After graduation, our 18-year-old (former) students scatter to the four winds. We teach them, we set them loose, and we hope they do well. Yet just because they are no longer in our classrooms doesn’t mean we don’t wonder about them—what they’re up to, how they’re doing. Sometimes we get the answer to these questions via social media or some other digital means. And that’s great, but not the same as seeing them in person.
Fortunately, sometimes they do come back to visit. They get a job in the area and come by after work. They are home from college for a break. They come to see friends, to see teachers, to help out. It means the world to me when they come back. Here’s why.
I miss them.
I work closely with my kids, generally for several years. And then, they are gone. And I miss them. Every year I rework my program, my department, and my life to fill holes that kids leave when they graduate. I have to find someone to do the jobs they did, for me and for the program. Who is going to be the lead technician? Who is going to be the one who welcomes in the new kids? Who is going to be the student voice when I am making decisions? Who is going to be the one who makes us laugh?
Students leave holes, and sometimes we don’t have anyone to fill them, especially the kids who have served as emotional caretakers. So when former students come in to say hi and see how things are going, I get them back for a bit!
I get to see who they are becoming.
One of the things I love most about teaching high school is watching my students grow and become adults. Once they graduate, though, I stop getting to see that process. When kids come back, I get to hear about their lives and see how much they’ve changed.
My former students are the best role models for my current ones.
In my program, we tell stories about former students: the time B ripped his pants on stage during a show and handled it beautifully; the time C started the year in tears because of stage fright and ended the year with two shows under her belt; the way J ran everything and knew where everything was. These kids are the heroes of the department, and when the new kids get to meet them, it continues the tradition of learning from people who have been their shoes.
They remind me why I teach.
As someone who gets super focused and uptight, having someone come in who is there just to be happy and enjoy themselves reminds me of the fun parts of my job and to have fun with my students.
These are my kids. They will always be my kids.
We’d love to hear—what’s your favorite part of former student visits? Come and share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.
Plus, the truth about a teacher’s impact.