Today I received an email from a former student for whom I wrote a rather glowing college recommendation. He was not an exceptionally stellar student. However, he was a solid student. But it was his humble persona that clearly stood out to me, his choices to be open and affable to all of his peers, to his teachers, to the principal, to the superintendent. All of this and a member of the football team.
Well, in his email, he wrote: "So how are things at Emmaus? They better be treating you well! Do you miss us?"
What's not to miss? Large class sizes? Gang presence? Questionable job security?
This weekend proved to me that I left behind some of the most wonderful people, talented educators who dealt with issues that are often unfathomable to people in suburban districts. They don't see the diverse problems that an urban district brings, the far reachings of poverty, language barriers, hurdles created by an economically challenged tax base. But in the face of these barriers, my former colleagues and I always laughed (and sometimes cried) at what we witnessed.
So a few days ago, seeing them and hearing the new stories made me long for days gone by. I haven't yet found a family, and I felt almost like an outsider when I saw them. A few of them treated me that way--but just a few. The rest were just as loving, just as welcoming. I talked to an administrator today about how lucky I feel that I started my teaching career at Freedom. I had incredible mentors and leaders--people who stressed rigor, who wanted students to gain skills rather than memorize curriculum. Without them, I would not be who I am today.
And as for my squirrels, wow. I only wish that I could see all of them, to know that they are on the right path to success beyond the four walls of Freedom. How can I do that? I don't know. Maybe I can't. I can only wish that they accept new challenges, no matter how difficult they can be, no matter how other people may judge their decisions.