“The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.” –Mark Van Doren
During Christmas vacation, I had the opportunity to have breakfast with two former students. I was touched when I received a text message that Thursday evening asking me if I had time to meet for breakfast the next morning. In the six months or so since I haven’t been teaching, I have felt forgotten about as a teacher. That makes no sense since I chose to not be a teacher anymore. I suppose I feel like I am not a teacher, and I don’t make a difference anymore. Crazy, I know. Anyway, I met Cody and Paige for breakfast. We ate, talked, laughed, and talked some more. They are both freshmen in college. We talked about their classes, their friends, their hopes, and their dreams. It was nice to sit down and enjoy them as grownups even though they are still kids to me. While at the restaurant, I had the opportunity to see another former student. He goes to college at Oral Roberts University and was home for Christmas. We didn’t chat much because he was working. I asked him to stop by my office before he left town to return for his last year of college.
Monday afternoon came, Zay came by. He is the student body president at Oral Roberts University. He was the sophomore, junior, and student body president at our school. He was captain of our debate team, and a leader in several other student organizations. The fact that he has been a success in college is not really a surprise. He is about one of the most determined students I have ever met. If he says he is going to do something, he does it. Our visit was a good one. Since he graduated, we really had not had time to talk. Because he is so far from home, he is only home two times a year. He comes home for Christmas, and he comes home for summer. While he is home, he is working to earn money for school. He is a busy young man. We had a really good talk. Just like I enjoyed speaking with Cody and Paige, I enjoyed speaking with Zay. That night, I realized that my time impacting students is really over. The ones I had are finishing high school this year and will be in college next year. I spent a lot of time wondering if I was okay with knowing moments like those were over for me.
I am getting okay with it because I still have students. Some of my students are older than I am, but they are my students nevertheless. I am teaching teachers how to use technology. The relationship is different from the one I had with my students, but there is still a student/teacher relationship. I am giving them knowledge that they can use to impact their students, increase their professional learning, and connect with educators across the globe. To me, those are all good things. I also know that I can have moments like that with the teachers. Since I have started this job, I have done several training sessions on Google, Mimio, Digital Citizenship, and Safari Montage. Robin and I also send out a newsletter every Tuesday, Tuesday Tech Tips. Without fail, I will get an email from a teacher saying that they found a useful tip in the newsletter, and they can’t wait to try it out. I remember the day I was in Wal-Mart, and I ran into one of the math coaches for one of our high schools. She was so excited about Hour of Code. I was just as excited because I had never been enthusiastic about anything remotely related to math so to find a modicum of success at coding was a big deal to me. The math coach felt the same. She liked that we had events in most of the schools in the district and had shared resources with teachers. She was doing it on her own. We had a good conversation right there in frozen foods section of Wal-Mart. The feeling was back. I had a connection with someone. Something I had shared sparked an interest. I felt like a teacher again. Nevermind that the woman and I had been colleagues for seven years. I shared something with her that she was unfamiliar with, and it sparked a desire for further study.
Because I am the kind of person I am, I have thought a lot about not teaching students anymore. Yes, my students are finishing high school this year. They will go on to college, technical school, the military, or the workforce. Unless they fall off the face of the Earth, I will no doubt have some contact with them. There is Facebook, Twitter, and even Wal-Mart. In a town like Griffin, you see everyone in Wal-Mart. Usually when you look less than your best, but that’s okay because it’s Wal-Mart. I will see a former student or their parent or get connected with them via social media. We will talk, and I will realize that the connection is still there. It will be different, but it will still be there. The same will be said of the teachers I work with. Our relationship will change over time, but we will still learn from each other, and I will know that I continue to make a difference. I also know that the learning will never stop. The cycle will continue.