I met my old student on The Devil's Playground parking lot last night. She seemed so glad to see me, I just smiled. Still optimistic after all these years.
If only somebody could write a song about that.
For the record, Mrs. Hillbilly Mom has always been a science teacher, but she has not always taught science. Her checkered career includes a six-year stint as an at-risk teacher. Yes, she was asked to relinquish the glory and respect that are heaped upon core class faculty, and don the hat of unofficial special services, the Rodney Dangerfields of the halls of academia.
One of my favorite powers that still be, though in a different capacity at the time, tapped me to fill the newly-created position. He made it clear that it was totally my decision, that there was nothing wrong with my current scientific performance, and that he had a new hire who could step into either slot. But that he preferred me, because he thought I related well to that demographic. And because I had that Jack-of-all-subjects quality, the ability to help the students with anything from diagramming sentences to solving algebraic equations.
I took the bait. And guess what! I made a difference in at least one life! That's all it takes, isn't it, to justify the billions that were spent on my salary?
This student was a quiet gal with a fiery temper when provoked. her attendance was not the best, and she struggled academically. She was in my class for four years. A 50-minute resource room where grades were checked daily, assignments inspected, and individual tutoring given as needed. Quiet Gal graduated. I have seen her on a couple of occasions since then. The last time was at the gas station. She always comes up and speaks to me like I'm a trusted friend. Royalty. A celebrity.
Graduation night, she found me in the hall as robed students and faculty lined up for the processional. She handed me a card, which I tucked into my wizard-like master's robe sleeve. When I read it after the awarding of diplomas, I found a handwritten letter thanking me for my help. Quiet Gal said that if not for my class, she would have dropped out of school as soon as she was 16. That my class was the one hour every day where she could count on relaxing and not feeling stressed. Where somebody believed in her.
That's why we teach. For the Hallmark moments.