“It was so weird. The girl I thought liked me when I taught her acted like I had cooties. And this kid I swore would have keyed my car if he knew where it was parked, treated me like I was his best friend in the world.”
Kathy, the 7th grade social studies teacher, sat at lunch, waving her fork as she talked. She was describing a school reunion she had attended over the weekend.
“The kids always called this girl, Alicia, the teacher’s pet,” Kathy continued. “She probably was. I remember her as a good student. Her work was always perfect.” Kathy wrote in the air with her fork. “She got an ‘A’ on almost everything. And so polite too.”
Kathy speared a large wad of spinach, popped it in her mouth, and continued. “I went up to her expecting a ‘Thank you Mrs. Wilson,’ but all I get is this chilly ‘How nice to see you.’ Then she turns her back on me as though I wasn’t even there.”
Kathy stopped a minute to take a large gulp from her water bottle. She snapped a cracker in two and said, “Then I see this guy, Adam, who I thought would be in prison by now.”
Most of us began laughing. We all have at least one former student we expect to see on the news some night.
“Adam spots me from clear across the room, waves his arm over his head, and bellows out, ‘Hey Mrs. Wilson. Remember me?’”
“I almost turned and ran,” Kathy said biting into the cracker, “But he was plowing through everyone coming towards me. I was getting ready to say, ‘How nice to see you,’ but Adam grabs me in a big bear hug. He says he was so glad I was there and it wouldn’t have been a reunion without me.”
Kathy looked down at her salad, stabbed another bite, and shook her head. “Go figure,” she said and popped the forkful of spinach into her mouth.
As I walked back to my class after lunch, I kept thinking about Kathy’s story. Which relationships with my students are real? Which students would give me a bear hug in twenty years?