Carl Bosch can wish extravagant success for his former students, but all he can hope for is basic goodness.
Last week, standing in Grand Central Station in New York City, I wandered up and down the Holiday Fair, a series of shops with fantastic selections of scarves and curios, hats and t-shirts. At one jewelry shop, I stood transfixed. There, in several three by four feet posters, high above the ground, was one of my former students from 15 years ago. A wonderful young girl, mature beyond her years, articulate and energetic, now in her late 20’s, modeling Scandinavian inspired necklaces. I wonder how her journey took her to this place.
I am aware of some of my students and the futures that have played out for them. Some come to visit; a few have even become friends. There are interesting careers and lives. They fill every space in the vast alphabet array of life work. A lawyer, an orthopedic surgeon, an aspiring Broadway star, authors and television people, behind-the-scenes producers and technical wizards. Policemen and policewomen, professional fundraisers, a K-9 military trainer for the U.S. Army, several chef graduates from the Culinary Institute of America. A merchant marine, scientists, truck drivers, graphic designers. Enough teachers to fill a college lecture hall, with several former students working in this same school district, two in my own school. The list is, no doubt, endless.
Being a lover of lists and numbers (just check out my countdown) I wonder about how many students have passed through my care. The first 11 years of my teaching career I was an English teacher, averaging 125 students each year. That makes 1,375. The next 27 years I’ve spent on a three-year rotation, picking up a class of about 250 and following them through middle school. That would be nine rotations at 250 each for a total of 2,250. Grand total 3,625 students. A teacher, during a full career, would have a higher number. There must be an incredible array of jobs and personalities, lives and triumphs, difficulties and surrenders among those students.
I wonder where they are. Who has the strangest occupation? Who has never worked? How many children? How many divorces? What skills did they garner in middle school, both academic and emotional, which they needed and used throughout their lives? My oldest students, the very first class of eighth-graders who sat diagramming sentences and reading The Hobbit, Hamlet, To Build a Fire, and Call of the Wild should now be 51. Can that really be possible? Time is not a thief, nor does it fly, but it never stops. There’s no resting, taking a break, relaxing. Time doesn’t vacation, kick back, hold its breath, slow down, or linger. Incessantly it keeps its pace as the days and years mount. A 13-year-old student becomes 51. It happens incrementally, but surely, like the change of seasons.
And so my students find themselves on large posters in Grand Central Terminal. Perhaps one will be President or win a Nobel Prize, argue a case before the Supreme Court or sail around the world single-handedly. That would all be great. Or perhaps they have been and will be a good husband or wife, father or mother, friend and neighbor. That would be more than enough.
10,053 days down, 122 left
—Photo USACE Europe District/Flickr