Like many occupations and professions, teaching is a time-intensive endeavor, and, it is also mind and heart intensive. Those of us who have done it for a number of years have teaching memories that not only stay in our minds, but also touch our hearts. I can think of a several of those, but I have recently been thinking about a couple that have to do with one student, over a period of years. This student was in my class a very long time ago. At that time I was teaching in a multi-grade, K-3 situation with four teachers, four connected rooms with lots of grouping and re-grouping for maximum benefit to the students to try to really address individual needs. I was working with that student on beginning reading using a variety of materials including pre-primers — small, limited page books with a very limited number of words on each page. To an accomplished reader, these may seem simple, but to a person just learning to read, often they are not. I remember one day being across the room from this student, working with someone else, when all of a sudden he jumped up from his desk, held up his book and shouted out, “I can read this! I can read this!” I marvel at the effect this had on me. So intense it was that some 40 years later I still have a picture in my head of that scene. How precious a reward to a teacher is that expression of pure, unsolicited joy of learning.
That episode in itself is a golden teaching memory, but, unbelievably, this same student gave me yet another. Years later, I was teaching in the the intermediate, 4th-6th grade school which was right next to the Junior High (7th-8th). I would often walk out and see the Junior High students moving between classes or on breaks. On one such occasion, this very same student from my first grade class, now in Junior High, ran out and pulled out a crumpled post card from his pocket and handed it to me. It was a post card I had sent him (as I would to all of my students during summer break). I don’t remember what the front showed, probably an ocean or forest scene, (my favorite places to visit every chance I got). On the back I wrote an encouragement to enjoy the summer and to keep reading all summer long. His face had a big grin as he explained to me that he had kept that card for all that time. Ah! Gold! Why Teachers Teach.