Driving off from work yesterday, I spotted a goofy looking teenager waving excitedly through my passenger window. I recognized immediately who it was – one of my favorite students from four years ago – and waved back. I was trying to enter traffic so I couldn’t stop, but the fleeting greeting gave me a chance to reflect on that year with what is certainly one of the most special classes I’ve had.
That brings me to today. What a horrible day for parking. I was marooned on a street several blocks away. At the end of the day, trudging to my car under the weight of a chest cold that had my students asking me, “Are you OKAY???” after every cough, I was a mite exhausted. I approached my vehicle, and who should I see bounding down the street shoveling pizza in his face but that same bespectacled teenager from yesterday.
He obviously hadn’t lost his wry sense of humor. An anecdote from the past: when he interviewed me for a project in fifth grade, he dramatically pulled out a pen and pad and opened with, “Sooooo, can I call you Matthew?” That still cracks me up and it’s one of my favorite stories!
Taken aback today by how tall he’s become, I said, “Man, you’re almost as tall as me!”
Without missing a beat, he said, “Well, I am 13.” Classic.
Much to by amazement, he is looking at prospective high schools for entrance next year. He’s a great kid and I certainly hope and expect he will become something special.
After our brief chat (13-year olds are terribly awkward sometimes), I got in my car all excited to have seen one of my old charges making good. And then, a rapping came upon my passenger window. My instinct was to tense up, but I figured it could be someone looking for help – or telling me to move – so I loosened the grip on my steering wheel and looked. And what do you know? It was another student from that same amazing class!
This was one of my success stories, in fact: a boy who was embarrassed by his Chinese lineage in an overwhelmingly non-Chinese neighborhood and school. His English was markedly improved by the time he left my class – and my Chinese was markedly improved as well. (May I say again, by the by, “Xie xie” for that!) He’s doing well, too. Also heading to high school next year. He filled me in on some other kids from that awesome class and made me laugh when I told him something about one of his former teachers. His response: “Who?”
I’m grateful that’s not the response these two superstars have when they think of me.