I think what I will miss the most about my job here at FE, is the space in which to write about my amazing students. I feel incredibly privileged to have the chance to work with them.
Yesterday I was standing in the hallway at work, fumbling as usual for the keys to my office and a young woman rounded the corner, a chubby-cheeked baby in her arms. I recognized her immediately as one of the students I taught about a year ago--one of the students from this class. She'd been pregnant then--clearly with the little guy she held in her arms.
"Student S.!" I said in surprise. "So good to see you!"
We caught up a little on things--I found out she had taken a semester off after her pregnancy, and she's back now, thank goodness. I have wondered about her from time to time, because she'd promised to visit soon after her baby was born and she never did. I often wonder about my students, especially the ones who make an impact on me (whether negatively or positively). I feel compelled to know their stories, to wonder after them when they're gone; often I worry about them, the way a mother might. And the ones who disappear? They really haunt me. I was happy to see her on the college campus again--happy she brought her son by for a visit.
Yet she almost didn't come back to school, Student S. confessed to me in my office, as her son arched and squirmed on my lap, eager to grab at everything on my desk. As a young single mom, the lure of an average-paying hourly job tempted her more than the long-term investment college is (and it IS an investment--a costly one at that). I've heard that tale so often from the young people I teach. It's hard to think ahead to five or six, or ten years down the road when you need money now--or yesterday. For so many of the young people I teach college becomes the ultimate dream deferred, something they almost made their own, but couldn't lay claim to in the end. It hangs just out of reach for a while, spinning in the wind, beckoning from just an arm's length away. With time though, the dream fades from the horizon, replaced by rent bills and medical bills, and car loan payments and basic needs. College? What was that? Did I ever have a right to it?
Later that day I caught sight of the two of them in the computer lab, the baby pulling up on the copy machine, his little legs bowed and strong. Student S. was typing away furiously at a computer, in that frantic way I recognized--a mom trying to squeeze in as much work as she can before her baby's patience and good nature is exhausted. I'm sure life isn't easy for her. I'm sure it's a daily struggle to make ends meet, to juggle childcare and classes, to tie herself to being everything to her son and for her son from the day he was born on into the uncertain future she might face. But she's back; she's here, and that's a happy ending--or beginning--to a story, if ever there were one.