Things I Know 360 of 365: They’ll always be my students

The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But… the good Samaritan reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A former student and I have been messaging back and forth. He posted a status update on his wall that had that air of moving beyond the public moodiness of a teenager to being a public plea for a little help correcting course in the post-high school world.

I started simply, “If you need help, I’m here.”

We’ve been writing since then. He’s been putting down on digital paper what’s happening in his life and what he’d like to have happening. I’ve been offering up possibilities for course adjustment and asking questions.

If he told me to mind my own business or back off, I would. It’s his life, and I get that.

Only it’s not just his. I’ve got time, work, and care invested in him the same way I’m invested in all of my students. I chose to spend time in their lives because they were worth it. It was an investment of me.

Perhaps, in an unconnected world where living hundreds of miles away from my former students meant actually being separated from them, I would find it easier to withhold assistance or cut off the caring. Or, I’d simply find myself idly wondering what happened in the chapters of their lives following the one in which I featured.

Either way, this is not the world in which I live. I am connected to my students. My approach may be different than generations of teachers before me, but that is because the tools and environments of those teachers were also different. My students populate my information feeds each day, creating threads that may be no more than gossamer, but bind us together nonetheless.

One of the reasons my mom decided against a major in education was the danger she’d want to bring every student home.

That’s not my issue. I don’t want that. I don’t want to lose myself in my students. The principle and ethic that guides me, and always will, is that I will never turn my back on any students who are in danger of losing sight of themselves.


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