Tomorrow is the first day of school with students. I'm not entirely ready, but I'm also not too nervous about it either. I was up at school until about 5 this afternoon with Bobby running amok and Bob helping to paper over some of my windows. (You may ask why I would want windows covered. Good question. It's because they're windows to another room. And I'm not excited about seeing lots of other students in other rooms. The prairie dog look gets old.) While they were helping, I was cleaning out old student folders to make room for the new students I would be meeting this year.
The students are, of course, what makes teaching so fun, interesting, and exciting. Now, at the end of a bad day, those adjectives might all be very, very, very different. As I took out old name labels I realized I hadn't used some of those folders for three years. It was a strange mix of names from all short my years of teaching so far. Some of the students I only had for a quarter before life circumstances moved them elsewhere and others I have seen through their last 3 years of high school.
As the names flashed in and out of my hands I realized that I didn't know how very many of them were faring. Several will be back this year, but so many more have moved past high school. There were names I haven't thought of since they left my classroom. Students that had moved out into the world and passed through my room and life only briefly.
I saw the name of a student I had for only one semester. Her situation was a difficult one and seeing her name reminded me of the last time I had seen her: on a street downtown, looking like she may be living there. For all appearances she was worse off than when she walked through the door. That was a depressing name to see.
But then there was the name of the young lady I had last year who I saw over the summer working at a drive-thru. The last time she teased me saying she wasn't coming back; she was changing schools. At least she had the sense to not joke with me about dropping out.
I also saw some former students in the halls. One was picking up transcripts for a training program he'll be starting this fall. The other was trying to register; actually, his mom was trying to register him and he was trying to look too cool to care if he was in classes or not.
Those old names on the folders, like the students they represent, were a mixed bunch. Some were written in easy, flowing hand writing. Others in cramped letters trying to fit their full, formal name into a 1.5 inch space. All different, and surely none ever thinking that their little name on that piece of card stock would make their English teacher very sentimental one day.
Being able to meet so many different people, then getting to know them and work with them, is often awe-inspiring. Every student comes in with their own baggage. Some are weighed down by it, others use it to rest or even climb. Watching them grow and change is amazing. Seeing them decide who they are, who they want to be, what they believe, and what they want for their lives is a process that I can't see myself tiring of anytime soon.
I am excited to see the new names on those folders.
And I'm sure this time next year, I'll get all nostalgic over their names, too.