Sometimes our journeys get tangled up in someone else’s path, and, for a brief moment, we walk alongside a complete stranger only to find that, with every step, an unlikely friendship forms before our roads diverge again.
Almost every year, the university near our suburb asks us to take on a few of their new credentialing candidates, and some of us throw caution to the wind and agree. These doe-eyed, soft-spoken, smiley faces step onto our archaic campus, backpacks in tow like students themselves, and take on the hardest job they’ll ever do for free…err, I mean credit. The university seeks our site out deliberately (insert evil cackle) in hopes that if one of their own can survive working at my school, then that new, burgeoning teacher can survive anything. It’s sad, but true.
I knew going into this new school year that the students I would have were, as a whole, a very pleasant group, unlike some groups that have sent some of our teachers on year-long hiatuses to recover. So, I offered to mentor a student teacher with the understanding that the victim…err, I mean candidate, would likely survive without getting eaten alive by my upcoming clientele.
Now, don’t get me wrong–I’ve been at this site since January 2000. It’s obviously my comfort zone, and I can honestly say that this is the best group of lovelies I’ve had in years. I’m not trying to paint this horrific work environment in our dilapidated school, or persuade you to assume that any of our students are the future dregs of society because it’s simply not true…I’m just sayin’ that it takes a special kind of resiliency to handle working in an environment where actual teaching is the last thing we get to focus on when we step onto campus each day.
The interns I’ve mentored over the years have come in all kinds of flavors. I have had to dismiss some, I’ve held the tissue box for others, I’ve even chased a few down the hall trying to escape over the years. But then, along comes my student teacher this year, and I am completely surprised. She arrived two days before school started, all bundled up in shyness, and embraced the students as if they were hers day one, and immediately, I knew that she was going to make it.
As vastly different as we are as individuals, in the classroom, we were one, functioning as a perfect, synchronized team, with the students in the forefront and her own education hiding in the background. She soaked in everything I had to offer, she put as many steps in per day in the classroom as me reaching each student individually—maybe even more, and she grew into her own confident, capable teacher-self in record time. In all of the years and all of the interns I’ve taken under my wing, I’ve never had one so amazing as this person.
So, it didn’t surprise me that the university decided that it was time to have her move on and grow in another challenging environment. And, with a quivering chin and a heartfelt, “Thank You”, I, and all of her students, bid her farewell on Friday. Although, she is leaving, she is most definitely not gone, as I can say that she is no longer my student teacher, interning her way through the credentialing program, but she is now my beloved friend.
Two roads converged in a most serendipitous way, but we parted only one path, as we continue to forge our unlikely friendship on our journeys as teachers. Godspeed, my comrade, and ‘good job’! We are all going to miss you! I know that you will succeed, and all *is right in the world now with you carrying this teaching torch onward.