THAT Student

Every teacher has THAT kid (or maybe a few) that she will never forget. For me, it’s a boy I taught in both fourth and fifth grades many years ago. He was brilliant. When I read books aloud he shared ideas that were far beyond anyone else’s thinking, including mine. He could just see some things, they just made sense to him.

Unfortunately, he never believed me about how brilliant he was. He struggled to read and in fourth and fifth grade if you can’t read you must be stupid. I don’t really understand dyslexia, but letters didn’t seem to stay still on a page for him. No matter what I tried I couldn’t help him read easily and I couldn’t convince him of his intelligence.

He and I kept in touch through at least his eighth grade year. We attended theatrical performances at his middle school (it was so fun to watch other former students perform) and he even came to my house one day and helped me stain my new pantry doors. I wasn’t ready to let go. I always felt like I should be doing more for him. His potential was so great.

After eighth grade we lost touch. By then I had two kids and many new students. When I would drive by his apartment building I would wonder what happened to him. I thought about him frequently, more than any other former student.

Today, he walked into my classroom. He is a senior in high school and is volunteering at our school for some of his community service hours for class. When I turned around and saw him walk in with our assistant principal I teared up. I’m not sure what message my current first graders got from the huge hug I gave him and the fact that it took me a couple of minutes to pull myself together before I could finish giving the directions for their math activity. I don’t really care.

We didn’t have a chance to talk much today. Eighteen first graders working with dice and counters kept us busy. But he’ll be back. There will be time for that.

I requested one of these volunteers when the email went out about them. I always do. If there is an extra set of hands available they are always welcome in my room. I even knew that some of these students were alums of our school and I asked if I could have one of them. I thought I’d been around long enough there is a chance I would know them. It turns out that he was the one volunteer who asked about a specific teacher. He wanted to know if I was still here.


6 responses to “THAT Student”

  1. The Science Goddess Avatar

    It's always fun to have them come back or make contact, no matter what the age.

    I found out today that one of my former kids…one who staked out a career in biology, no less…passed away at age 24. She was not always easy to deal with (and oh, how her teachers wished she would buy a belt so we didn't have to see her “whale tail” thong every day), but I'm glad to have been part of her story.

    It's nice that you are part of your returning student's story, too.

  2. Josh Burker Avatar

    Jenny, that was such a great story! It made me and my wife a little misty, too. Congratulations on touching this student's life!

  3. Mamie Avatar

    OMG, I teared up just reading that – how awesome!

  4. BB Avatar

    No matter the movies, politics, standards, silly requirements, tests, evaluations or whatever else those in power throw at us, we all teach because of moments like this. There is no prouder moment than to see one of your former students giving back. And the fact that he asked for you… sigh. You've done what every teacher dreams of – you've made a difference.

  5. Andrea Hernandez Avatar

    Sweet story. It is the personal connections we, hopefully, make with students that trump all the other BS we deal with every day (or most days) in the world of teaching.I would love to read a follow-up after you've had the chance to catch up.

  6. Cathy Avatar

    Jenny, what a wonderful story. I love seeing old students to hear what they are doing and see what they've become. How perfect you get to have this opportunity to reconnect.

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