When nearing retirement age (perhaps sooner), some of us think of the presidents we have had on this campus over the decades. We consider how campus governance has changed. We see the new buildings that have emerged. So many changes! For others, it may be the challenges of each new entering class that come to mind, or the need to be more technologically astute to motivate and satisfy our students. Then there is always the practical question: how many more years do I need to work in order to be financially independent until age 95!
I am one who has considered the above questions. But I also think of the many hundreds of students that may have entered as first-years to ‘drive me crazy’ but who then go on to graduate as mature, thoughtful men and women. In many instances they taught me as much as I them.
After years of written grade books, computer Excel listings, hundreds of recommendations, one sometimes thinks of her students and wonders, “Where are they now?” Fortunately there are some answers. Some former students do reconnect with a phone call, a short letter, a Hallmark card, and especially now an e-mail. These reconnections make a teacher’s day!
I recall being at my computer late one night at Draper and Maynard when I received such an e-mail. The gentleman shared that he knew when he left Plymouth State, he would not be entering the world of teaching for which I had helped to prepare him. Instead he chose employment in the financial world. He had the connections, motivation, and personality to fare well in corporate business! Then he told me that he appreciated all that he learned in my classes; it had helped prepare him for his professional job.
This was the lesson for me. I realized that I wasn’t just teaching content, I was teaching life lessons, and THAT was the important part of my assignment! That night, a tear fell when reading that connection.
Lou Gehrig stated, “I am the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” In my own small way, and in far different circumstances, I feel the same. How fortunate we are, as teachers, to play and be a part in the lives of our students. They have brought me such joy to know so many wonderful people. I thank THEM.