Sunday, June 01, 2008

My First Class - Revisited

The past few days have been a rather interesting personal journey for me. Due to the wonders of Facebook I've gotten in touch with a few former students of mine from my first year of teaching in Fort Smith, NWT. I'm not sure where this touch of nostalgia came from. Perhaps its just one of those natural things that happens at the end of a school year. ( I was teaching primarily junior high school classes back then.) Truth be told I hadn't given much thought to my first year. It was tough. June 2001 rolled around and I just wanted to forget things and move on. Looking back, now 8 years on, I can see that time with a certain amount of clarity that I was incapable of then. I made my fair share of mistakes. I was way too impatient, took any little slight personally and wasted too much time trying to make my class fit into my own preconceived notions of what I thought a class should be. Since then I've been able to take the lessons learned from that year, (both the good and the bad) and apply them. And I am a much more confident and competent person as a result.

My students from that first year (which seems a life time ago) are all now in their early 20's. Many of them have gone on to college and university and I'm very proud of each and every one of them. They are all fine individuals in my books and all have their own unique stories to tell. As luck would have it, I bumped into one former student a couple years ago down in Iqaluit. He holds the distinction of being the first student I ever had suspended. What a difference a few years can make. He told me he had dropped out of school for awhile but was now back and determined to finish. He was working part-time, dressed to the 9's - a very sociable and easy-going young man. (If I could have gone back in time to the fall of 2000 and told myself that 7 years later I'd be standing with the guy and having a rational and relaxed conversation I would have thought I should be immediately committed.) Another young man from that year is now gainfully employed in the mining industry over in the NWT. A young girl I once taught is now working toward becoming a nurse. One boy from my grade 9 homeroom (young man now, I should say) is in the Canadian Armed Forces and due to serve as part of Canada's current mission in Afghanistan. Another very quiet student I had in a grade 7 class wrote to tell me how she dropped out several times in high school but recently returned to finish her education, doing two years worth of requirements in one school year.

To all of you who have shared your stories, I thank you. Thank you for the hope and inspiration you have given me to continue in my profession. Truly it is people like you that motivate me to try to give back to my current students a small iota of what you have given me. Thank you for your trust. If perchance any of you are reading this, I can tell you as an honest man I have been blessed and enriched immeasurably by you.


Jennith Peart said...

My first students, Grade Eights, would also be around 20 now. I don't get much news except when I occasionally speak with someone in the community, but I've heard lots of good things. It always makes me smile though to hear how well they've done.