I’m up too early once again with my Morning Joe and soft air-conditioning, as we head into another over-the-top day of heat. But I’m writing into the morning and thinking about my earliest teaching days.
We’ve talked a lot about our teaching lives and here’s a story I want to add to our collection, okay?’
At my mom’s funeral, I was reminded once again, that even though I don’t live in Ellenville anymore there’s still a community there who remember me and embrace our collective past. As people joined us at the synagogue and back at my brother’s I loved the familiar faces and one in particular brought me back to my earliest teaching experiences as an English teacher. I took over for a teacher on leave in the middle of the school year . Some kids were happy to see a fresh face, some weren’t. I was ready for the challenge.
Dan sat on my brother’s couch by the window and as I walked toward him he stood tall with just a touch of gray in him hair. It was so good to see the 9th grader grown up.
We talked together for as long as we could. I was happy to move back in time with him for a few minutes. I was back at the start of my teaching career with someone who was there with me in my classroom and on the stage for my first play as high school director. I don’t remember if I saw him before he left but he lingered in my memories.
The week of Shiva continued, then the week in Israel and Saturday, as I landed back at Tuvia’s and walked the familiar rooms I found a business card with Dan’s name on it. Tuvia explained that a young man had come with a cake a few days too late. I was already in Israel and Dan had come for our Paramus Shiva, but only there was only Tuvia to greet him at the door and he left with his cake in hand.
Rested, I called him on Monday and for Dan it was a golden opportunity to apologize to me, apologize for something he did as a 9th grader over 30 years ago, apologize for behavior I had long forgiven him for. He was in that group of students who did not welcome a fresh face into his English classroom and at first I but I remember the whole experience with Stan. He grew to accept and appreciate me. Encouraged by me, he auditioned for his first play and my first play and together we made music.
At first I tried to make light of his need to apologize but soon I realized that he needed to pay respect and share with me that I was a very important influence in his life. He was a very important person in my life as well.
What gift it is to be a teacher, don’t you think? It’s a gift that just keeps giving.