I’ve been teaching for 13 years and like most teachers, we aren’t always sure if what we’ve taught be it academic or life skill, made a difference in a child’s life. Some we never see again after they move on from our building; others, we see occasionally, but beyond, “I’m doing well”. we just don’t know.
Something happened a couple of weeks ago though, that reminded me (in the midst of the May from hell) that what I do is important. A former student is in the building, fresh from finishing her first year of college. She’s working on her community hours and helping out in the office. I stopped in one afternoon and asked her how school was going and what she planned to do this summer. The usual banter about life. The convo shifted slightly as another teacher came in and she laughed at his joke. He left, and I was going to follow him out the door when she yelled across the room
Mrs. Stone, thank you for saving my life.
I stopped in my tracks. The two secretaries, who’d been laughing at us as we joked around with each other turned and looked at her, then me as I turned back to face her.
Saved your life? How’d I do that?
Turns out she had a very hard time adjusting to high school with some bullying and other things ( I had her in 7th grade) and apparently at one point had considered suicide. I’d see her in the halls all the time and say hello, how’s it going. She always responded… I’m still here. She now told me that me speaking to her.. and her sometimes intentionally seeking me out just to have me say hello, kept her going. She’s still here, because of me.
It occurred to me that if I killed myself, you’d be really pissed about that… and I’ve seen you pissed. Not a good look. So, I kept fighting.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Instead, I dropped my pile of papers and keys on the counter and gave her a hug. A BIG hug. She whispered in my ear (no, I won’t tell you what she said) and I laughed… cus that’s what she wanted from me.
As the school year ends, and this was a very challenging year for me, I think she saved my life. I’d been muttering about changing careers or shooting up the joint or becoming a functional alcoholic for weeks now, and here this one comes… and tells me I’m doing what I should be doing. saving lives. She saved me … from me.
As I write this, there are 5 days left in this school year. As the reality of that dawns on my 8th graders, many of whom have made me wonder why I bother getting up in the morning, I see the perineal shift in them; the realization that they won’t be in middle school anymore and that, even though I made their lives a living hell (yes, I did, I expected them to learn something), they just might miss this experience and are anxious about high school, even if its just down the hall.
I wonder who I saved this year in this group? I’m not sure if they’ll have the opportunity to tell me about it, I’ve made decisions that will take me elsewhere in the fall. I need to; the soil here has become toxic, my roots are beginning to rot and I’m becoming unstable. So, to take care of me, I need to find fresh soil to plant myself in…saving myself I suppose, huh?
Since I know the song is stuck in your head now… here’s a little Elton for ya…