Take a second to imagine your younger self. The kid you were in elementary school. Do you remember how you looked? How you dressed? The things that excited you as a kid. Imagine your favorite elementary school class. Was that third grade? Fifth? And now think of your favorite elementary school teachers. The ones that “got” you. The ones who looked inside the younger you and saw something special. They saw the potential in you and they nurtured it. Their teaching inspired you and got you excited about learning. These were the teachers that “made a difference” – for you and for many other students that came before and after you.
Now consider the person you are today. You’re all grown up. Decades apart from that younger version of yourself. A million different experiences span the gap of time between the two versions of you. If the you of today had the chance to go back to elementary school and see the teachers who made a difference, what would you say? What would you want them to know?
A few years ago, through the wonders of Facebook, I re-connected with two of my elementary school teachers who made a difference. We liked each other’s photos and postings on Facebook. They saw images of my family, my children. We shared news and vacations. While it was “nice”, it didn’t feel like enough.
This past summer, I got it into my head that I should take the teachers to lunch and have a real conversation with them. My lovely wife encouraged me to see it through. I mentioned my scheme to a few friends from “back then” and they loved the idea. We set a date and booked a table at a local restaurant.
By the time the day arrived, my friends and I were very excited. It had been nearly 40 years since we sat in these teachers’ classrooms. Think about that one for a second. 40 years. How could that possibly be?
Everyone arrived and greeted each other with big hugs. A few more “smile lines” than we used to have, maybe a little less hair, but everyone was the same as we remembered. Both teachers arrived that day with the class photos from when we were their students. One even had a note and a poem I had written many years ago. Once we got started talking, we really didn’t and couldn’t stop. Our lunch, which started at 1pm continued long into the afternoon. I think we finally disbanded around 6pm. We had a lot of years to catch up on. Lots of stories about our respective journeys from age 11 or 12 to today. Lots of catching up on other teachers and students who had fallen out of touch. It was such a special and extraordinary experience. My friends and I were so thrilled we did it. Both teachers followed up with notes thanking me for pulling it together. We plan to make it an annual thing. And as other friends have heard about it, many of them expressed interest in joining next time.
The experience made me wonder about the fact that we have high school reunions with our classmates, but as a general practice, we really don’t have organized reunions with our teachers. We should. Especially with those that made a difference in our lives.