Over the course of the past seven years, I have taught many classes, and I have had many students. In general, I know my students like me as a teacher, and in general, I can think of very few students I have not liked. This ebb and flow make my job fairly easy.
This semester, though, I had a class that was like a fresh dollar bill. Every time I saw them, I was amazed, better yet, marveled, at how perfect they were. Crisp. Fresh. Easy.
I loved them.
But what was it? What about this class, the mixture of students, was so different than others I have had before? What made me so attracted to them...look forward to them...made me smile when I thought about them? I just can't say. I guess it could have been the combination of personalities...maybe cultures?
There was the typical guy that couldn't follow directions. He would ask the same questions every week...and yes, he annoyed me at times. But he had his place in this class. I could count on him asking me "Mark, how do I know when to say 'ed' at the end of a word" even though I told him the answer four consecutive weeks in a row. I will miss him. I will miss his consternation.
I had twin brothers...both (obviously) from Eastern Europe. They reminded me of my time in the Czech Republic. Honestly, their English was not that good...but they tried. They cared. They had their mother make me goulash the last day of class because I had mentioned that I liked it one day. That almost made me cry.
I had Mr. Over Eager...who in a typical class would annoy the Hell out of me. I usually can't stand the people that try to kiss my ass and are disingenuous about their desire to learn. This guy meant it. He DID want to learn...and he improved more in four months than I have ever seen anyone improve in the same period in all my years of teaching. I am proud of him. I envy his passion.
There were these two guys...A and A. Both from Africa. Both somehow my kindred spirits. Every week when I saw them, I smiled. When I saw them outside of class, I didn't stretch for things to say to them. Even though they are lower-level English speakers...we actually talked. Like men. I understood them and consider them my friends.
There was the "I can't do it" girl. This is a typical personality in a language class...but she somehow had her place. She fit. Everyone else encouraged her. They wouldn't let her speak Spanish when I was on the other side of the room, and they pushed her to be who she could be. Her speech on the last day of class was honestly one of the best even though she was one of the lower students. She is the master of Spanglish...and she said "Como se dice" every time we talked.
I had the motherly figures, and the floaters...and the people that were just kind of there. Sitting. I wasn't sure what they were learning...but I knew they were. They just got me, and I know they weren't completely lost. Like a puzzle, they fit in with the rest.
I am not the world's best teacher. There are so many things I don't know...and probably couldn't explain if I did know them. I do not know what attraction is. But I know when I feel it...and I know when it's real. I feel like I lost a part of me today because this class that I came to love and feel like a father to...it ended. It ended so soon. Too soon. I fear I will never have a class like them. Ever again.
Here is to them. They taught me more than I could ever hope to offer. And I hope one day...when they think back about me and our experience together...they'll remember what we had was more than attraction. We had a connection. And I will miss them dearly.