The Delayed Rewards of Teaching

My first class. I’m the guy at the top center who looks like he is about eighteen years old.

This week I got one of those reminders about what a blessing it was to be a teacher.  I got the opportunity to visit with a former student, now forty years old, who I had the privilege of teaching more than twenty-five years ago.

It is not uncommon for these reunions to still happen as I still live in the same city in which I taught.  As any teacher can tell you, catching up with an old student never gets old.  It is one of the delayed rewards of teaching to discover what our former students are up to now.

I was not surprised to learn that he was doing well in his chosen career; he was a smart, personable kid.  Not only was it a kick to hear what was happening with him, but he also reminded me of things about being in the class that I had long since forgotten.  We shared a few laughs and made plans to get together the next time he is in town.

One of the things that made an impression on me was how quickly he rattled off his teachers from kindergarten through sixth grade.  It reminds me of the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  While I remember some of my elementary teachers, some years are blank for me.  I don’t know if that says more about those teachers or a guy with a failing memory.

One of the secrets about teaching is that the teacher/student relationship is mutually beneficial.  While teachers are hopefully teaching their students academic, moral, and life lessons, our students are also making a significant impression on us.  I was inspired each year by students from my class. 

The world is an imperfect place, but I have faith in this generation and the next one because I have seen them in action.  They are smart, kind, compassionate, and hopeful.  Sure, they make mistakes, but so did we.  Part of education is learning from those missteps.

For those teachers who are about to embark on another school year, let me remind you that for all of the challenges and hard days you will no doubt experience, there are also going to be moments of celebration and joy.  Some child is going to succeed because of you.  One of your students is going to believe in himself or herself because of you.  You are going to tip the scale and make a difference between the child who stays in school or drops out.  What an enormous responsibility and privilege!   

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42 thoughts on “The Delayed Rewards of Teaching

  1. How lovely, Pete but like you, my memories and names from my early years at school are long forgotten or maybe they didn’t leave enough of an impression …I have no bad memories though so it may be age-related…mmmmm..:)

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    1. petespringerauthor August 15, 2019 — 9:49 pm

      Most of the good memories stay with us for a lifetime. I can still rattle off all of the names of these students. Thanks for checking in, Carol.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice! Thanks for sharing! That experience was Mr. Lenz for me when I first brought my daughter to his kindergarten class several years back! He taught technology and was involved with the PERK program while I was at South Bay! I remember I had so many reading PERK points, he ran out of prizes and stating giving me money! Which I then bought my mom a new jacket! Love these memories!

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    1. petespringerauthor August 15, 2019 — 10:51 pm

      That’s a great story, Thavisak! You were a legend around Pine Hill and South Bay. Look at you now—being a great dad, husband, son (still doing nice things for his mom), realtor, business owner, school volunteer, and community member.

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  3. What a beautiful post, Pete. I agree with you about the joys of catching up with past students. It is wonderful to see what they do with their lives and to know that they are happy and successful.
    Your final paragraph with reminders for teachers starting a new school year is wonderful. I have always felt it to be a privilege to share the learning journey with young children. As you say, the benefits go both ways. 🙂

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    1. petespringerauthor August 16, 2019 — 7:42 am

      When you give something, you almost always get something back. This is true in a lot of areas of life, but particularly in education. I hold those relationships with my students and my colleagues in the highest regard. As an educator yourself, I know you understand that, Norah.

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  4. Hello Pete, I enjoyed reading your post about the joys of teaching. My husband taught in high school for nearly 40 years and to this day ex-students want to chat over old days with him. In my case I taught in a correctional centre, (prison/gaol/jail), so I rarely run into my ex-students in the street, although on the rare occasions, they are more than happy to speak to me! A lovely way to end your post too, with encouragement and positivity! Teaching is a very rewarding career. Thanks for sharing and I’ll be back for more 🙂 I found your though Stevie’s Click and Run link today. Debbie from Deb’s World

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    1. petespringerauthor August 16, 2019 — 7:50 am

      That’s beautiful, Debbie. You both made positive connections in your own way. I never taught high school, but what an impressionable age. I used to teach young children who I knew were going to grow to be much smarter than me and had the ability to do something important. When they utilize their gift, it is the best feeling.

      I very much appreciate your contributions in working with those who ended up in a correctional facility. People who make mistakes can change, especially when they see someone who cares about them.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks so much Pete, that’s a lovely comment to read. Much appreciated!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Lovely post, Pete. Forty three years later I still remember all my teachers that made an impression on me.

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    1. petespringerauthor August 16, 2019 — 7:52 am

      I have been able to reach out to a few of my teachers in the past, but we moved so many times growing up it would be hard to find some.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I am currently tutoring middle school students once a week and love the challenge. I too also run into former students (from my former life as a med school faculty member) and it’s always a joy to hear about their lives – three of them are my physicians, now!

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    1. petespringerauthor August 16, 2019 — 7:58 am

      I can hear the pride in your words, Noelle. Middle school can be a tough age to work with, but I also feel that it is an age where a good teacher can make the biggest impression. One of the fun things for me has been having former students reenter my life as my mechanic, nurse, and hair stylist (miracle worker).

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  7. What a long happy career. I miss my classroom days but do love teaching online. I have virtual meetings, not quite the same as in person but better than silence!

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    1. petespringerauthor August 16, 2019 — 8:01 am

      That’s great, Jacqui—we still can connect with people online. I think this is one of the things I enjoy most about blogging.

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  8. One of the losses of moving across the country was losing the opportunities I used to have to bump into former students. I love that you are able to do that.

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    1. petespringerauthor August 16, 2019 — 3:20 pm

      I can see how that could happen. It is such a different era than when we grew up, Elizabeth. Don’t you remember how when one of your friends moved away, it was quite likely you wouldn’t hear from that person again? Since nearly every kid has a phone these days, it is much easier for them to keep in touch. Some years I would have my students write an old fashioned letter to a family member or friend; many did not know how to write one or even address an envelope.

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      1. My class was so stable that only one or two kids even moved. I did write to one who moved.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Excellent post Pete! I will share it with my new teachers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor August 16, 2019 — 8:04 pm

      Thanks, Paul. You must be gearing up for a new school year. This was about the time those old butterflies got churning in expectation of a new group of children.

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  10. Isn’t it wonderful to be connected with your former student(s)? Thank you for sharing this post, Peter. I also wish all the teachers a wonderful school year ahead. 🙂

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    1. petespringerauthor August 16, 2019 — 8:10 pm

      Do you miss it, Miriam? What I find is I miss the excitement of being around kids and my colleagues, but I do not miss the long grind of the school year. It gets to be a test of one’s endurance. The most significant change for me is my health—I’ve only been sick once in three years.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know what you mean, Peter. I taught 14 years and was in district administration for 10. Then I had cancer, but I needed one more year to make 25 years for the maximum retirement benefit, I went back to teach one more year before retirement. I was sick (really sick) three times that year.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. petespringerauthor August 16, 2019 — 9:22 pm

        That sounds horrible! No one should have to put their health on the line to maximize retirement. I toyed with becoming an administrator, but two things stopped me: 1. I still loved teaching and spending my day with children. 2. I don’t think I have thick enough skin to be an administrator.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. You’re right about number 2. Being an administrator is a sandwich, always get caught in the middle.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. A really great post. When I did my degree I wanted to be a teacher. My school teacher sister talked me out of it. My maths is awful, (though I did get my GCSE grade c eventually on 3rd attempt at college evening class). With very little confidence I gave up on my dream. I have old school teachers now on my Facebook. We rarely talk but I’m sure they are possibly watching over Facebook and maybe feeling pride of how well alot of us have done. Hope that makes sense.

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    1. petespringerauthor August 17, 2019 — 8:51 am

      It makes complete sense. Negotiating the teacher/student relationship does get a little weird on Facebook. Most reach out to me first, which solves the problem, but sometimes I’ll make a friend request because I’m especially curious about a former student. From the student’s perspective, I can imagine they’re thinking—why is my fourth-grade teacher writing to me? Ha-ha! Yes, even though you may not be talking much with your prior teachers, I can assure you that they are watching.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My old maths teach teacher is a bit mad with his posts on Facebook – he hasn’t changed a bit. It also makes you realise just how young they were when you were at school. As a child they seemed a lot older.. but actually he was possibly only ten years older then me, if that..

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Some teachers just leave an indelible imprint on children Pete, and sounds like you are one of those. I can remember all my grade school teachers and many of my junior and high school ones too. Why? Because they all left impressions on me, especially my grade school teachers who seemed to know the students who needed some extra love in the compassion department. 🙂

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    1. petespringerauthor August 19, 2019 — 4:53 pm

      Your memory is better than mine, Debby. My fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Sjostrom, was one of those teachers I’ll never forget. So positive and fun!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lol Pete, make that my long ago memory. If you ask me what I ate for dinner last night, it’s a bust, lol. And I should think you remembering your teacher with the spelling of her name alone, Mrs. Sjostrom, she must have left an impression. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Isn’t this fun? Remembering your first class, and STILL remembering students from many years past. One of my good friends is just retired from teaching in middle school. She began when she was 22. She taught over 40 years and she has taught the children of ‘her’ children. Although she never had biological children, she felt like she was a nurturing mother-educator to many, and has attended too-many-to count weddings of former students. Teachers make SUCH a difference.

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    1. petespringerauthor August 26, 2019 — 8:07 am

      So many great memories, Pamela, and I feel such pride when I see what many of my former students have become. Considering I probably taught more than 1,000 kids during my career, I run into them in the oddest places. Sometimes we recognize one another instantly while on other occasions it’s that look of “I think that’s my old teacher,” that gives them away.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 🙂 Sweet, either way.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Wow, after reading this post I just had a huge lightbulb moment, Pete. I thought back to an elementary school teacher who had a big impact on me as he encouraged my creativity. Now I see that I might have helped inspire him too in some way as you say that your students positively impacted you too as a teacher. Wow. Thank you for helping me see that other viewpoint!

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    1. petespringerauthor August 29, 2019 — 1:33 pm

      It is the best feeling seeing what becomes of one’s students. I estimate that I taught more than over 1,000 kids in my career between my own classes and trading classes with other teachers. One just reached out to me a couple of days ago who I haven’t seen in over twenty-five years. We’re going to get together for a beer when he’s in town this weekend.

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  15. A really lovely post, Pete. I live in the same city where I attended high school but I rarely come across anyone who taught me. I do live in a different area. I can remember the names of most of my teachers too and I attended 14 different schools during my schooling career.

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    1. petespringerauthor September 1, 2019 — 8:33 am

      Wow! That’s a lot of schools, Robbie. Some children adjust more comfortably than others when starting in a new school. One of the beautiful aspects of children at the elementary level is they are ALWAYS accepting of new students. One of the most common questions was, “Can I be his/her playground pal?”

      I just had another reunion of sorts with another former student who I hadn’t seen in over twenty-five years this weekend. He was in town for his mom’s 70th birthday, and he invited me over to have a beer. Pretty cool!

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  16. Hear hear, Pete! Yes, it is a huge responsibility and a privilege. Like you, I feel blessed. Tomorrow the children come to school, and we will learn from each other. Former students will drop by, and I will make a huge fuss. I’m so glad to hear that your students keep in touch. Wonderful post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor September 2, 2019 — 8:22 am

      Thank you for the comment, Jennie, but mostly for being the kind of teacher that inspires students and other teachers. You bring honor to the profession. I look forward to reading more of your stories.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s so nice, Pete. I am humbled. Thank you! You’re a beacon of light for teachers.

        Liked by 1 person

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