I had stumbled into Food Lion at seven o’clock one Sunday morning to buy grape juice for communion at church. With my sleep-flattened hair and eyes invisible without makeup, I figured no one would recognize me. Wonderfully, the store had just opened and was virtually deserted! When I got to the cashier, I thought there was something familiar about her. She also stared at me, probably because I looked like a zombie. I smiled and she asked, “Are you a teacher?”
My favorite topic! “Yes!” I replied. “And you look familiar….”
Her eyes moistened. “Did you teach summer school?”
I grinned and said, “Yes! Now I remember you!”
She leaned over and hugged me. I hoped I didn’t have morning breath. I asked, “Wasn’t that the bug summer?” (I always taught using a thematic approach, in the days before summer school became all about testing and retesting.)
“Yes! We caught bugs!” she answered. I laughed with pleasure. That was one of my favorite summer themes. The kids had bonded as a learning community, mastering academic skills without even realizing it. Then she blushed. “I got stung!” she confessed.
“Oh, no!” I exclaimed. “Were you one of the Bee Hunters?” She admitted that she had defied my warnings and joined some other kids who captured bees for us to examine.
With more tears in her eyes, she said softly, “If all my teachers had been like you, I might have graduated from high school.”
I did not know what to say, which is rare for me. Good luck? Maybe you can get your GED? I settled on, “Thank you so much for reminding me of that wonderful time. You were a terrific student and I still remember the sweet notes you gave me.” She blushed again and I scurried off to church.
Back in the day, I had freedom to teach without classroom walls, testlets, and continual data entry. Despite the current culture of performance, performance, performance, I KNOW many teachers manage to make their classrooms engaging and memorable. I’m grateful that I was able to do the same.