Will I recognize my former students in thirty years time?

I wrote the other day about a talk I attended about holocaust experiences by Dr. Israel Unger.  While it was fascinating and moving, it was not the only really interesting that happened that evening at the church.  It turned out that Dr. Unger’s wife was a teacher at Fredericton High School where she taught math to both my husband and I and actually remembered both of us.  Did I mention that I graduated from high school almost thirty years ago?

Our kids found it fascinating to stand at the reception and talk with Mrs. Unger about our their parents as teenagers.  They were looking for stories of poor behaviour, but, however we thought we may have come across to our teachers, she said we were good kids.   We reminisced some about things like the time Tom and his friends took her literally when she said that if they wanted to bring food to class, they had to bring enough for everyone.  They ordered pizza for the whole class.  

For me, as a current high school teacher, what was most impressive  was the fact that she was able to remember us at all.  When I commented about the fact that I have so much trouble remembering my students names even the next year.  She made a very astute observation.  She pointed out that when she was teaching us, each course lasted the whole year and not just a semester and that it is much harder to really get to know kids in just a semester.  Educationally you get to know your students quite quickly in terms of their names, their academic strengths and weaknesses and the best way to help them.  What a semester doesn’t allow for, she pointed out, was time to really get to know our students as people.

Luckily, I get to teach many of my students in more than one course and work with some in extra-curricular activities.  These are the kids I have a chance to get to know well.  One of my students asked today how I can stand teaching the same thing three or four times per day for years on end and I was able to answer totally honestly that it was them that made it fun.  The variety comes from their different personalities, their different reactions to the material we cover etc.

In thirty years time I don’t know if I will recognize my former students.  I expect that I will at least remember the ones with whom I have had contact through Face Book.  I just hope that, whether or not my memory improves, I will manage to convey to them somehow how much I care about them.   

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