Among the many things parents and teachers have in common comes this rule: thou shalt not choose favorites.
As with any rule, it is breakable and I am no Saint in this matter. Over the course of my two years of teaching, I have met and worked with some truly inspiring students. While I do believe every student has something to offer, there are those few who I know will stand out to me when I think back on this time in my life.
Most teachers have success stories – the kid you were able to reach out to, transform in some way and form a better relationship with than the one borne from first impressions. I write this now because I want to make sure I remember this kid.
My “impact kid” started off as my first “trouble kid.” I still remember calling up his dad several times in the first month of school to let him know the student had earned detention in my class. He was quietly disobedient. His head was constantly down, eyes averted. It was clear to me that he was mostly checked out, and it was frustrating.
I don’t know how things changed. I’m not sure what happened to flip the switch in this kid’s mind. I don’t know how the same kid who kept his head down in the first couple months of school, turned into the kid who always had his hand up high with a smile on his face. I don’t know how he became the kid to lead my other students in the cheesy cheers I came up with to celebrate small moments in class.
I wish I could remember what I did, if I did anything. Because I do know that this kid attributed a lot of his gains to me. From the notes he wrote me at the end of last year telling me I was the source of his newfound confidence in English. From the letter he wrote me, as a 7th grader at the beginning of this year, telling me I am his role model. From the conversations he let me overhear this year of him telling other students why I am a good teacher. I have no clue why he let me in, let me become that teacher for him. I am humbled by his words.
I wonder if he realizes the impact his words and his transformation have had on me. I wonder if he understands that in the moments I truly doubted my abilities as a teacher, his words provided the encouragement I needed to inspire other students. I wonder if he knows he is the one student I know with certainty I will never forget. He is the student I will especially be sending good wishes out to, because though he has come a long way he still has a ways to go. I wonder if or when he will understand that students can be just as influential, if not moreso, on their teachers than we may be in their lives.
I only have about a month of teaching at YES left. Unfortunately, this student of mine made a silly decision as of late and is no longer at my school. I cannot explain the pain, because it is a different kind of loss. I worry about what this means for his future, and sincerely hope he makes his way back to our district in which college acceptance is guaranteed. At the same time I feel as though a beacon of my teaching career has gone out. I know it might be silly. I know it doesn’t make sense to only think of my impact on this one student, when I teach 75 kids a day. Of course there are other success stories even from this year, and students who I am proud of. The difference is, my first “impact kid” gave me something back. I took inspiration and encouragement from this, the first student who somehow transformed during my time as his teacher. It’s difficult to top that and difficult to let it go.
While I know I do not plan on teaching here in the coming years, my plan has always been to come back and watch the first group of students I ever taught graduate and go off to college. I wanted to see my “impact kid” do the same. Now, as I reflect, many of my students from that first year are already gone. How many will I recognize when I come back in 2018?
I suppose, just as my life is laid out before me, my students have their own life paths to follow. The best, and really the only thing I can do now, is send out good vibes and pass on the inspiration I’ve received from my students to others.