I found myself in the midst of a bizarre scene at parent-teacher conferences for Anton this past week. I stood outside his classroom with Michelle, two teachers, and another parent. I was the only one who was NOT a graduate of the local school system.
I’m sure many school districts have plenty of alumni that come back to or remain in the area. Still, I’ve always found that if you graduated from NRHEG or NR-H or E-G, there seems a good chance you’re around here. In so many ways, this stands to be a positive for our towns.
First off, I can say that as an outsider, I was welcomed right away when I moved here. Some towns can’t claim that. My hometown of New Ulm, at least in the past, was sometimes known as being wary of people not of German descent; maybe that was because of how strongly German New Ulm’s culture has always been steeped.
I got lots of advice from veteran teachers when I started. Part of that was starting to meet and understand some of the families that spread their roots deeply through the area. Many of these families form such a solid base in our towns that it only helps keep our communities firm.
I always find it fun to read the history parts of our local paper, both to see the pictures and to read about what happened 25 or more years ago. It’s interesting to see names of people who are still here and what they accomplished all those years back.
I used to think it would be a very long time before I worried about teaching children of former students. However, the fact that I taught seniors at the beginning of my career before becoming full time in the middle school led to that timeframe being moved up. This is my fourth year of having at least one child of a former student. Mr. Cyr would probably say that’s not so much of an accomplishment as it is a sign of longevity.
It was a tad bizarre my first year of realizing I was in that stage of my career. It’s hard not to remember back on the parent in my classroom. Naturally, the child wants to know about the parent’s performance in my class; luckily, I still have all my gradebooks from over the years! I used to wonder why I kept those – now I know!
Every child dreads to hear, “You’re just like your mother/father!” They don’t even want to hear it if it’s said in a positive vein! While we all inevitably become at least somewhat like our parents, teenagers try to put it off as long as they can. But just like teachers can often start to see things better after meeting a parent and understanding why the child is the way he or she is (again, positively or negatively), there’s a built-in advantage to having spent that much time teaching the parent!
Another aspect of this longevity is just how many alumni work at our schools. I’m sure I’d miss some if I tried to list them all, but there are some notable former students of mine that I’m peers with now. Mr. Berg and I have taught together for a decade after having him in senior English way back in the day. It was a little strange to start, since that was my first real teaching experience with a former star.
My son had the possibility of having Mrs. Holland as a teacher as he went through early elementary, and that would have been a very intriguing situation. I had Erin as both a student and a basketball player, and it would have been a different sort of parent-teacher conference indeed if my former student had taught my child! It didn’t work out that way, but I know it’s good to have her in our district.
And now I’m at another of those “never would have thunk it” moments. I’ve rejoined the junior high basketball coaching ranks after some years away. As part of this, I’m under the direction of our new varsity coach, Onika Peterson. Onika also was a student and basketball player for me, and now she’s my boss! I guess they’re right when they say that you should be nice to everyone since you never know who might be in charge of you some day!
Gary Nordlie told me once that when grandchildren of students you had start rolling into your classroom that it’s time to retire. I hope it doesn’t get to that point, but based on how many people stay here, knowing it’s a great set of communities, it’s always a possibility. I can hear it now: “You’re just like your grandma/grandpa!”
Word of the Week: This week’s word is Bohemian, which means leading a wandering lifestyle, as in, “He started his twenties with a Bohemian life before returning home to his roots to start a family.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!