My heart could not take in the experience of seeing former students whom I had not seen in 30+ years walk through the doors! There they were older, obviously. They looked around; we made eye contact and then the squeals began. And, yes even the guys “squealed” in their own manly ways. There were some of these “kids” that had meant so much to me “back in the day.” Circumstance and activities had brought us into daily contact that went beyond the hour long classroom experience. These men and women are now parents, grandparents (eeek), lawyers, business people, entrepreneurs, doctors, teachers, and on and on. Once I saw their smile and their eyes, their names came to me immediately. To the “man” they all grabbed me, hugged, and we just stood there for a moment taking it all in. How they had gotten word of this event and made it to the CFISD boardroom, I am not sure. I do know there was a network working via Facebook spreading the word to those in the area. I would love to mention specific names; however, I would inadvertently leave someone out and would never want that to happen. All I know is that looking at them enabled me to know FOR SURE that it was a great thing that our paths crossed those many years ago. I know for sure that I made a difference for them and I want them to know that they left a mark on my soul. I do not know exactly what life has handed them over the years, but for those two hours there we were….teacher, student, and friend going back for a bit in our own little time capsule.
As the reception progressed the time came for me to sit in my rocker that had become a symbol of my later years in the classroom. I had gone from the director’s chair that was with me at Cy-Fair High School and Tomball High School, to a rocker. My students at THS had purchased the first rocker “back in the day.” Eventually, after the death of that rocker, the students at Cy-Creek had purchased the one I now have in my office. The rocker would become my observation window to the 200+ plus people who would listen to the invited speakers. I asked Don Ryan to represent the CFHS days; Stacey Filips Tilley and Delaina Mendel Lewis to represent the Tomball High School years, and Beau Egert to represent the Cy-Creek years. As usual, Don got us off to a rollicking rendition of my earliest years of teaching including my propensity to have “rubber band wars” when things were dull in class. I am sure that sounds familiar to some of you. We laughed a bit uproariously at his memories of me as his teacher/coach/mentor of four years. Ah! The energy I had as a young teacher. Stacey and Delaina brought together my teaching/coaching experience in small town Texas of the Eighties and early Nineties. To those of you from Tomball, we can all attest to the unique adventure of Tomball back when it was small and intimate. Stacey caught me off guard and I found myself revisiting the infamous (?) “Samurai Teacher.” My students of the late 1980’s in THS will remember those antics. And, I think they, too mentioned, something about rubber bands. Beau brought to life my last years of full time teaching at Cypress Creek including my admonition to a group of sleepy disinterested seniors at the end of their semester, to “imagine me naked” in order to get their attention. Was I really that nuts? Yes! Those Creek years perhaps were my best for I had truly become a well-rounded (no pun on my physical stature) teacher with more life experience. All the students who had come before had honed me into a complete, compassionate, and centered educator.
Over the course of the week of the reception, my Facebook page was filled with the good wishes and love from across the country. These wishes came from all of my former students who are now living in other parts of the USA and the world. I know that many of you wanted to be at the reception. At the expense of sounding like a Hallmark card, “you were there.” You are part of my heart and memories as much as those who were a physical presence. And, for some of you, I will be seeing you this summer as I take my road trip. So get ready.
I am not done yet. I will finish my formal work on June 30, 2009. Soon after that I will begin a 30 day road trip with my camera in hand. I am heading east for this trip and will be posting to my FB page and my blog. In late August, I will begin teaching again at Lonestar College. I will teach one political science class and one teacher prep course for those entering an alternative certification program. I will spend time with my “10 year old friend,” Madison. I will get to spend time with friends that have been on the back burner too long due to my job’s requirements. I am going to write a little, blog a little, FB a little, and continue to think about what a great life I have had so far. See you down the road…both real and cyber!