what really matters?

I know teachers are not supposed to have favorites. Still, I have three. I wrote about one back in November and had plans to write about the others. Funny how time gets away, eh?

Anyway, one of these students is graduating in a few short days. I’ve not seen him much since he walked out my door on the last day of seventh grade five years ago. But I’ve kept tabs on him, thankful for the “teacher connections” I have.

I liked Kyler, even though he wasn’t the traditional favorite student. He was smart, clever, and had a wild streak. He was kind and ornery. He held a job outside of school. And he walked on the line. He could easily go down a not-so-wise path. His friends were questionable and his attitude could get him in trouble. But I liked the kid.

As we were talking last week he said, do you remember the duck? Ahhh, how could I forget? From time to time, Kyler would bring a rubber duckie to class and squeak it. I would threaten to take it. But he could toe the line well enough that he usually kept said duckie. Until the last week of school, that is. I confiscated the duckie and kept it. Kyler retrieved the duck via a scavenger hunt that was filled with Ransom Notes and photos of the duck in trouble.

He told me he was selected as one of ten students labeled most improved. His freshman year he all but flunked out. His friends dropped out. But, he decided to walk a different path. Today he has been accepted to college and will soon be a successful graduate.

As I’ve been thinking about our conversation, I realized what Kyler remembered about me wasn’t my lessons on writing memoir or my advice on how to improve himself as a reader. He remembered the duckie scavenger hunt. He remembered I cared about him. Oh, he remembered that I helped him become a better writer and reader, but that isn’t what helped him become a success. Caring about him did.

This is what matters. That we take our roles seriously as educators and teach to the best of our ability. But that we also care. And we show it. We show that we love not just the subject we are teaching, but the people we are teaching. The subject doesn’t matter. Not really. The people do.