Ventura, Calif. — When you teach school, you "belong" to your students forever! Former students -- honking their horns and waving wildly -- call to me from passing cars. They serve me at gas stations, hamburger shops, and grocery stores. They speak to me at concerts, games, and shopping centers.
Once on a vacation hundreds of miles from home, I entered the lunchroom deep in Carlsbad Caverns. There I was greeted by name by former pupils -- admittedly , my first underground encounter.
I'm sure if I went to Lapland, some young person with a reindeer herd would say, "Weren't you my eighth grade teacher?"
One day in a bank, I wished to withdraw a rather large sum. The teller called the manager who glanced at me and initialed the transaction. I was surprised that the verification wasn't more complex until I took a closer look at the manager.
"John!" I exclaimed with pleasure.
"I'll bet you thought I never would get beyond the spit wad stage," he grinned.
At a local cafeteria my companion and I had just seated ourselves when a huge bald-headed man with a black beard joined us, placing his tray on the table. For a moment I was perplexed. Then I said, "Do I know you?"
"Don't you recognize me? I'm Randy!" (How could I recognize him? When I knew him, he was shorter and thinner and had hair on his head instead of his chin.) We had a happy time at dinner discussing mutual friends.
The briefer contacts often follow a rather predictable pattern:
"Are you still teaching?" (Since that question is first asked when you are in your 20s, you learn not to let it shatter your composure.)
"Do you still make the kids write compositions?" (Gently chide former students that the opportunity to write compositions is still provided.)
"Do you still read "Cheaper by the Dozen" aloud to your classes the last five minutes of the period?" (It is surprising how many recall the pleasure of hearing a story a little each day.)
"I'll always remember prepositions, because you told us about the rabbit and the haystack." (One way to teach prepositions is to tell the students that a rabbit can go into, over, by, near, around, upm , etc., a haystack. That device seems to be more effective than using Webster's definition: "a linguistic form that combines with a noun, pronoun, or noun equivalent to form a phrase that typically has an adverbial, adjectival, or substantial relation to some other word.")
It is gratifying to know that you have hundreds of young friends and that at any time you may hear your name called or just: "Hey, Teach! Remember me?