Star Struck?!

It happened one week ago today. I was on my last, unexpected stop after a VERY long working day and some running of errands. With the holiday season approaching, I was likely one of many charged with the task of gift buying. The time was nearing seven o’clock; an all-too familiar weeknight hour, and I was anxious to get home. The weariness of a late Monday spent often spills into the rest of the week. I couldn’t afford to be tired—the other days would be just as busy.

As I left the mall I was at and neared the off-ramp to home, I suddenly caught a glimpse of the new gas station on the corner. Perfect. A gas card was exactly what I needed for my final gift that day. One more stop and then, that’s it! After pulling into the well-lit station and donning a face mask again, I grabbed my wallet and headed toward the heavy set of doors. No sooner was I inside when I heard my name being yelled out with a questioning tone by the young girl behind the till. When I confirmed that it was me behind the mask, I immediately recognized her dark eyes and medium complexion. Unfortunately, her name escaped me as is often the case for those of us in my line of work. “You don’t know me, do you?” she slyly asked with a playful twinkle in her eye.

“Oh yes I do,” I chimed in happily after relaying the name of the school I’d taught at previously remembering that she was in my French class one year. Though it was clear to us both that I couldn’t muster up her namesake, she seemed especially pleased that I knew of her—that I had recalled one small detail of her young life as it intersected with mine at one point in time. “I’m sorry Hon, I can’t think of your name after twenty-plus years of teaching various classes, but I DO remember you.”

In disbelief, after reintroducing herself, she exclaimed, “No way! I’m star struck! I can’t believe you are really here. You taught me when I was in grade three and you made me recite all the numbers in French from one to one hundred. I was so scared when you asked me to do that!”.

I wasn’t sure what to think of her statement since she seemed quite traumatized by my asking her to memorize her French numbers. A sudden pang of guilt, regret and strictness entered my mind. Maybe I was too harsh in my expectations? Yet, by the same token, I was flabbergasted with the notion that she’d used the words star struckand me in the same sentence. I guess I couldn’t have been that bad?! But little old me? Why, I was just her subject matter teacher three times a week for a year. Surely, I couldn’t have had that much of an impact on her?!

Upon asking the once-little girl how she was doing and what she was up to now, she explained that she’d loved French class so much that she went on to take it all through her schooling years. “I even completed full essays in French!”. I then learned that she was presently enrolled in her second year of nursing at a nearby college. I was ecstatic for her and told her how proud I was of her knowing full well that she would make an excellent nurse some day soon. J.’s big brown eyes lit up.

Just then, another middle-age lady like myself entered the store to purchase cigarettes as I slowly made my way over to the carousel which held the gift cards that I was in search of. Almost immediately, J. pointed to me and excitedly announced to the fair-haired customer, “That’s my grade 3 teacher! She taught me French and made me memorize all of my numbers to one hundred. I can’t believe she’s really here!”

Feeling somewhat embarrassed by the scene, but also flattered by J.’s need to introduce me, I half-jokingly justified to the patient stranger needing nicotine that my French classes couldn’t have been all that bad since my former student went on to write essays in her not-so-newly acquired second language. She smiled and nodded in return as she approached the counter to pay while matter-of-factly stating aloud how profound of an impact we teachers obviously make. Dumbfounded by the generous words just spoken, I couldn’t help but smile both inside and out. J. added, “It’s only the good ones you remember.”. The kind customer and I exchanged a look. No words were needed between us as we each briefly, but silently reflected on our own schooling days. In being categorized as one of “the good ones”, I knew that I had done well by at least one of my pupils throughout my years in the classroom. It felt really good. A bit surreal, but heart-warming without a doubt.

After talking a bit more with the now grown-up version of the quiet, respectful little girl who once sat in my class, I left the impromptu gas station stop fuelled by more than the gas card I’d just acquired. Thanks to J., my weary Monday turned into a bit of a teary one—in the best possible way as a long-time educator who, similar to J., once had a dream to help make a difference in the lives of others. Maybe she is proof that I succeeded, even if only for that one year.

10 thoughts on “Star Struck?!

  1. Sue–that is the best thing. And J is right–you do remember ‘the good ones.’ My English teacher in my junior year of high school was one of those. You don’t forget them, ever! I hope you walked out of there on a cloud. What a wonderful compliment for you.
    If I don’t see you around here, I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful memories, I have had similar experiences on the side of “J” and must say it is a beautiful thing bumping into one of those teachers who had such an impact on our lives… Often we do not get to go back and let them know what they did to guide us in our path, and as young person we do not always know how much of their lives they are giving to us at the time, to send us on our way~! Being from a small town this was a great leap forward~! Thanks to you and all the others who decided to play a part in guiding us along the way~!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s great to hear from you again Sue.

    Your story reminded me that I taught Media and Television Production for fourteen years to seventh and eighth-graders. Every once in a while I have similar moments. They make teaching feel so very worthwhile.

    Liked by 1 person

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