I used to think that the worst thing in the world was to be forgotten. I used to feel crushed when I ran into a former student and he didn't recognize me or remember my name. Gosh, I thought, I had 25 students in your class last year/five years ago/fifteen years ago, and yet I remember you (to some degree) and at the time, you seemed to enjoy my class. How could you forget me?
I was walking through the hallway this morning next to another teacher and a knot of students approached us, all smiles. I recognized the group -- we had had a really successful class last year, full of laughter, rigorous thinking and innovation. A great year; they all performed well and were proud of themselves and the class. One spoke up and said, "You are my favorite class!" To a teacher, that makes sense. I was about to say something when I realized that the student was talking to the teacher next to me. My heart fell. I thought I was the best. I thought my class would be the one which left that indelible mark. And here I am, replaced by October.
My gut says to lash out. Frailty, thy name is student! O heavens! There isn't hope a great teacher's memory may outlive his class half a year. [wow...that Hamlet play is really useful.]
But then I pushed ego aside. I tried to grow up. This schooling thing isn't about me. It is about a student's positive experience. I don't WANT him to remember me because I want him to be so overwhelmed with great teachers who inspire and entertain, teach and guide that I want it to be impossible to remember me amidst the throng of fabulous educators. If I am the favorite then that means that all the other teachers don't match up and I know that that isn't true. I want students to move ahead and make connections with new people, to get excited by other classes and not to be stuck in their old experiences. I think the best thing I can see is a student whose eyes light up when other teachers walk by and who, when they see me, smile and nod politely.
Sure, it is nice when a student from years ago says "I have had 50 teachers since you but still, you are the tops" but when it doesn't happen I won't see it as a failure for me, but a success for the educational system and that student.