As an adjunct professor at a local college teaching graduate-level elementary education courses, I have the opportunity to assist in preparing the next generation of teachers. And for the past eight years, my opening class lecture each semester has always emphasized the two most important days of the school year, the first and last day of attendance.
The first day is the benchmark for establishing a good rapport with each student and setting the tone for an exciting year in the classroom. The last day is hopefully filled with excitement as both the teacher and students have reached their academic goals and summer vacation awaits them. For many teachers, however, it can also be met with a bit of depression.
From the first year that I began teaching and coaching high school sports, that last official gathering with student-athletes always led me into a time of reflection. The inward thoughts would open my eyes to the fact that once the school year or a sports season ended, that class or team you had become part of would never be together again.
However, there are times when a former student comes back into the life of a teacher and/or coach for various reasons. Most recently, I came upon two situations that put me in contact with former students whom I had not had any contact with in many years.
The first student graduated 30 years ago from the district where I coached and taught during her four years of high school. Her mother was the first person I met upon returning to my alma mater to begin a career in education. And although I had so little in common with both of them, we became good friends.
Over time, I lost contact with the family. But I recently learned of the mother’s deteriorating condition as a result of Alzheimer’s disease. I quickly searched out the former student’s address and sent a card with a message attached, hoping to lift her spirits. That gesture led to a few back-and-forth emails. It is my understanding that the renewed dialogue brought a bit of sunshine into her life during these dark days.
The second former student caught me off guard as she returned to the “old” high school to watch her son’s team compete against my son in a varsity baseball game. It had been at least 15 years since I had any contact with her. When she first said hello to me before the game began, I just exchanged the pleasantry and took my seat in the bleachers. Shortly thereafter, I realized that this young lady was also a former student that I had become friends with while she was attending college and quickly retreated to offer her a hug and an apology for not initially recognizing her.
As the evening wore on, we met each other’s son who both had a very good game. The next day, I sent her and her husband a copy of the sports article that I wrote about the game and a photo of their son that was submitted to our local newspaper. That also initiated an exchange of uplifting emails.
In hindsight, teachers and coaches do form a bond with their students and athletes. However, life is ever changing and both move on. I was fortunate to reconnect with two of those students and reminded once again of the importance and joy of being a teacher and hopefully remaining lifelong friends with the students and athletes who touched your life.