You can know all the content in the world. You can return every graded assignment within 24 hours. You can have the standards memorized forwards and backwards and have a perfectly organized and beautiful classroom. But if you don’t have good rapport…you will build more walls than bridges.
I love the moments when I am unexpectedly reminded of the connection I had with past students.
The other day I was washing dishes when I saw two teenagers walking slowly down my street. Before I had a chance to holler into the kids, “If the doorbell rings, don’t answer it!”…the doorbell rang. And they answered it.
“Moooooooooooommmmmmm! There’s someone here for you!”
I went out to my 100 degree porch and there stood a 17-yr-old former student.
“Hey, remember when I saw you at Walmart a few weeks ago? I wanted to tell you something but didn’t.”
(I did remember seeing him actually. He shyly wandered around the checkout near me and then came over when it was obvious I realized who he was. We just spoke briefly and then I moved forward to pay.)
“Well, I have a kid. With her. This is my girlfriend.” He points to the girl standing on my sidewalk.
Woah, you have a kid??? A girlfriend???? What???? That’s crazy! (I only thought this. I did not say it out loud.)
“Um, congratulations!” I say. “Boy? Girl? How old?”
They proceed to rattle off stats. I don’t remember much except that the baby was six weeks old, was at home with his mom, who they both live with. I honestly can’t even remember if it was a boy or a girl. I guess I was still in shock. Not that he had a kid really. I get that teenagers have kids. More that he stopped by to tell me this news.
So the conversation turns to what they were up to that hot day. They were walking home from the pool. It was then that I noticed they were in swimsuits and they looked really young. Just kids. Kids who had a kid.
I turn to the girlfriend, who is looking for a pic of the baby on her cell phone. “So, where do you go to school?”
She is taking online classes. At only 16, she’s got a long way to go. I encouraged her to stick with and get her diploma.
I turn back to the boy. He’s in a different district now but he’s getting good grades and he works at McDonalds. He invited me to come there sometime. I probably will stop there for a Wild Berry Smoothie someday soon.
It was then kinda quiet, and getting really quite hot in the blazing sun. “Well, I’m glad you two are still together and I am proud of you for sticking by your girl and helping out. That was the right thing to do.”
“Yeah, thanks,” he says. “I told her I remembered my teacher living around here somewhere. Then I saw your house and I remembered. Remember that time I rang your doorbell? I was selling candy bars and I didn’t even know you lived here!”
I did actually remember that too. It was about 3 years ago. I bought two. One for each of the kids.
I also remembered a time when he stood across from my desk as I was lecturing him about something he had done (or hadn’t done) and he said, “You know Ms. K, when you are going on and on lecturing me like my mom, I just stop listening to your voice.You should probably know that. It would save a lot of time.”
Snap back to the front porch, where I am now sweating. Alot. He says, “So how’s school going for you?”
I have to say, I was impressed with his maturity and ability to carry on an adult conversation. I mean, this was a kid who admittedly tuned me out when I got to talking too much and he wanted to chit chat with me on his afternoon off – from work and baby duty.
I told him a little about the changes at school and he shook his head like an old man who couldn’t believe how times had changed. And I stood there like an “old” woman, shaking my head, realizing time changes everything…and I smiled.