November 3, 2011

Thankful Thursday: My Relationship with Former Students

Last November, I did a Thanksgiving post every day of the month. This year, I'm giving myself permission to consolidate my thanks into weekly posts instead. If I'm completely honest, it's largely because I'm often without Internet access all day at work, and I used to do my writing during my lunch or planning period. I guess I'll have to make each post extra special to make up for it!
So, for my first Thankful Thursday post, I wanted to focus on something that I appreciate at my core: the relationships I have with my former students. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I love, love, love that I'm still connected with so many of my former students. Every time I get a message or email from them, my heart swells with happiness. I feel so privileged that I was able to create the kind of relationships with my students that they want to keep even after I'm gone.

This is especially important to me now, after spending much of the last two weeks supporting a student who lost his mother to breast cancer. I'm so thankful for the relationship I have with him, and that I was able to stand by his side at the wake and funeral services. And I can continue to support him by being a another caring adult in his life. We've agreed to weekly hangouts, and today was our first. He brought along a friend (another former student) for dinner and ice cream, and we had a great time catching up. He can have different conversations with me than with his father or siblings, and I'm so grateful to be able to be another mentor in his life.
And I'm not just thankful that I was there to support him. I was also immensely thankful to be able to reconnect with several of my former students (and parents), some whom I haven't seen in years. My heart was so full to be able to see the excitement on their faces (and sometimes tears in their eyes) when they first saw me, to feel their embraces, and to hear them tell me how much they love and miss me. Although the circumstances were tragic, I can't tell you how good it felt to be surrounded by my kiddos again. It made me miss them even more!

Earlier this week, I was approached through old coworkers on behalf of another parent. Her son wasn't technically one of my students, but we formed a great relationship anyway because he was on my team. He used to sneak into school early for two years to hang out with me in my classroom and help with whatever project I was doing at the time. Anyway, this weekend, he's attending a church retreat. One of the things they do is give each kid encouragement letters written by adults in their lives. His mom asked me, of all people, to write him a letter. I was so touched, and of course, sent off my letter last night.

Everyone may not agree with my teaching style, but I think I must be doing something right to have so many former students still in my life today. To me, these relationships are even more important than the academic lessons I teach them. I love that I can be there for a student when he/she is struggling with an issue and doesn't know where else to turn (yes, this has happened). I love that they want to share their lives with me. I love that they remember me and my classroom fondly. I wouldn't have it any other way!

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