At a recent in-service, we were asked to think about why we do what we do. We watched a video that illustrated the reasons we should remember this important lesson.
It’s wonderful when I am reminded why I am a teacher. In the fall, I dropped my middle child off at Oregon State University where she would start as a freshman. We were at the Bed Bath & Beyond in Corvallis, Oregon shopping for items she would need for her dorm room. As I pushed my shopping cart down the aisle, I heard a woman say, “Excuse me, are you Mrs. Kozak?” I looked at her strangely because I was surprised someone recognized me in Corvallis, Oregon. It turns out that I was her son’s teacher in 2nd grade. They moved to a different town the following year, so I lost touch with the family. She went on to tell me how much they loved being in my class. It was amazing to hear what became of him. He is a freshman at OSU and lives in the same dorm as my daughter. Here is a picture of Noah and me at the Bed Bath & Beyond.
Last weekend, I attended the Women’s March and ran into another former student, Madison, and her mother. They recognized me all these years later. Madison just graduated from Sonoma State University and got a job at a marketing firm. Her mother said she always remembers me when she hears the song, “Blackbird”, by the Beatles. I taught that song to my students in 2nd grade. We would always start our day with songs and poems. It was an awesome way to start our day on a positive note. No matter what happened to students before school started, there was always a fun song and poetry recitations to look forward to. Here is a picture of Madison, her mom, and me at the Women’s March.
Yesterday, I had a doctor’s appointment after work. I was checking in with the receptionist while writing my name on a clipboard. I wasn’t paying full attention to the person behind the desk. The receptionist, Marie, asked for my insurance card, and I took a seat in the waiting room. When she came out with my card, she said, “I just have to mention this to you. You probably don’t recognize me, but you used to be my daughter’s teacher.” I looked at her more closely because I wanted to remember who she was. I asked her the name of her daughter and she said it was Maddy. I thought, “Oh brother. I have had so many Maddys in my teaching career.” She told me that Maddy was in my class in 2nd grade and then they moved to another school in the district. As she relayed the story to me, I gradually began to remember who her daughter was. Marie went on to tell me that I had made a big impact on her daughter, and she always remembered my class. Maddy, especially, loved when we sang in the morning. She went to high school and sang in the school choir. She is now going to Northern Arizona University and wants to be a teacher. Her mom said I had a lot to do with that. I was very touched by everything she said. Sadly, I did not get a picture of Maddy or Marie to share with all of you.
I’m happy when I run into former students, even though it reminds me of how old (and how short) I am getting! These reunions help me remember my why. On days when I am feeling frustrated not knowing if I am making a difference in my students’ lives, I think about Noah, and Madison, and Maddy, and know that I am. Even though I am not seeing the immediate effects at this moment, I know that I may be saying or doing something to influence them later. When I am trapped in the mundane, I need to remember to try and find the joy in what I am doing. It might not seem like I am getting anywhere with students, but I have to believe I am making an impact that might not be felt until years later. That thought helps me keep on teaching!