It was late spring, and I had just finished reading Where the Red Fern Grows to the class. Whenever I showed any emotion, Levi was the first to make some sort of wisecrack, and that day was no different.
“Pass the Kleenex,” he snickered in his nasal voice, rolling his eyes as I closed the book.
“Very funny,” I said, still sniffling.
Another fourth grader said, “I will never forget that book, Mrs. Miller.”
“I know what you mean,” I said. “There are some stories that we will always remember. They just endear themselves to us, and we know they will always be part of us.”
Just before dismissal that afternoon, the students were standing at their lockers getting their backpacks. Suddenly, Levi ran over to me, leaned right into my face, and whispered, “What about me? Will you always remember me?”
I thought he was poking fun at my comment from earlier in the day. But there was not even a hint of a smile on his face, and he was peering straight into my eyes. He was quite serious.
I stooped down, looked him in the eye and said, “Yes, Levi, I will always remember you.”
“Good,” he said, and he ran back to his locker, grabbed his backpack and got in line, as if nothing had happened.
It took from August until May, but I had made a difference to Levi. Yes, he was always joking in class and was the first to point out every mistake I ever made. But right then, in one tender moment, I could see that it was important for him to know I would keep the memory of him tucked in my mind over the years. I was so glad he asked because, if he hadn’t, I might never have realized how much that mattered to him. Or to me.
In the last days of the school year, when you feel sentimental or overwhelmed or just ready to be finished, look around your room at the faces of all of the students you have poured yourself into day in and day out. Most of them will never say it, but rest assured you have had a tremendous impact on their lives, so much so that even the wisecracking ones are thankful for what you’ve taught them and are really hoping you will always remember them.