As I drove home along I-95 a few weeks ago, a small white car was getting a little too close to the ‘Rolla for my taste. I glanced over and saw that there were three or four young punks in said car, having a good ol’ time, waving their arms around while driving like maniacs and paying far too little attention to making it home in one piece. It served as a perfect reminder that nobody 29 or younger should be allowed to drive, and that I need to save up for those revolving blades that pop out of the axles.
Happily, my exit was coming up, which meant that I’d be safe while said maniacs would most likely continue to zip on down the highway with a near-suicidal disregard for their own safety. I exited.
Unluckily–or so I thought–the white car followed me down the exit. The white car was behind me in the left lane as I pulled up to the stoplight, but it swung around and pulled up alongside me in the bicycle lane. The maniacs were gesticulating wildly, and finally, I thought, “Fine, you little brats. I’ll look.”
Lo and behold, the wildly gesticulating punk brat maniacs were my wildly gesticulating punk brat maniacs—students from my first year of teaching! The driver grinned and waved. I think I waved back, but frankly I was too pleasantly surprised to remember whether I actually did. To think that after such a long time, people would recklessly chase me down the interstate and violate numerous traffic laws, just to wave hello. It was touching.
The light turned red, and they went back the way they came. It was good to see them; it was the highlight of that particular day. If you guys are reading this, and if I did indeed forget to wave, then I hereby belatedly salute you.
That particular week was a good one for seeing old students. To wit:
It was Spring Break (should that be capitalized, like a holiday?) for several universities, and so some other former students dropped in to visit the school. Among them was one who had considered staging a protest at last year’s graduation. Thankfully, he correctly interpreted my warning that doing so would make me “extraordinarily angry,” especially after driving from Chicago to watch the ceremony. I think he’s happier now that he didn’t do anything obnoxious.
Another student who dropped in had been one of my best students as a freshman, but needed a little prodding as a junior, because (I think) good grades had come a little too easily to her in the past. Whatever the reason was back then, right now she’s doing well at an excellent university. I reminded her to send me money when she gets rich.
At the end of that week, a bunch of us teachers went to a restaurant in Riverside for lunch. As we walked up to the restaurant, I saw the waitress through the plate-glass façade, and recognized her as yet another former student. She recognized me, came outside and gave me a hug while doing her “Mishter Vishcariello” impression. That, and the pretty decent steak sandwich with pasta salad for lunch, made for another good day.
But as far as encountering old students goes, the real cake-taker came last Friday. One of my current students mentioned that he’d met one of my former students. I asked who, and Current Student told me, nearly causing me to burst out laughing. This particular Former Student and I did not part on the best of terms–the last time I saw him was when I escorted him to the dean’s office to be expelled. When I returned to my classroom that day, the students were applauding.
Former Student gave Current Student some pretty horrible advice regarding college and career paths. He also, upon learning that Current Student was a Paxon student, had some less than kind and less than true words to say about Your Humble Narrator’s college degree, sexual orientation, and classroom management—this without Current Student even mentioning my name! That’s when you know you’ve made an impression.
Anyhow, I’m told that Former Student retracted his comments, which was wise. Hopefully he’s doing well, and has grown up a little, and will continue to do so.
It is good to be remembered, and remembered somewhat kindly.