students have their own children… their own careers… their own challenges. What is my new role? Does one ever stop being a teacher? What will they expect of me? What do I expect of myself?
I am proud of them as people. I am aware of some of the challenges they have overcome. They survived my teaching – I guess they can survive life!
I wonder how they will react to my hair? It used to be long and brown. It seems the hair, these days, tells my story before my mouth needs to tell the tale. And each can listen to the story as they choose – however they choose.
It’s going to be a hot day – high, high humidity. Kevin is diving. Ben is working. Katya is in Europe. So – it’s David and I and … however many of my former students who show up. I am grateful for the fact that David is so good with children and he is eager to help with the entertainment of them. I will BBQ and, more importantly, take pictures.
And then – I will reflect. What lessons will they have carried with them? What impact did I really make on their lives? What did they think of me as a teacher? It matters. They mattered to me. They still matter to me. As my career progressed and I moved to secondary panel, teaching adults, I always confessed that, “once you are my student once, you are my student for life.” And so – my “lifers” from the 1990’s have become living testimony to that. Nearly twenty-five years later… our silver anniversary… we are still in a relationship. Only now, I have taken a seat in “their” classroom. Today – I anticipate learning from them.