A Love Story…
It is Wednesday, 12:47 PM, April 27th, 2011, activity period in the middle school. The 8th graders on the newspaper staff are in a total frenzy. Science night looms over their heads. To say that they are struggling mightily to muster the necessary enthusiasm and focus required to turn out the last issue of the newspaper would be a grave understatement. Jesse, our editor in chief, is literally drawing squares in Photoshop in an attempt to finish an art project, Schuyler, our usually dependable managing editor, seems to have lost all sense of priorities abandoning her staff mates to make up a math test. Joanna and Jane, film critic and fashion editor respectively, have been caught up in an impenetrable torrent of giggles for at least 20 minutes, poor Joe, our tech guy, is trying in vane to keep things together while newbie reporter Hannah is still under the illusion that something will actually be accomplished in the next half an hour. When I glance over and see Olenka lying on the floor and Magda upside down in her chair, whirling around face covered by her spinning hair, I’m certain that all hope is lost. In one final act of pure desperation, they ask me to write an article.
So, I stop my high-pitched vocalizations (otherwise referred to as screaming) and look at them. Just for a moment, I sit helplessly and just look. Just five more weeks. In five short weeks, I will attend a Meeting and watch as they move on to their upper school selves. Then they will be gone. Again. Not just the newspaper staff. They will all be gone: the ones I watched peck and claw their way out of their lower school shells, the ones I watched tentatively dip their big toes into the river of 7th grade before diving in head first, the ones I nagged relentlessly about late homework and poor focus, the ones who messed with the system settings on the lab computers and yes, even the ones whose sole criminal act was their very presence during one of my migraines.
Some will leave GFS, but even those who stay on will be gone. The most I can reasonably expect is a smile and brief exchange of greetings when we pass on campus or, perhaps, an unannounced return to the computer lab to use the color printer.
As a middle school teacher, I have often wondered if I have ever done anything that actually mattered in a student’s life or contributed to the person he or she will eventually become. I’m not talking about making a huge impression on their life, just a tiny dent, a little educational fender bender, if you will, would be just fine with me. I’m not proud to admit that I have often fantasized that while watching the Oscars, I would be amazed to watch a former student emerge from the crowd, clutch the podium and in a voice crackling with gratitude, thank me for changing the course of his or her life. Of course, I haven’t quite worked out the part about how such a well earned accolade relates back to my oft repeated instructions on how to save to the server with a greater than 50/50 chance of actually being able to retrieve a document sometime in the not so distant future.
More than occasionally, I’ve felt that teaching in the middle school is a lot like dating someone on the rebound, after you have been traumatically dumped by your first love and before you actually meet Mr. or Ms. Right. Somehow, for most, those interim memories of middle school life quickly fade away in a torrent of hormones and chaos forever wandering in the murkiness of lost adolescence.
It doesn’t really matter though. Whether they remember me is not the point. I am confident that on some future occasion, I will be lucky enough to catch a peripheral glimpse of their exact whereabouts on life’s path. Then I will remember. Again.
So go, why don’t you all! Just hurry up and go and don’t look back kids. You won’t get me again. I have absolutely no more room for memories. Wait just a minute. I forgot to mention something. I love you. Now get out of here!