March 21, 2024

Today is Navroz, the new year, timed to fall on, or right next to, the spring equinox. To celebrate, the world has given us negative double-digit weather and grey, moody skies. Our winter was mild. Spring has yet to be sprung.

At the end of each school year, my advice to my graduating classes is always the same: go do better and forget about this place after you’ve left. It’s usually surrounded by an ad hoc speech that I’d thought about during the drive in to work. My intention is to encourage students to focus on what comes next, what they can take away from middle school and apply to their lives. Until then, grade school is the centre of their worlds. It provides them with community, education, mentors, entertainment, sports, friendships, conflicts, and stressors. It animates every aspect of their lives.

This morning, a student of mine whose cousin is a former student of mine asked me if I’d be around in the afternoon because her cousin wanted to come visit me. I asked why, intimating that he must have better things to do with his time than spend an afternoon with his middle school teacher. Of course, I agreed, and she let him know.

My commitment to being an educator has not faltered but my passion for the profession has waned this year. I’m finding it increasingly difficult to want to go to work, let alone do my best work while there. I’ve grown hypersensitive and abrasive. My focus has turned inward, to what will work best for me. My patience has bottomed out. The strength of my energy flickers. The learning environment leaves a lot to be desired, for students and educators.

At the end of my last teaching period of the day, two of my former students showed up to visit me. We spent the next hour chatting, with them telling me stories about what life has been like for them since leaving. They’ve grown in height and maturity yet remain very much the same. We reminisced. I continued to encourage them to look past what used to be.

Sometimes, life throws you a bone. It was wonderful to hear them speak so confidently about the successes they are experiencing; how high school has become a place in which they find themselves properly situated, and, egotistically, how I helped them in some way. How they recalled their experience in my classes was much more positive than my recollection of the experience I believe I afforded them. The cousin told me that of all the teachers he’s had, I’m the one he feels gave him the most, despite not teaching him enough of the curriculum.

We spoke as though I was no longer their teacher or them my students. To hear their side of the story was a rekindling. While my logs that burn are still green, they brought a warmth to fan the fallen embers.

At the end of our conversation, they gave me a gift: a LEGO Technic set of the Mercedes W14 F1 car, the worst car the team has ever built. They remembered how much I like playing with LEGO, but I’m not sure how they knew what team I root for. Indeed, they helped me put some pieces together today and I couldn’t be more grateful to them.

To those celebrating, I wish you a Navroz Mubarak.


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