Teach a few years and you will come into contact with hundreds if not thousands of people on a regular basis.
Some will come to your classroom in regular intervals because they are on your rolls.
Some you will see in the hallways or in an extracurricular activity.
All will share their experiences with you directly and indirectly.
I have mentioned to many people that teaching may be the most “human” of occupations. You will not survive very long in this avocation if you do not genuinely love people. You may not like some of the things they say, do, or stand for, but those would not deter you from loving students.
A week ago I took Malcolm to a playground that he loves. Lots of parents and lots of kids. Walking toward the part with the swings, I spotted a young man with his own child and made eye contact.
“I know you,” I said. He knew exactly who I was – his ninth grade English teacher 12 years ago.
“You sat in that seat in the back next to so and so.”
“You had that belt buckle that you could program to put your name in lights on it.”
“You used to hang out with that guy.”
And he seemed impressed that I remembered him. Of course I did. He made an impression. Humans do that.
I asked how he was doing and we exchanged some pleasantries, but what really struck me was that his son and my son were literally playing together. You never would have guessed that would happen when he was in my freshman English class years ago.
He also mentioned that one of those young men we were talking about had passed away. That thought of how “human” the job of teaching is really hit me hard.
It did again this week as a student in my school passed away over the weekend. This young man was not a student in one of my classes, but he was still one of my students. I met him during lunch duty last year. He made an impression.
His wit, smile, humor, and natural charisma radiated from him. And he made quite the impression on a lot of people.
Teach long enough and you will see many physical lives end – people who are less than half your age with the rest of their lives to look forward to – whom you remember because they made an impression on you. Those impressions never lose their intensity or power.
They humanize you.
It’s that humanity that I seem to always feel when I am at school or just being part a school community.
If you have ever thought about teaching, I would challenge you to ask yourself one big question – “Do you truly love being around young people who may be learning how to love themselves?”
If you say “yes” then I would go to another question – “Are you willing to have people make an impression on you?”
If you say “yes” to that one as well, then you have a foundation for teaching.
Teaching is about people and human connection.
Even when those people we are connected to are no longer with us.