Tonight I went to a concert performed by one of my former students. Now, usually when I go to a student’s concert, it means I have to sit through four or five concert band pieces. But tonight was a wee bit different, as My Kid was in a band that didn’t have a conductor and actually utilized instruments outside of the orchestral spectrum.
It turns out that My Kid, Jordan, is in a band that’s really pretty good. Poor thing, though. He lost his voice this morning and was really sweating the concert. Everything went great, though, and he made me right proud. Such is always good news, as I can count the times My Kids disappointed me on one hand, whereas I can count the times they went above and beyond my fairly high standards on my…. Well, God will have to invent a new body part for me to count that high without including parts you’d rather I not enumerate.
Besides, Jordan and his band, AKA, performed a benefit concert for Camp Quality, a camp for kids with cancer that has a local campsite. Jordan has volunteered at the camp for several years, and he managed to get all the members of his band down from Iowa to do the benefit concert. Ultimately, the group raised enough money to pay for two more campers to attend Camp Quality this summer.
And while I’m always extra-super proud of Jordan regardless of the measure of success he achieves, I must admit that he managed to touch my heart without even speaking to me. I ended up purchasing the band’s CD, and when I read the liner notes I found myself referenced in the “thank you” section.
I almost cried.
Good teachers teach because they can’t do anything else. I don’t mean that they have no other use or outstanding qualities or marketable skills; rather, I mean that they teach because they’re committed to drawing out of their students those things that are not necessarily treasured in public education but are nevertheless valued in the real world. You know: stuff like passion and perseverance and integrity. (Unfortunately, such educators are few and far between.) And good teachers work their asses off to foster those qualities in their students, fully aware that the payoff is usually nothing more than the intrinsic satisfaction of knowing that you did what you could and that your students might someday rise to the occassion when circumstances most demand it.
And you remember that sometimes those kids made you smile bigger than anything because they lived up to all that potential you saw in them in a moment when you were actually seeing them — not for what they might become, but for who they were then.
I must be the luckiest has-been teacher on the planet, because My Kids let me see them all the time. They call me from their stereotypical dorm rooms and their mundane, bare apartments, and their non-descript-yet-functional cars. I might be removed by hundreds of miles and monstrous long-distance charges, but they share their successes and disappointments, their future dreams and failed hopes, their incalculable and undefeatable love and enthusiasm. And despite all those people who think I have nothing to show for my life beyond a mountain of theoretical education, I know I have something real and tangible: I have My Kids.
And sometimes those kids surprise you.