Monday, September 24, 2012

I Remember You

One of the consequences--some might say benefits--of living in one area for a long time is that, having encountered someone once, there is every possibility you may encounter him or her again.

As someone who has taught in two separate colleges over my career life, I do from time to time encounter former students.  My first teaching position was when I was fresh out of graduate school.  For a time after I left that teaching position, I would hear from students, usually someone seeking a recommendation to graduate school.  I was always touched when the former student would begin with "You may not remember me, but..."  Usually I did remember--teachers remember those students who excel, and those who distinguish themselves in some other lesser way.

My more recent teaching position, about which I have written on and off here, ended about two years ago.  And, now I am beginning to encounter these students in varying ways.

The first such encounter happened when my husband and I went out to eat--and our server said--You're Mrs. W., aren't you?  Of course I replied affirmatively.  I thought so, he said, as soon as I heard that voice.  My voice?!  Apparently, I must have sounded off from time to time with an air of authority.  Ahem.

Since then I have encountered several former students--all of them as servers in various restaurants.  Well, the economy sometimes leaves no other options for job seekers.  That first student I described is working as a teacher's aid providing individual support to a student with special needs.  But he also has a young family, so he supplements his income with his weekend serving job.

The other encounters have been mixed.  There was one young woman who we encountered who gushed on--oh, yes she gushed--telling first me and then one of our friends who was along with us how wonderful I was as a teacher.   Blush blush.

Then there was another server who said--you look familiar.  And after a bit, we figured out she had been in one of my classes.  She told me her name--which rang no bells at all.  Then she told me the nickname she went by when she was in my class.  Oh, yes--I remembered.  I went home and checked my grade files (yes, I still have them) and found she has gotten a D in the class--not turning in all your required papers will do that.

Well, I recently had one more encounter with a former student.  My husband and I were invited to a party given in honor of a cousin once removed who had recently become a father.  And along with him would be his partner, who was the baby's mother.  When I learned her name, I kept turning it over in my mind.  And bells were sounding alarms.  Her name was a distinctive one.  So back to my student grade files I went, and there it was.  She had been one of my students.

When we got to the party, I saw her--yes, I had remembered her.  After a bit, she looked at me, and did a bit of a double-take.  No doubt, she was thinking--oh no, not her.  You see--she failed English Composition--because halfway through the course, she stopped turning in papers.  There is no way you can pass when you don't do the work.

Now here she was, the mother of a baby who is a distant relative.  And there I was--no doubt NOT her favorite teacher.  I bet she didn't gush about me to anyone.  But she recognized me.  And I decided not to say anything--no point in embarrassing her. 

But I thought to myself--oh yes, I remember you.


Unknown said...

Interesting. I've never run into a college professor of mine. But I run into former students of mine all the time. Some of them are so excited and will seek me out. Others want to pretend that I'm not there. I allow them whatever their reaction is and try not to take it personally.

As for your new relative, I think I'd find myself wondering what happened to cause her to stop doing the work. Of course, it could be a simple as laziness or being overwhelmed but it could be more than that as well. Maybe it's the writer in me, I'd be dying to know what the story was. :)

Anvilcloud said...

There is a fiddler in this area that I taught in my first year on the other side of the province. We didn't get along particularly well, so I introduced myself saying, "I was probably your least favourite teacher. He assured me that wasn't so. He probably clashed with most of his teachers. No hard feelings over what is past, however.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

It is surprising how being a public person in a small community, and some rather large communities, can find you encountering people who recognize you. When I was a cleric in New Haven Connecticut I soon learned it could be a rather small place. One evening I was out with a friend and the President of the Jewish congregation which shared our building came over to say hello. He then turned to the woman I was with and said "Hello, Mrs. Robinson." Unfortunately she was not Mrs Robinson, She was Mrs Smith. Apparently. all tall slender women look alike. Few people know that my wife had recently left to find herself, so it was a rather awkward moment. I felt I had been found out.

I have lived in this area for over 30 years. I am not well know in the closest larger community where my son now lives and teachers in the high school. To travel on the streets of Sturgeon Falls I catch myself turning my head when people say "Hello Mr Robinson". It is not me they are speaking to but my son.
He not only is a public figure as a teacher but is wife is a member of two of the largest extend families in the area so quite often the person talking to him is also a distant relative. One needs to be very careful with what you say about people. You could be speaking to their cousin. It is even worse in River Valley where most of the dozen founding families are now related. It seem everyone is related to everyone else except for the few "isolate" anglos like myself. When I first went into the ministry the best advice I got, and did not always follow, was that a minister should never date anyone who lives within 30 miles of the church and certainly not a parishioner. But I often think about all those minister who married the organist of their first small church.

Climenheise said...

I gave trouble with names. I remember having a student run up to me in public, give me a big hug, and introduce me to her friends. All the while I was thinking, "Former student. I remember the class. I remember you. But what is your name?" Happens far too often -- I have to push the old names out of my mind to make room for the new names!

Ginnie said...

I was never a teacher but I was very visible in our local hospital ER and, altho I retired after 23 yrs. in 2001 I still have people who remember.
Even though you had some poor students at least they can remember a really good teacher many of the people who remember me do so because of sickness or a tragedy bringing them to the ER.

Paddy said...


This is "Paddy":) Finding your blog through Geoff has been fantastic! I've been randomly picking posts and reading them and soon find that 20 minutes have slipped by! I hope I get to meet you in person when you come down here sometime.