After the Fireworks

It was dark now. Only a couple of lights left on still at the Fish Fry. The fireworks were done. Everyone was leaving. My own kids were playing on a tractor that had been parked out in the open.

My wife looks to me, "Do you know the girl that is walking this way?" I look one way. No one there. I look another. No one there. I turn all the way around and hear, "Mr. Miller?"

"Yes," I say.
"Do you remember me?"
"Of course. Hi, Natalie! How are you?"
(She looked amazed that I remembered something from almost three years ago and then broke out into a familiar smile that I remembered.)
"Good," she says. "Nervous about going into high school, but I think every freshman is," she continues.
I tell her, "Well, I remember your work ethic in 6th grade, and I think you'll be okay."
I ask, "What are you doing here?" (I wouldn't have expected to see any students from my old district at this event.)
"I just came with my family," she says as she points across the way.
I look over, and wave to them all. They are all smiling.
She replied in a very sincere almost thankful-like, "I miss you."
I replied that I missed her as well and thanked her for coming up to see me because it had truly made my summer so far.
Just like that, we said our goodbyes, and she went on her way smiling.

This interaction, although small and lasted a couple of minutes, will hang with me awhile. Perhaps years.

She didn't come up to ask me if I remember the reading projects she did in 6th grade, although I do. She didn't come up to tell me that she got an A on a math assignment in 7th grade (she probably did). She didn't come up to tell me she just got a new iPad (no idea if she did or not.)

Our subject area (math, reading, etc...) shouldn't be the first thing that students remember about us or our classes.  Our class projects should not be what's most important. Our daily objectives shouldn't even be remembered by our students.

Developing relationships is what's most important.

Students don't come up to you later on in life and thank you for making them write a five paragraph essay.

I'm so happy that Natalie came up and talked to me. It has been the highlight so far this summer.

(This is not written to sound arrogant or anything like that. It's just an observation that most teachers understand and it needs to be communicated more, I think. I also am going to tell you that there are a lot of students who I fail to make good relationships with while they are with me. I'm still learning, as well.)

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