My best teaching day wasn’t actually a teaching day, but it was certainly my best day as a teacher. After 24 years of teaching elementary school, in the same school where I did my student teaching, I reconnected with a former student on Facebook. Jessica had been in my first class ever, a sweet fifth grader who had Grand Canyon dimples. I was thrilled to get her friend request and added her immediate. We arranged a lunch date and got together a couple of weeks later.
It turns out that Jessica had graduated from our local high school and completed a masters in psychology. She is currently a living donor counselor at a world-class hospital, working with patients who are donating kidneys to family as well as strangers. Oh, boy, was I so proud to hear this. I know that she had so many more teachers besides me, but I still feel like this was my doing.
Jess was one of those students I kept in touch with through middle school and high school. I attended her clarinet recitals and even her quincañera. Her parents celebrated their nuptial mass (having been civilly married in Mexico) and I was lucky enough to celebrate with them.
When we got together for lunch at La Scala in Beverly Hills, we had the best long talk. She asked me how I had seen her when she was a student. I told her that she was one of my smarties, and that I knew she was destined for great things. She told me that it was hard to believe, because she’d had such a poor self-image when she was a child because she was a recent immigrant from Mexico, and didn’t start school in the US until she was in the third grade. When she was in my class, she told me that she felt so stupid because she wasn’t fluent in English. I told her that she was very good at hiding her insecurities, that I thought she was just shy.Those recitals I attended 22-23 years ago made such an impression on a sensitive little girl. What she didn’t know was that I was feeling so burned out, and had lost so much of the passion I once had for teaching as a profession. Hearing her words brought back so many positive memories, and rekindled the fire.
So my best teaching day wasn't just a day at all. It was my career.