Not My Own Kids, But…

Warning: this post gets a little schmaltzy.

I still remember quite vividly the day my high school choir teacher told us she had breast cancer.

“I don’t have kids of my own, and you all are the closest thing I’ll ever have to my own kids. That’s why I’m telling you I have cancer.”

I couldn’t imagine how she could feel so close to us. She was a teacher, after all (they have feelings?!?), and though we knew she cared about us, we were still a group of 45 kids from 45 different families and walks of life.

Many years later, in my own teaching career, I coached speech. And suddenly, I got what my choir teacher was talking about, how she could feel like a big mother hen to all her little choir chickies.

Miss McIntosh was the first choir teacher I met who let me sing instead of play the piano. She came across as a little gruff, and I always thought she didn’t like me much. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that she wrote me a letter, telling me what a talented student I was, and how she knew a month into teaching me that I’d end up with the highest award the choir gave at Honors’ Night. She hosted alumni parties at her house for us, and we loved her like she was our own mother.

I think about Miss Mac, as we called her, when students really worm their way under my skin–in a good way. Last year’s AP English class was one of those classes that I truly, truly enjoyed, and on the last day of school, I wasn’t the only one in the room crying.

Today I went to an Eagle Scout Court of Honor for a student who was in that AP English class. Turns out another student from last year (from a different class) was also receiving his Eagle Scout award today. As I sat there listening to the stories and watching the pomp and circumstance that accompanies events like these, I thought about how lucky I’ve been throughout my career to teach some amazing and thoughtful students.

So today I’m grateful for my students. The ones who invite me to recitals and graduation parties and college performances and weddings and Eagle Courts of Honor. I’m grateful for the students who email me well into their first year of college, to tell me what they’re learning and about the friends they’re making–and occasionally to tell me that I was right after all and studying IS important.

I’m grateful for those students who allow me to “make the cut” in the invites to see these milestones in their lives. Because, like Miss Mac, I won’t ever have kids of my own, but some of these students I’ve taught in the past 12 years sure do make a decent substitute.

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