Don't you know we're living in stolen moments?
You steal enough it feels like we're stopping time.
These days are gold, we're living in stolen moments.
Just grab a hold...
-John Hiatt, "Stolen Moments"
A friend of mine has a cousin who has been teaching high school English for quite a few years now. I actually observed this teacher as part of a project I had to complete when I was working on my certification. He was fun to watch in action, and his kids obviously loved him. Well, a couple of weeks ago my friend told me that this cousin was considering moving up to a big time position at the state board of education, but that it would kill his kids if he did. "Those kids absolutely worship him! They hang on his every word," my friend said.
That's a slight exaggeration, of course, but I understand what he was saying because I've experienced similar relationships. No more did this hit home than on Thursday, when some of my past and present students threw me a goodbye party right after school. Leaving aside the comical fact that I'm in the red after ordering pizzas for them and not getting completely reimbursed (a teacher's martyrdom is never done), this was a tremendous honor, particularly because it was their idea. Among the things I received was this signed, framed, and matted portrait from some of my sophomores:
Some of the statements read as follows:
"P., I'm going to miss you so much! I love you with all my heart!"
"I will miss you P. You are my favorite teacher!"
"Mr. P., I will most deff. always love our stupid English teacher! Thank you for all you've done for all of us, and for teaching us more than just English. Love always and good luck."
"P., You are the man. Gonna (improper grammar) miss you!"
Of course, the overly emotional girls were crying. One in particular was inconsolable - not the one I would have guessed either (side thought: oh, to have had so many girls crying over me when I was actually in high school! I could have died happy at 18.) The boys were their usual awkward, but funny selves. I was doing my best to bring good cheer to the occasion, and not lose it too much myself.
Frankly, I mostly believe it shouldn't be any other way - if I'm fulfilling my calling correctly, that is. To me, this "student worship" falls in the category of the miraculous, and, on the one hand, it never fails to humble me. But I'll admit, on the other hand, that I crave it. Partially this is a function of the male ego, something we men need to have stroked from time to time. And partially the craving is a function of needing to know that what I believe about teaching - about the nobility of the task - is borne out in reality, making it true.
It has never felt more like the truth than over these last few weeks - weeks full of stolen moments as savory, yet as sad, as any I've lived through.