Friday, August 20, 2010
Last night I had dinner with a graduate of HHS who will travel to the Big Apple in less than a week and begin his drama studies at New York University. Jacob never took a class from me, but we became acquainted during his sophomore year anyway. We spent much time together after school chatting about writing and literature. He's my favorite student I never had in class.
"Do you remember how we met," Jake asked while we awaited our meals? I paused for a minute, trying to recall the exact moment. "I was doing an assignment for C's class. I was interviewing MD, and you were in her room. Whenever I asked her a question about teaching, you had something to add. So the interview really became an interview with you both." Wouldn't you know it. We met when once again I was chiming in with my two cents worth.
Jake started coming to my room after school to chat about books and writing. "Who's your favorite author? What's your favorite book? What do you like about Hawthorne's style?" During his junior year, Jake traveled to another school for AP Language and Composition, so he'd bring his papers to me for extra help after school.
"Do you still have your Mustang?" Jake wanted to know between bites of salmon. "I remember when you got that car. You tied it into the American Dream when you were reading The Great Gatsby and took your class out to the parking lot to see it." I'd forgotten about that, although I can say driving a Mustang ups my stock with high school students.
During the summer of 2008, Jake was serving a mission for his church in Alexandria, Virginia, and I was spending a month at the Folger Shakespeare Library's Teaching Shakespeare Institute, so I took the Metro to Alexandria one evening and treated Jake and his mission partner to Tia food. It was a bit incongruous to have dinner with two LDS missionaries in white shirts, ties, and name plates, but I'm glad I could bring a little bit of home to the East coast for Jake.
"You definitely get some of the credit for my acceptance into NYU," Jake told me during dinner last night. Responding to the confused look on my face, Jake explained: "You spent so much time with me talking about writing and literature, reading my papers. You have such enthusiasm for teaching, and you really helped me a lot." Then to bring me down from the pedestal, Jake asked, "Do you remember the time some kid came into your room and put a shake down on a student's desk and you chased him down the hall in a skirt and high heels? People still talk about that!" Somehow I've managed to forget that graceful teaching moment!
After dinner I gave Jake a ride home and promised to visit him in New York if he promised to score some theater tickets for me. My favorite student I never had in class gave me a hug, and as I drove away in my dream car, I thought about the many students teachers never teach in class and the influence we and they have on one another's lives. We teach even when we're not teaching. Sometimes it's these students, the ones who don't hear our lectures or sit in the desks in our classrooms, who learn the most from us and who remember us as the favorite teacher from whom they never had a class.