I love all my students. Sometimes students ‘stick’ with me for a while, returning to visit and be a guest reader. Sometimes students stick around for a long time, visiting the classroom, and then including me in their events. Sometimes it is even deeper. That’s when students become friends.
Wesley was my preschooler. He had a difficult time saying goodbye to his mom and dad in the morning. His motto was “one o’clock”, knowing that was the time mom and dad would pick him up at school. He held up his pointer finger to reinforce one o’clock, and to give himself reassurance. I responded in kind, holding up my finger and saying, “Yes, one o’clock.”
Once the school year was underway, Wesley was an eager beaver. Young children are far more resilient than adults. They adjust and bounce back more quickly than we do. Wesley loved books and hands-on activities. Using hand tools was a favorite.
He loved singing, especially patriotic songs. He belted out “God Bless America” whenever I played it on the autoharp. The Big Book Atlas was always interesting to Wesley. When we learned about other countries and history, he was ‘there’. His preschool years were fun and formative. Wesley blossomed!
Years passed, yet Wesley visited the classroom. Often. He enjoyed returning to his roots. I always made a big fuss, and that made him smile, big time.
I was invited to one of his high school football games. Friday night lights. That was fun!
Wesley became a scholar student, and a Civil War buff. History and the military were important to him. He participated in reenactments, and studied history. In high school he knew more about history – ancient and recent – than I did. He was the teacher and I was the student.
I was honored to be invited to his Eagle Scout award ceremony. To achieve the rank of Eagle Scout is a long and hard journey, and few scouts make it. Did you know there is only one group where every member is an Eagle Scout? One. It’s the astronauts who first landed on the moon. Yes, every astronaut was an Eagle Scout.
Here’s the story that connects Wesley the preschooler to becoming an Eagle Scout:
It happened like this…
When Wesley was in my preschool class, his favorite toy was a large castle. He was obsessed with that castle. He begged his mom and dad to buy him one. He cried when they said, “No.” So, I often had the castle available for Wesley to play with. He never tired of this toy. Never.
Fast forward ten years. Every so often teachers do a major clean-out of our school’s attic. Yes, there was the castle stored away in a far corner. It was designated for the trash, as it was “well loved.”
“Wait! You can’t throw out that castle!”
“It’s broken in spots and has some sharp edges. It’s gotta go.”
“I’ll take it.”
And I did. It went to my basement. My grandchildren loved playing with it when they visited. In the back of my mind I was saving the castle for Wesley. It would make a perfect graduation present.
Four years passed, and I got the invitation to his graduation. The event was outdoors at the new football field, so bringing along this gigantic castle was not an option. As I pondered the best way to deliver the gift, I received an invitation to his Eagle Scout ceremony, at the local church. There would be a reception afterwards, downstairs in the church reception hall.
I could make this work!
My husband and I arrived early, and I slipped downstairs to put the castle in the kitchen. It was wrapped in a huge black trash bag, covered with bows and ribbons. Done!
When the ceremony was over we all headed downstairs for the reception. After many hugs and best wishes and congratulations, I said, “Wesley, I have something for you. Can you get your mom and dad?” He looked confused as I dragged out this large trash bag. It stirred much curiosity to those close by, so there was a group looking on as Wesley opened the bag.
“The castle! It’s the castle!!
I remember this. I loved this castle. How did you get it?”
And I told him the story of rescuing it from the attic years ago, and saving it for him. His mom cried. His dad thought surely this wasn’t THE one. Wesley couldn’t stop touching. He was beside himself. Of course we all had to relive the story of the castle when he was a preschooler.
It was wonderful.
When Wesley started in college, Hubby and I began a tradition of taking him out to dinner every summer. He talked… oh, how he talked. There was so much he had to think about, so many changes, so many new experiences. I was the listener and the supporter. The tables had turned, and once again I was much like his old preschool teacher.
Being a teacher means being a good listener.
Your students need someone to care and listen.
Yes, it’s that simple. Yes, it makes all the difference.
Wesley changed colleges, and for good reasons. I listened and supported him. Every summer had great experiences. This past summer he was a student at Oxford University, New College. What a wonderful experience! Wesley was excited to talk about his professors, what he had learned, and of course his experiences. It was a long (very long) and wonderful talk. There was so much to tell. I listened!
I look forward to our dinner every summer.