You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot–it’s all there. Maya Angelou
Teachers. We emphasize the showing not the telling.
But I told you what to do a lot this year and couldn’t say, on any given day, how I felt about you
because one class comes in like bulls, with the conflicts of the minute, with the sweat and smell of gym class, with the lunch-time conversation, with the French-test worry, with the needs: I have to leave five minutes early, I didn’t understand the homework, my mom wants you to call her . . .
and I have to teach.
That class out and another class in and that class out and another class in.
In September I get your names and those outer layers of who you are or who you want me to think you’ll be; in November I get your grade reports; in February I get a cold but by then I figure out another layer or two: how you tick, where you sit, what’s your thing. We can joke; I can chill; but I’ve still got to read your thesis papers. By spring we’ve got it down, we like our days off, we grow, we share, we impress, we disappoint, we are present, we are not, we don’t and we do.
Looking back I think there were just too many of you. Not too many to control, not too many to teach, not too many to organize in a grade-book—but too many of you to thank. For your soft-spoken, killer insights; for your funny interruptions (the ones that drove me crazy); for your big eyes, your awkward age, your interests in anything but writing, for the way you unabashedly love your mom even though you’re shy about everything else; for being color-blind, for being kind, for annotating, for asking how my weekend was, for adoring your globe, your puppy, your skateboard, for saying “hello” every time you walk in, for saying “thank you” every time you walk out.
I gave you a talking-to; I gave you a grade you didn’t like (well, you earned it); I gave you a smile, a comment in the hall, an apple slice at lunch, a detention, a book recommendation, a glare, an insight, a passage to consider.
And right now, here, I give you a cliché: that you gave me more.
I missed the proper “good bye” but I hope I showed you, in the time we had together, all of the good I saw in you. Like the layers I also shed, you leave me behind as you move ahead.
But you, the memories of you, I collect like summer shells.