As unimaginably sad as it is when a teacher loses a current or former students, so unimaginably joyful it is for a teacher to encounter a former student who validates time spent in the classroom.
I had that unexpected joy a number of months ago in—the dentist’s office, at the hands of the hygienist, who recognized and complimented me as a former teacher.
The gift in that encounter reminded me of the importance of treating each student, no matter what his or her age, with great respect, selfishly, if not unselfishly, with a practical eye toward the future.
Whereas the teacher is in the authority position in the classroom, the student might very well have the “upper hand,” so to speak, in a future relationship.
That kind of relationship is what struck me years ago when I attended a Pulitzer-awarding winning play—W;t—written by a teacher, in which a dying college professor encounters a former student, now her oncologist.
As sorry as a I was for the main character for any number of reasons, (not including that she did not get to retire, since retirement was not on my radar screen), the idea of the teacher being humiliated by her former student was a good reminder of why it is important to treat students with utmost respect, not to say that the professor didn’t, or that even if she had, it would have made a difference.
You never know which student will grow up to be your doctor, auto mechanic, police officer, or opposing counsel.
In my case, with all that dental apparatus at her disposal, I surely was glad that my hygienist did not hold a real or imagined grudge against me, and on one level, I really did feel humbled by a former student cleaning my teeth.
The gig will be up in the next two weeks. I have not done my flossing homework assignment as I promised I would. And like my former students, I will reap the just rewards for my choices.
Former students are like that—they can show up any place, any time, in any role.
Have you experienced former students serving you during your retirement?