Ordinarily, this post might include a shame-faced apology for not blogging in so long. But there has been nothing ordinary about this past year, so the usual excuses of laziness or busyness just don’t apply. For once in my life, the most cathartic thing in my life has been–not writing–but in fact, teaching. So I can’t apologize for throwing all my efforts into that, and becoming the somewhat invisible thing that this blog is trying to catch.
Yet the dawn of summer is fast approaching, so I find I need my little blog again. I write today, sitting on the front lawn of the inn that I live in, sitting on an M&M blanket with a massive stack of still needing-to-be-done grading, and Hufflepuff stuck in the sleeve of BYU Cougars hoodie that’s beside me (I’ll rescue her momentarily). I write today after 9 exhausting months of teaching, and yet I write today with one of the most restored faiths in humanity I have ever yet experienced.
On my last real day of class, I asked my students this:
“Why do you think I chose to teach English?”
“You’re good at it!”
“You like books?”
“You just wanted to hang out with us all day and needed an excuse!”
Well, yes, yes, yes, and no, I say, and then I explain the following: I chose English because there’s no morals in math, and there’s no pathos in science. (Now of course those are necessary pursuits, I explain, but) the English discipline affords us the unique opportunity to explore what it is to be human, to be real, to be alive, and to think.
Equations just don’t breathe the way words do.
And so I asked my students this:
What really matters? How do you want to be remembered?
And I had them write it down.
And I tell you that if their responses don’t make you want to rush out and sell your law practice and quit your lucrative job so that you can be a teacher and hang out with adolescents all day, then sweet goodness, nothing will.
My students have taught me every hour, every minute, every millisecond, and just when we’ve reached the finish line, by golly, they teach some more.
They said this:
“Being remembered for who you were is more profound than being remembered for amazing achievements.”
“I would want to be remembered as one person who forgave.”
“I don’t want to be that jock who puts himself before everyone else. What I want to be is just a nice guy [that gives everyone a high five in the hall].”
“I want to be remembered as someone who tried her hardest, no matter how good at something she was. Someone who maybe wasn’t super popular, but who reached out and made friends with everyone.”
“I want to be more than a ghost in the hallways! I don’t want to be a passer-byer. I want to be remembered as nice and funny and willing to try something new. Most of all I want to be a light in other people’s lives.”
“Maybe it’s a bad thing to say, but I hope my siblings/ people remember me for my mistakes. No one is perfect. I hope by remembering my mistakes, people will not follow in my footsteps, and hopefully it will make them a better person.”
“I’ve noticed that in the beginning of the year I was that ‘hardened tuff guy’ but now all I have to say is I am not that person. I am ____________________, and I am proud of being me, and I have to thank my teachers, new friends, and people who actually reached out to me.”
“I want so bad not to be hated for what I believe.”
“I hope I will be remembered as a great husband and an (sic) excelent father that did all I could to give my kids a good life.”
“In school, students are not supposed to talk of God, but why not talk of him when he is the greatest part of my life? As imperfect as my life is, he is the only perfect part about it. I wish to be remembered as someone who really knew the meaning of love.”
“I want to be remembered as the helping daughter. For when my parents didn’t have enough money through tough times. The daughter who babysat while my mom was working overtime and needed someone to watch the girls.”
“I don’t need thousands of people to remember me, but a thoughtful handful who knew who I truly am. Hopefully, I could inspire other people to enjoy life and be the best they can be. To make the most out of their time and be selfless.”
“What I would want to try and do is follow the examples of others I admire… and share that with others so that they may also dwell in the sun.”
“As a 16 year old kid, I can hardly speculate as to why being remembered is important at all. But I do see the many imperfections in this high school culture and why the kids who live with ignoring these imperfections will be the ones who are forgotten. What I want to be remembered as is the person who was willing to emotionally invest in others. This is not to be confused with just caring about others. Investing means to me that you’re willing to sacrifice to care, to invest time in people. Because the people who have invested time in me are the ones I’ll remember.”
So dear students, I leave you with this: I may not forget the time you screamed “Fut the Wuck” during class, or the time you got suspended, or the (thousand) times you came tardy, but you, for who you really are, I thank you, and promise, I will always remember.
“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.”