At the end of this week, my students will be graduating. Some will be returning next year as “the big kids” (as it is a 3 and 4 year old combo classroom). However, the major celebration is for the children who are graduating to Kindergarten. I haven’t cried during graduation…yet. Almost one year. The leader of the graduation ceremonies has to keep it together, but I have gotten teary-eyed. It’s a very happy time for the children and families.
However, after ceremonies, right after I say the final good-byes to my students, a question usually pops in my head: Will you remember me?
I have visions about running into my former students when they are adults. They’ll be all grown up and I’ll hear stories of how well they are doing in their lives. It’s a very warm, fuzzy feeling for any teacher. Teachers don’t get a lot of perks, but this kind of acknowledgement goes a long way to validate what we do in this world. Elementary, middle school and high school teachers know about this feeling. Unfortunately, preschool teachers don’t often get this…. well, at least I haven’t.
A couple of students have comeback to visit my classroom. They’ll say hi and tell me how they are doing. I’ve seen a couple of students from my 2009 class, which will make them second graders today. “You’re so big!” I say when I see them. It is very surprising to see how fast a child can grow. And, it’s equally surprising to have an actual conversation with them. Not like one-liners such as “Bathroom!” and “I’m hungry!”
Equally surprising is when I run into former parents. I talk with them and they share with me how their child is doing. Parents will say that their child is doing well in Kindergarten and that they’re glad their child was in my preschool classroom. However – surprisingly – some parents have shared that, when they ask their child about preschool, they don’t remember my classroom or even Teacher Gilbert.
Ouch. Did I do something wrong? I’m not even in their memory bank.
That’s when a hard reality sets in. There is a good chance my students will not remember me. Sure, they will have the academics and skills with them. Heck, my parents homeschooled me before Kindergarten. I don’t remember any of that. I thought I just knew all of my numbers and letters, as if I inherited the knowledge by birth. Looking back, this is what will probably happen with my students.
I will have the honor of knowing that my students will be walking around with the knowledge I taught them. However, they may not have knowledge of me as their first teacher. I’ve written about how children can remember how they will remember what their teachers did, as I’ve written about one of the worst teachers I ever had and how that teacher made me feel. That was in first grade. However, as a preschool teacher, I wonder if there is enough brain development there for the child to remember me. This saddens me from time to time. Of course, you don’t get into teaching for the recognition. But, to not even be remembered? That can be a little hard to take when you put so much heart into what you do.
However, there is this. I tell myself this:
Many years from now, when my students are adults and they look back through their childhood photographs, they may turn a page and see themself when they were four years old. I hope a smile comes across their face when they see themself dressed in a graduation outfit with a tiny tassel and an inkjet printed certificate in their hands. I hope they see in the photograph a classroom full of letters, numbers, and colorful artwork. And, when my former student asks, “When was this?”, I hope their parent responds, “Well, let me tell you about your preschool classroom and your first teacher, Teacher Gilbert.” Because – like so many parents I run into – the children may not remember their first teacher, but a parent will. I share this because I hope that all preschool teachers feel validation in their work and know that you leave a legacy with the child and their family.
I hope the greatest of success to all my graduating students and wish them the very best in Big School!