Summer is here. The sun is out, and so is school. Teachers can be seen at stores during daylight hours. They are taking vacations. They are doing regular people things. The kind of things they can’t do during the nine months of the year they are overworked and underpaid. Living behind a desk and a grade book.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw a teacher outside the classroom. I realized they were real people that did real things. They shopped and had their own kids. I thought that I and my other third grade classmates were their kids. We always heard them say we were.
Now, over 30 years after elementary school, when I run into a teacher she usually remembers me first. She’s the one that stops and asks how I am doing and if I remember her. “How’s your dad and mom?” she asks. She still cares for me and my family. “I’m so proud of you mijo.” She’s still proud.
I don’t know how teachers remember the thousands of students they teach. They know our names and our personalities. They remember what made us who we are as individuals. The quiet ones and the troublemakers. I was more on the quiet side. Still, I was remembered by someone.
We admire teachers because of this. Not because they know what they are teaching. Not because of their ability to keep us focused all day, every day. Not because they barely make a living off a career they chose for meaningful reasons. The system cares about all that.
We love our teachers because they love us. More than three decades after fifth grade, the first time I saw Mrs. Ames, I felt like a nine-year-old all over again. She saw me and came up to me like an old friend does. An old friend that knows things about you no one else does. A friend that made a connection with you a long time ago during a time of your life you think about with only happiness.
Mrs. Ames remembered my name, and she spoke to me like I was still her student, with a level of respect for my current age but also compassion and thoughtfulness. There is a feeling you get inside when you see your elementary school teachers. It’s hard to describe. Happiness…