God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.
– J.M. Barrie
I began the packing process today. It’s got me wondering who will carry the memories. If you’d ask me before I would have pointed you in the direction of a hanging folder that’s moved with me through three schools now.
In it are the notes and cards, the projects and essays from students over the last 8 years. I would have told you this was the vault of sorts in which I keep the good stuff.
Packing has proven me wrong.
Every folder or drawer at school revealed some speck of awesomeness from a former student.
Home has the same issues. In the fire box that holds my tax information from years past and documents like the title to my car I found a folder of essays and poems that struck me as such seminal works when they came across my desk that I packed them in a box and moved them with me from Florida.
One note in telltale eighth grader scrawl professed, “You taught me language arts can be cool. And now I want to be a teacher.”
You can imagine the difficulty each of these stowaway memories is posing for the packing. When I leave next week, I’ll be taking with me only what can fit in my car.
Birthday cards from my great-uncle, thank you notes from friends in whose weddings I stood up, my own school pictures – these were tossed out with ease.
The poem from the classically preppy kid who had a witty retort for everything in class but poured verse from his pencil like a stopper had been removed from a bottle? That, and its ilk, sit on my bedroom floor in a pile with fate uncertain.
I realize most of these students have forgotten what they wrote. For some years have gone by without a remembrance that I once taught them.
Still, part of me wants to hold on to all of these artifacts of former personhood as historical markers of the people they have and will become.
“You made such things of beauty and kindness,” I want to say, “And in those moments, you gave what I did with my life more richness than I could have given it on my own.”
These are the most meaningful pieces of my teaching portfolio.
In the end, I’ll pare the collection down. Some night soon, in the delirium of late-night packing, I’ll hold two equally lovely pieces in my hand and make the Confusion decision of what gets kept and what gets dumped.
I’ll have to trust that the story of who each of those former students is now tells the story of who they were.
And who I was.