It's winter break in most of the colleges and my former students have been coming back in droves to visit. That feels great. My kids have never gone back to visit their old high schools and teachers. They were glad to be free of them. With all my bitching and moaning, I must be doing something right if they keep coming back.
Two of my former students from last year have decided to become math teachers. I hope I was part of the force to influence them in that direction. In spite of everything I write, I do think teaching is a great job. The money, while never making me rich, does provide me with a comfortable life style (I have simple tastes). The rewards are endless. Two kids that came to see me graduated three years ago. I was glad to see them with name tags (one of Principal Suit's good policies) so I didn't have to fake remembering them. Both are doing great. One is a bio-chem major at CUNY honor and plans to be a doctor. The other is a finance major at Johns Hopkins. Both have great memories of the AP class they were in and enjoyed the daily abuses I laid on them.
Over the years, I have had students returning from many professions. I am happy to hear that they have made it as doctors and lawyers, but the special education students who are now holding jobs as truck drivers and McDonald's workers make me equally proud. I am not naive enough to think that the math I taught them had that much influence on their lives, but I hope that by believing in them, by treating them with respect and by helping them get diplomas, I helped them become better human beings, human beings able to take care of themselves and their families and perform valuable services to their communities.
I read an e-mail someone wrote to NYC educator on interviewing for a Teaching Fellows position. The writer desperately wanted to become a teacher. I hope she did get her Fellow's position, but if not, pursues the career anyways. Teaching is not easy. There is lots of crap we put up with from administrators and from students, but it is worth it. Sure, I need a drink sometimes when I get home. But, lots of people need the same when they get home from work. The visits from my former students remind me why it is all worthwhile. For years, I talked about retirement, looked forward to the day I would no longer have to put up with the abuses of everyday work. Now that I have reached the age I know I am not ready for it. Teaching keeps me young. It is a big part of who I am. I thank these kids for reminding me of why I became a teacher in the first place.