by GABRIELLE LENSCH PLASTRIK
“But you know what the best part of my day is? For about ten seconds, from when I pull up to the curb and when I get to your door, ’cause I think, maybe I’ll get up there and I’ll knock on the door and you won’t be there. No goodbye. No see you later. No nothing. You just left. I don’t know much, but I know that.”
– Chuckie Sullivan, Good Will Hunting
Most adults who I know go to work at the same place every day. They do the same things over and over again. The details change, but the patterns are the same. The people who surround them are the same. For twenty years, they have worked next to the same two or three people and had office spats with two others.
Teaching is a weird profession because, to some degree, we have that in our administrators and our fellow teachers. At the same time, though, the product that we are producing—students—are people, too. They are not a ream of paper at Dunder Mifflin or money to be traded on a financial market. They talk back. They have personalities. Even, better, they are growing up and becoming better versions of themselves right before our very eyes.
That’s where the missing comes in. We spend so much energy and invest so much time in each student’s development. Then, we send them out the door and off into the world. Some of them, the ones who remember, sometimes send an email or come and visit the school to leave notes on the board. For the most part, they dissipate into the hard work of high school and then college.
Over the course of a 180 day school year, I spend, 144 hours in direct instruction situations with my students. I also see them in the hallways, meet with them during their study halls, and email with them about their assignments. I feel like I really know at least the school side of my students before they leave. We have a close relationship that involves trust and respect. We are not friends, but we are colleagues working toward the mutual goal of their improvement. Then, at the end of the year, there is silence and absence. The students leave and the teachers who care so much about them start missing them. By the following fall, we are prepared for the new batch of students and busy investing time and energy into them.
I just wanted to take this moment to think of all of the wonderful people I have known as students and to reflect on how odd it is to have to miss so many people who you’ve really known but also to be happy to know that you are missing them because that means they are out there, giving the world a try.
Gabrielle teaches English and Drama at a school for gifted students in Madison, WI.