Me Too Or Me Too Comma Chicago Manual Of Style Teacher Love

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Teacher Love

I was a teacher for 25 years. When I started teaching at a cozy little independent school in New York’s Hudson Valley, I was a young woman in my early twenties, newly married and fresh out of graduate school. I was so young that I got pimples from the stress of my first year in the classroom. Now the stress is giving me insomnia and making my hair fall out. I don’t know which is worse. Anyway, no matter how stressful the job was, and there was a lot of it, it never mattered. My work fed my soul and there is one reason for that – my students. For all these years, I taught many children – 6th, 7th and 8th grade.

These are wonderful years in which children become the people they will definitely become. Yes, people are “themselves” even as babies, toddlers, and fluffy-haired second-graders, but in middle school, their faces, brains, and bodies begin an incredible metamorphosis that transforms them into “adults.”

I know because I follow my students as best I can. I can see the “after” (at many stages) and can remember the “before” with vivid clarity.

At the end of my first year, there was still no story in the classroom. I was a real novice. And I was surprised—actually shocked—by the sense of loss I felt. After graduation, I spent the weekend crying, constantly and non-stop. I have just begun to understand what I call “teacher love”. Like a “mother’s love”, it creeps into your heart and takes hold.

Maybe you didn’t know that we teachers love our students. I don’t mean in an abstract, benevolent way that the deity loves the nameless people who worship her or him. I mean, we are people who love each child individually. We know them very well. We see them. We feel their joy and pain, as well as all the terrible difficulties that take place in the classroom. Through chaos, busyness and hard daily work, we absorb, as if through osmosis, a piece of each child’s soul. A teacher can understand a student with greater depth and accuracy than can be predicted by simple facts.

And very realistically, they absorb us too. Therefore, I always knew how important my work was. Not only did I teach the kids to think critically, write well, and read deeply, I nurtured relationships with them. And I could really screw up the baby if I wasn’t careful. A teacher may be a person who loves (and praises and punishes and encourages and scolds) as a human being, but we have enormous power over these mini-humans, and our words, our actions, just looks you can follow them all your life. I know. They told me.

A student once equated my approving look with “the look of God.” This gave me pause.

So last week I took the commuter train into the city and met up with a few of my former students at an alumni event on the Upper East Side. Such opportunities to meet face to face with these adults after 5, 10, 15, 20 years are extremely pleasant. And there’s a charming irony to having a beer with someone who once had to be allowed to go to the bathroom.

My face starts to hurt after the first hour. I can’t keep the happy smile from my stupid face. I hear them say, “You haven’t changed at all!” and I want to laugh at the absurdity. They mean: “Here you are! I would recognize you anywhere.” I could tell them the same thing. No longer children, but confidently and positively themselves.

When they were 12, 13, 14, their faces were there, clearly visible. No matter how much time has passed, that face is still there. Slanted eyes, toothy smile. The boy’s soft jaw, carved with a strong line. Girlish clumsiness was smoothed out by female beauty. Lively childishness transformed into confident warmth.

I’m tall—almost 5’10″—but I spend a lot of time at these parties craning my neck in front of men whose heads once rested on my shoulder as the boys they once were hugged their teacher. Brendan, explosive, funny, towered over me last week. He and his classmate Eliza mentioned with me the torture I inflicted on them in the second year of study. We laughed. Although I was strict with them, sometimes expecting more than they could do, for some they remember this experience, and I with warmth. I think we had fun too. In the 8th grade, we made a film. Brendan wrote the screenplay and directed. We shot on location and had a ball, laughing a lot between takes Brendan is now an independent film producer and reflects on that experience 23 years ago in a way that both pleases and humbles me.

Some of my former students teach. This is one of the best feedback a teacher can receive. Eliza became a teacher as well as a good friend. Her children are now in school and we sometimes get together for dinner or a cold beer on a summer evening. We never run out of things to talk about, and I rarely focus on the strange reality that the kid I taught to proofread my comma splice essays is now a mother, a woman, a teacher like me, with worldview, beliefs, passions and beliefs in general.

I met Alex, a talented young woman with a soft voice, whose musical talent blew us away when she plugged in her guitar 15 years ago and pulled out loud sounds with her little knobs. Now she supports herself with music. I spoke with Byron, who sells luxury real estate in Manhattan. It seems like he was a little kid not too long ago, but that same smiling boy is now a man navigating the big city/big kid world with calm confidence.

It’s not even about pride, although I feel plenty of it. It’s just a feeling of completeness, affection and love. Some of these beloved students have found themselves. Some are still a little lost. Some are happy. Some hurt. Some share. Some avoid. Everything is in my heart.

Permel and Emily drive 80 blocks after work to get to a party downtown. They line up to meet me in the gallery, and one of them says, leaning in for a hug, “We’ve come to you.”

I am overwhelmed with emotion as I look at their beautiful, young faces and big smiles and listen to their excited flow of words. I was hoping they would be there. No, I think. – I came to you.

The people I once taught interest me, inspire me, make me think and laugh, because they are charming, intelligent people, and I am lucky to know them. When I first became a teacher, I didn’t realize that I was making a lifelong commitment to every student I ever taught. I think I’d go to the ends of the earth for a laugh, a beer and a good story to share with any of them.

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