Today was the official last day of school. We started off with a performance by the show choir, breakfast prepared by the kitchen staff, and goodbyes to staff that is leaving.
One staff member who is retiring was my cooperating teacher when I student taught, and my mentor when I was first hired at West seven years ago. She taught me how to teach, inspired in me a love of journalism, and as I told her today, I never would have pursued a degree in Popular Culture if not for her influence.
Another staff member who is retiring was my Algebra IIA teacher back in olden times. The most vivid memory I have of his class was on a cold winter morning. He walked in class (it was 1st hour), and exclaimed, “I saw the most inspiring movie over the weekend, and it has changed how I feel about teaching you Algebra II. I am inspired to teach you all Calculus and help you pass the AP Calculus exam!”
He had seen “Stand and Deliver.” We had probably seen “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” or something equivalent.
We looked at him like he was crazy, much like how my students look at me when I swoon over Reverend Dimmesdale or John Proctor. But that is the memory I have of him–not that he was crazy, but that he was idealistic enough to believe that he could teach us Calc.
Well, today as he was sharing some parting thoughts, he mentioned how there were so many people to thank, and to try and point out specific people would take too long. But there were some people he wanted to thank publicly. He started reading a list of names of teachers, all from different departments: Music, Social Studies, P.E., English.
My name was last on the list.
He expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to call us all his students once, and now his colleagues, and thanked us for choosing to be educators.
I’ve thought about both of these scenes today–his idealism of twenty years ago, his gratitude now–and as trite and cliche it might sound, it really is true that we can’t measure our influence on people in quantitative terms. Those eight or nine names he read this morning have taught thousands of students, collaborated with dozens of educators, and there is no feasible way to measure those results.
But I’m kind of glad about that. Because I really believe that one day, when I least expect it but need it most, I’ll get a tiny glimpse of my influence. And that will be enough.