Today, as I walked through the crowded foodcourt of our local shopping centre, a stunning young lady stepped out of the long line she was waiting in and greeted my husband and I by name. We glanced awkwardly at each other, each hoping the other would give the necessary clue to place who we were faced with. Embarrassingly, neither of us could save the other and the poor young girl had to confront us with, "You don't recognise me do you?" We both felt awful and personally I was desperately trying to make a connection with my memory banks - we obviously knew her..but how?
Thinking on her feet the girl saved us all any further embarrassment by pulling out her Year 8 ID card...and shocked, the penny finally dropped. This was a student we had both taught for 2-3 years at our previous school...more than that, she was in the area celebrating Schoolies and her completion of 12 years of schooling. The brief encounter drew to a close and we wandered away, stunned and shell-shocked trying to figure out who else would have graduated from that cohort this year and wondering who else we might run into (given our horrible reception to our first, we were desperate to do better the next time!)
As we finished our lunch, hubby and I planned out what chores we needed to do before heading home but before we could move far from the table we suddenly found ourselves cornered by a group of between 10-15 students from the same school and rather than the awkward Year 10 students we remembered we were faced with confident young adults, smiling and happy to see us and share with us what their futures hold (amongst the group there were aspiring teachers, fighter pilots, butchers and journalists).
The rest of the afternoon has been filled with random questions and memories as we try and place each of the "new", mature faces with the students we remember. And, as one would expect, each of these sparkes another new memory and the conversation rolls on.
What I will take from our encounter today though is a deep feeling of pride - these are students we have not had contact with for two years (since we were transferred from the school) and yet they wanted to come and at the very least say hello. That, on the back of the emotional farewelling of the students graduating from my current school this year (with the conversations of thanks, hopes and dreams) I have been reminded that as teachers we often underestimate the power of our connections with students - our influence will play in their lives far longer than we are their teacher and far longer than they are at school. We have played some small part in helping them move towards their futures, to find themselves.
We need to be aware of this part we play and we need to live up to the challenge - which leaves me faced with the question, what have I done this school year to help my students become the best they can be?