This is my 12th year teaching. I have about 150 kids a year. Give or take a dozen.
And 150 X 12 is a lot.
And as much as I mean to. I don’t remember them all. I’ve been in four different schools and some of my students have multiple kids, multiple degrees and multiple marriages by now. Many of their faces and names sound familiar, but all too often they blur together.
I remember Virginia who shaved off her eyebrows and drew them in and intimidated me a little. Rumor is she came form Juvy. But she laughed really big and I did everything I could to make her laugh. And it paid off.
I remember Crystal, who, when I was young and new I went around the room and asked what their future goals were, told me she wanted to be a stripper. I quickly picked my jaw up off the floor and told her she better stay in school and learn how to manage all that money first. She didn’t let anyone mess with me. I took her out to eat once and think it was the only time she had been in a restaurant with menus. And I still wonder who she grew up to be.
I remember Sam. Who wasn’t always talked about warmly in the teacher’s lounge. But I didn’t mind his mouth and thought he was smart. And for some reason, when I told him he actually believed me.
I remember Tracy. Who stood up the first day of high school and tried to prove to her classmates that the God that she believed in was true. And I’ve spent hours with her in coffee shops discussing that same faith. And am still trying to find a way to get to Peru so we can continue our conversation. The best way I know how. With actions.
I remember Julie. Who reminded me of me. and gave me mismatched socks and mix cds. And sometimes I still do her math homework.
And Chad who was never sober and gave me absolute hell but I liked anyways. and I told him. And Melanie who had a mouth on her. Who argued with me til she was blue in the face. Until once I told her that I thought maybe she was right. And I meant it. And she never argued again. And Amy who’s dad died. And Tracy whose mom had cancer. And Ron who called me a bitch once but is a teacher now and I play trivia with whenever I get the chance.
And I could go on. and on. Maybe I could tell you 100 or more that I remember. Fondly . And specifically.
But. to be honest. Sometimes I don’t even get my current kids names right.… Sometimes I will see a waitress and know they look familiar. That I was probably their teacher once. But am just not sure.
And sometimes I will see a kid that I adored in Target, and they will avoid eye contact and quickly dart down another aisle. And then I’ll see another that I failed twice or wrote up dozens of times, or even worse, one I barely noticed and they will scream my name half way across the store and go in for a hug. And you just never know. Who is going to actually remember you. And how. If I was nice. Or snide. Or distracted.
And even though I’ve sat in too many funerals. Or seen too many bruises. Or glazed eyes. And hurt for these almost grownups. I especially hate that I spend a year with these kids and sometimes know so little. And that I can forget so quickly.
Once I spoke up at a memorial service. For another student I will never forget. And my night was flooded with old faces. Some more familiar than others. And I remembered hers. And for some reason sent her an email. Or maybe she sent me one. I’m not sure.
And I’m gonna be honest. I don’t remember much of her in my class. She was warm and funny and different from most of her classmates. She had a hard time passing my tests. And she asked me to give her a fruit cup if she did. Which I thought was a pretty odd request. But. one I followed through with. Almost a decade later she remembered me giving her a fruit cup of all things. And I’m sure I adored her at the time. but I forgot quickly. Until I didn’t.
And what ensued was good conversation dirty chai lattes. Or beers (don’t worry she was plenty old enough) and lots of Jesus talk and me trying unsuccessfully to keep up with her in my running shoes and more questions than answers. Once I even bought her a pineapple just because she said she liked them. And figured it was better than a fruit cup. And then she moved several states away. And I almost forgot again.
Until I read her words today:
Let me just express how good God is.
Majority of my friends don’t know Jesus the way I do.They party a lot. They are perverted. They are unfiltered.
I don’t go around talking about Jesus non-stop.
I dont update my twitter/facebook with bible verses or deep saying from some preacher.
In fact.. I really dont do anything.
What I do is love people with the same love Jesus loves me with.
I have had some christian friends tell me there is no fruit in my life and that kind of stuff really discourages me. In a way… I feel like it taints my relationship with Jesus because then I’m trying to do stuff that causes fruit to be “seen”.
I had a co-worker come up to me the other day at work, look me straight in the eyes and say, “I want to be you. Will you teach me the bible?”
Like I said.. I don’t do anything that flaunts that I’m even a Christian.
I just love people unconditionally”
And that friends. Is fruit. Worth a pineapple or a fruit cup any day.
I taught this girl chemistry 8ish years ago. Which I'm sure she has mostly forgotten.
And today she taught me to remember. And to love a little more like that.
(and yes, of course, I remember lots more than that. and changed most of those names. and she isn't the first student to school this teacher)