Last Friday night when I attended my stepdaughter's graduation, I also watched two of my former fourth graders graduate with her. (A disclaimer: I don't teach at the feeder school for this particular high school. I am sure a bunch of my former students graduated this weekend. Not just two.)
I started thinking about how fun it is to live and teach in the same community for more than twenty years. I see former students as adults with jobs, attending college, and having families. I know it will be soon when I start teaching my students' children.
Unfortunately, I have also seen some of the poor choices my former students have made. I still cry when I think of one who died in gang violence. I have seen several become teen parents. Some haven't graduated.
As any teacher knows, once you have had a child in your class, there is a connection. Even if that child is 22 and helping me choose my produce at his job, I can still tell him not to ride his bike on the school sidewalk. I am proud to tip another extra when she serves me at the local restaurant. I am excited to hear about career plans when others are home on a college break.
The one relationship change I have struggled the most with is the student who became my pharmacy assistant. (Think of all the personal information you give out when you are at the drug store filling out your prescriptions. There is something awkward about having a former student know that much about you.) She was always a good student and she plans to enter the medical field. I know she understands confidentiality.
What I love most about being a teacher is investing in lives and occasionally seeing the results.