When you receive your teaching license and a principal gives you a classroom, they tell you that students will consider you a role model and that you will serve as a mentor to young people. What they don't tell you is that some of the students will think of you as more than that: friend, brother, father, hero. That last one is a stunner.
This year it really has hit me just how intently my students watch and observe me. They want to know everything about me, and I don't really want to let them all see too much. But sooner or later you get students that, basically, you love. There are certain ones that you care so deeply for that when they hurt, so do you. When they laugh, you can't help but smile. When they triumph, you rejoice. I care about all my students. I want them all to succeed. But every now and again, I have one or two that I want to see make it to the moon, to the sun, to farthest, brightest star. They come in small waves, students whose future it's as if I can see it laid out before me, little signposts ahead where they can stop and be great. Somewhat selfishly, I hope they'll look back from that future greatness and maybe nod or wave in thanks.
What kind of student inspires that esteem from a teacher? It's sometimes the child who speaks French like a prince of Versailles and could be a great artist. Another one wants to be a Navy pilot but decides to go to Tech. Other times it's the girl who decides the teacher's alma mater will be hers, too. Once it was the boy who took his own life, and you couldn't foresee or stop the tragedy. Or it can be the boy who wears cool pants, plays guitar and gets arrested.
In some ways, they become like my own children though I do not try to supplant their parents. Because I am the teacher, I cannot be a friend. They trust me, so I do not betray them...ever! Instead, I awake at 2:15 worried whether my recommendation letter was good enough, whether that unbearable sadness is over now, whether that one is safe at home.
So to all teachers, tread lightly. Know that you are someone's hero. Love your students like you would your own children. Be careful. Be honest. Don't try to be cool. Be kind. Keep high expectations. Reserve disappointment and show it with care. Direct criticism toward improvement.
For N..., thanks for the hard work, the trust, the music, the stick figures, the finished homework, the laughter, the respect.