For my OLPH "kids"
It doesn't seem like that long ago that I got my first teaching job - grade six French immersion. I was trained as a high school math teacher: quadratic equations or bust! I was not really trained to be a sixth grade teacher, I was sort of trained to teach French immersion, and I couldn't paper a bulletin board to save my life. But a job was a job, and I took it.
The first day that I walked into the classroom and stared at all of your eager faces, I was terrified. These happy, smiling kids were all looking at me like I not only had a clue, but that I had THE clue, the answer to every question, the solution to every problem. I knew nothing. And you looked up to me, assuming that because I was your teacher, that I knew everything and that everything was completely under control.
Here is the truth: I faked it. I faked being in control and knowing everything, because the truth was, I had a LOT to learn. Sure, I knew how to do advanced calculus (which, sadly, you don't teach to sixth graders) and prove mathematical theorems (also not in the sixth grade curriculum), but I did not know if I could do you justice as an educator.
Day after day, you pulled up a chair to my desk and had lunch with me, spouting all of your (and your friends') secrets and stories, jokes and dreams while I listened. I smiled, I laughed, I convinced a few of you to try tofu, and I loved every minute. I loved your stories, and for some reason, you thought I was amusing to listen to, and you seemed to actually want my company. There was more to the relationship dynamic than just a teacher who teaches and students who learn. Lightening struck my heart.
From there, I started thinking about you all the time. You were not just students, you were my kids. I wanted you to be happy, I wanted to protect you from unnecessary distresses, I wanted you to succeed, and I wanted you to know that you were important, not just to me, but to the world. I never really knew whether or not I achieved that, and I just hoped that no matter what curricula I taught, that each one of you would come to learn that you MATTERED.
This weekend, I went back. You are now graduating from high school, standing on the edge of greatness. I had kept in touch with a few of you kids, and so I managed to get a ticket to your graduation banquet. I was excited to see my kids again, probably for the last time all in the same place. And I was not expecting the reception that I got.
Only two students knew that I would be there (of the 50 or so that I had taught). I heard shouts from across the room as a girl threw her arms around me, exclaiming "Madame! I am so glad you're here!" (When did she get so pretty?) One young man wrapped his arms tightly around me before deciding to see if he was finally taller than me (he took off his hat, I took off my shoes: turns out he is now a couple of inches taller). One beautiful young lady looked at me and asked in earnest "Is it hard?" about going to the french campus at the university. (She'll be an excellent teacher.) A boy (well, a man now) towered over me, giving me such a firm and loving
hug that I thought I would fall over. (When did he get so tall? And when did he grow facial hair??) One after another, I was wrapped in warmth and love from kids that spent 10 months of their pre-teen lives with me six years ago.
Not only that, but your parents were very enthused to see me, telling me how much it meant to them that I came and how much I meant to their child. One mother told me that when she asked her daughter which of her teachers meant the most to her (of all her school years) she said she didn't even hesitate: it was Mme N. Another mother told me that I was the first teacher to really see in her son what other teachers couldn't (or wouldn't take the time for). A different parent told me that I had such a lasting influence on the kids, and that the fact that I was a first year teacher made it all the more amazing.
My kids are now adults. You are future nurses, doctors, teachers, 3D animators, musicians, composers, performers, electricians, broadcasters, zoologists. You are future mothers and fathers. You will have to make difficult decisions, you will have failures, you will be successful. But you will always be my kids. And of all the lessons I wish you could remember from that lightening storm six years ago, it is this: you mattered. You mattered to me, and you showed me this weekend just how much I mattered to you.
And you always will matter to me. That's just the way it is.
Much love and pride for ALL of you, my OLPH kids.