I Had A Chance to Go Back in Time While Staying in the Present and Witnessing the Future. It was Nice.

Stephen Arch                              sparch@comcast.net              www.sparch@facebook.com


The problem with time is that there is never enough of it, and before you know it, it may pass you by all together if you let it. As the saying goes, "life sucks and then you die." Not entirely true, but the point is well made. As people, we become so busy, so wrapped up in the trials and tribulations of our own worlds, we "forget" that there are others out there that made an impact on us as much as we made on them. When worlds collide like they did for me the other day, good things happen.

With that in mind, oft times, teachers seem to have so much on their minds that they can't see the forest for the trees, to use an often stated saying. As a teacher, and one who spent his entire "being" trying to make sure that my students and parents go their money's worth, I most of the time forget that once the students leave my "charge," they turn into adults who ultimately will turn that change into great contributions over time.

I saw that with my own children. Before my children were born, my daughter in 1990 and my son in 1993, a sage teacher friend of mine once told me that I would never be "the best teacher" I could be until I had children of my own. How true. It was through them, the good, bad, trying, and downright ugly times that taught me that my students, like my own children, were actually real people, with real lives, with real parents who care. My own children taught me how to be a teacher, a parent, a disciplinarian (a kind one, at that), and a friend. I was able to then take those skills into the classroom and become an even better teacher.

However, once the students "leave the nest" of the classroom, one tends to forget about them because there is always a new crop of students showing up at the classroom door. Time stops for no one, and the same is true for teachers. One group leaves, you blink, and another entirely different group is sitting in front of you. And the cycle repeats itself year after year. You tend to forget. Not intentionally. But you do.

I had the great experience of teaching some extraordinary students in my years. I too fell into the trap of not really forgetting about them when they graduated, but because so many students needed my attention the next year, week, day, minute, I had no time to reflect upon the exceptionality of each and every student.

When I retired from teaching a year and a half ago after 35 years of successful, I think, facilitating, I began to see the forest for the trees, so to speak. I began to see the fruits of the labors of these former students teachers, parents, and hopefully, me.

I recently had an experience that brought my life full circle, and it was great. Memories are wonderful. Getting a chance to relive some of them, when we get a chance, is truly special.

(Story interruption to explain the "turn" in this post: I was never a social media fan, even Facebook didn't seem to interest me. I am on Twitter, but I never check my account. I have enough time keeping up with email, texts, Facebook messages, and IMs. That is enough for me, thank you. My phone rings when I get a phone call, beeps when I get a text message, barks when I get an instant message, and who knows what it does when I get anything else. My own children are on Snapchat and a plethora - sorry for the use of this word - of social media outlets).

Anyway, slowly signing up on Facebook was not fun for me. I mostly signed on to Facebook to promote this blog thing that I write once a week. But as I slowly became aware of what I was really doing and where it would lead me was extremely surprising and pleasant. Almost overnight, my Facebook friends account filled rapidly. Ten, thirty, fifty, one hundred, etc..... up to 1370 at this writing (I do hope that those 1370 people are reading my postings and my blog spot).

But where Facebook really led me was back to my world of former students who, I must say, made great successes of themselves, with a few setbacks a long the way. My birthday was unbelievable. My wife told me that I wasn't supposed to be so "personal" and supply so much information on Facebook else it might be taken out of context. Never being a person to really care who knows my birthday or anything else about me, it didn't matter. But, on that birthday this year, I received over 200 well wishes from friends and mostly former students.

I tried to answer everyone with at least a "like" and usually a comment or two. Of course, again, my wife told me that I wasn't really expected to answer every one. But what she and many people who aren't teachers do not understand that rarely do we get to see what has become of our "former" students, many who become friends and an entirely new support system.

Over the past year (I started my Facebook account when I had my left knee replaced in February of this year because I was bored and needed something to do while between PT and doctor's appointments). I couldn't walk; so, I typed, and I start to do something I hadn't done for so very long. I started to write again. As I have said in the "About the Author" tab on my blog, I hadn't had the opportunity to write - grading papers, reading novels, plays, and poems, and lesson planning kept me from this.

I have had some of the most entertaining conversations on Facebook, have read some really funny, sad, heartfelt stories in the past 9 months. I "forgot" or "never remembered" the human side of my former students. Not that I didn't know that at the time, but now that they are adults, raising children of their own, it is truly amazing to see these former students, these former young people, who probably thought I was an old curmudgeon at the time, grow and, as I said, become productive adults who are really funny and engaging.

Skip to the past week. A former student and basketball player of mine contacted me and asked if I would come and watch his daughter play in an 8th grade basketball game at the local high school. He was a great "kid" growing up. He was a fine student as well as a fine basketball player. We had our "moments," but those moments always quickly faded as task turned to task and new lessons had to be learned. He was always a "good kid" and a special student in my eyes.

And then to hear from him, his family, raising children (ha, just as I had done for so long and still am) I felt really honored that he would even be thinking of me - just as I am always surprised that my former students still think of me. It is something I never imagined, thought about, nor was I prepared to handle. It was, to say the least, nice.

I went to the game and watched his talented daughter play. Ironically, they were playing against the school where I had taught, was a boys' basketball coach, and ultimately an administrator. I had the great pleasure of meeting his growing family, as well as meeting other families of other former students of mine, students, parents, grandparents, friends.

I felt comfortable and fit in. It was fun.

(The most fun, I have to admit, was watching a basketball game where I had no real horse in the race and a relief after spending 10 years carting my own basketball playing son to AAU games, summer leagues, overseeing the boys' basketball program as parent representative when he played high school, and then helping him with his collegiate decisions. I had none of that "apprehension" that all parents feel when traveling to watch their children play in a sport. I just had to "show up" and watch. I could speak to parents about skills their children had and improvements they might make to enhance their game - never critical - just helpful. And the comments were accepted. It felt, again, nice).

Being invited to and attending an 8th grade girls basketball game doesn't sound earth-shattering, and with all of the ugly political things going on in the world and pressing matters at hand, it does not rank extremely high on the "importance" scale.

But I saw that it was important to my friends - er, my former students and their families - and it brought back memories, stories, funny events - things I hadn't thought about in years. I had a great time and laughed a lot. Which, if you've read any of my posts or blogs, I like to do. It was a great time, and although not mentioning the names specifically of those who invited me to this game (many who read my posts are not from around this area and the names wouldn't mean anything), but to Dan, his wife Carol and family who invited me to this new world, this new understanding of how "kids" grow up, how "kids" mature, how "kids" have families, how "kids" become passionate and caring adults. That was fun! And yes, I intend to do it again.

It was nice.