Last week I held reunion for some of the graduating seniors of a class that I was honored to be a teacher to ten years ago. Their high school graduation was a few days before and I thought it would be fun to gather together before they head off in their different directions. We met for ice cream and conversation in the elementary school courtyard just outside our old classroom. This class had looped together for both grades one and two. Looping classes are typically closely connected, but this class was even more so as we traveled together for the two year through the classmate’s cancer journey. They were a unique group, brought together through the tragedy of losing someone so young, but they clung to each other and were bound by the loss.
Seeing these students again made me smile as they retold great moments from the past. They shared memories of being in their beloved room 5. Like the time when one student was stuck behind the cubby doors and we heard this tiny quiet voice politely whisper: "Hello, is anyone there? Can someone let me out of the closet?” We chuckled together thinking about seeing the little feet sticking out from under the doors and the smile on the student’s face when we finally opened to doors to let him out.
Or the time two girls were fighting over an alleged stolen prized possession (a stuffed animal of some sort). One girl became quite animated recalling the verbal accusations that were tossed around ten years ago. She said she felt bad about the disagreement and her accusation that her friend had taken her toy, only to find out later the missing object was found at home. The story ended with an apology to her friend for the false accusation, ten years late, but never too late!
We toured the school, dropping in to see their old classroom and trying out the oh-too-small tables and chairs. They quickly pointed out where each stick of furniture was placed around the room: The map painted on the wall, the mailboxes, the teacher’s desk, the reading table, and even the blue, red, green, yellow, purple, and orange tables. What memories they had! We walked to the cafeteria, the gym and even the office. Of course everything had shrunk in the ten years since they had been students there.
They parted after their two hour visit. No one wanted to say goodbye, but we said our farewells, gave hugs to each other, and promised to stay in touch.
I waved goodbye and realized they were all grown-up. I felt a profound sense of pride in the small, yet large part I played in their twelve years of education. One mom noted to me that it was only me, their first and second grade teacher, who could truly appreciate how they’ve grown and how far they traveled, as only I knew where they started from and how far they had really come. As I reflected on that comment, I instantly felt appreciative. I often judge that we primary teachers get forgotten in the high school graduation pomp and circumstances, but today I stand tall and know that we are never forgotten. We too help lay the good and solid foundation to guide these students into wonderful citizens of the world.