As a teacher, one indication that you’re . . . well, not necessarily getting older, but let’s say, you know that you’ve been around a while . . .is that your former students grow up to become teachers.
Earlier this evening, for example, I made my observation and evaluation of instruction rounds to a Human Anatomy evening course. The students were mostly pre-professional allied health majors. The teacher, Jeff, is a physical therapist by day who just has teaching in his blood (his mom and his dad taught long enough to retire from the profession), so he teaches this night class for my program every spring semester.
I first met Jeff in somewhere around 1988, plus or minus a year, when he was a blond-headed, blue-eyed student in my eighth grade English class at the local junior high. I’ll never forget those penetrating blue eyes as he would listen to everything I explained with riveted attention. And then, when he applied himself to the task, he was sooooooooo thorough and exacting. I can truthfully say that in my now 22+ years of teaching everything from pre-pubescent eighth graders to gray-headed grandparents in college classes, no student I ever taught was a more conscientious listener than Jeff. He was just this really awesome kid, and his grades reflected it in those days.
Anyway, here we are about twenty years later, and he’s teaching college students, many of them adults older than he, and he’s doing a marvelously fine job. I admired his teaching style, which shows keen and detailed knowledge of the subject matter, tempered with an engaging sense of humor (he gets that teaching gift from his dad, who’s a real pro, teaching at both the high school and college levels).
Aside from the indication that I’m not getting any younger, at least I get some gratification when I see a former charge doing a fine job of teaching. I don’t offer that observation because I think I had much, if any, influence on Jeff’s pedagogical or personal style. In fact, he may be more memorable as a student to me than I am to him as a teacher. But there’s that teacher-student connection that never goes away. That much I’ve learned, having contact with former students over the years, so I reserve the right to feel justifiably proud of that blue-eyed, blonde-headed kid tonight as he held forth impressively before his students.