I often spend my Saturday mornings grocery shopping. The local shopping district that I utilize is routinely populated by students who attend the school where I teach. So it’s not unusual for me to run into students, both past and present during this time. The trip I made to the grocery store last weekend was no different. I was spotted by several former students. For the most part, I am always happy to see them. I love to see how they have grown and hear about the progress that they have made in life. Then other times I liken myself to a celebrity being chased by the paparazzi. I’m ashamed to admit that sometimes I dodge, hide, or dart down the aisles in order to avoid my current students. Because even the students who don’t like you as a teacher at school, love you when they see you in public and always want to talk to you. Of course, this makes me feel weird, but rest assured, I know that by Monday morning, they will be back to their old fickle selves. How comforting!
I was standing at the cold cuts case trying to find a suitable Lunchable for Nicholas’ lunch when I felt a slight touch to my lower back. I turned and faced Nina, a former student. Nina was a student from the beginning of my teaching career. She had a great personality, but was not really into school. I think she was there largely for the social aspect and eventually quit school altogether. Over the years I saw her a couple of times at Skyline Chili where she worked.
We were both pleasantly surprised to see each other considering three years had passed since she had served Cincinnati’s famous chili. Nina shyly told me that she was working on getting her GED and that she had hopes of attending college. I told her about the new changes within our school system, like how all the teachers at our school had to re-interview for our jobs. I was among the first to be interviewed and had already received my position back. Nina gave me a quick smile before saying “I knew that they wouldn’t let you go because you are the best English teacher at AHS.” Having finally learned the art of replying to compliments with grace, I simply said thank you. However, I was somewhat surprised by her commendation. As I mentioned, she was not particularly studious and rarely did the assignments I gave. I had no idea that she held this view of me. But it did make me feel good.
After a little more small talk, we parted ways and continued our shopping. A little later in the day it dawned on me—being a stepparent is a lot like being a teacher. Oftentimes you don’t know the impact that you are having on your students until years later. Just when you think you have bombed and didn’t make a dent of difference in their lives, the exact opposite is true. I receive many letters, emails, and visits from former students who express their gratitude over lessons learned. I love this. This fuels my passion to perform better each year since I rarely get to see the immediate fruits of my Herculean effort that I put forth. I have no problem accepting this fact of life as a teacher. This is a hard concept for me to master as a stepmom. But listening to Nina gave me hope. And it’s not that I expect something in return from my stepsons for being a positive influence in their lives, however, just hearing that you somehow made a difference does feel mighty good.