So, about two weeks ago, The Girl and I went out to our favorite local restaurant 'cause it was getting late on a weeknight, and we were in need of sustinance. On the way out of the place, a student of mine this past year - we'll just call him Mephen Meyfried, 'cause I don't want to put him all out there without asking his permission - popped out of the restaurant because he'd seen me and wanted to say hi.
After I said goodbye to Mephen, The Girl and I headed across the parking lot to UDF for a sweet bite for dessert (BOGO scoops of peach ice cream, gotta love summer). Once we got up near the store, I heard a young black man in a T-top holler out "Hey, you. Come here."
Not a thrilling and, admittedly reassuring thing to hear as I wander around the whitebread suburbs, but he followed it up with "weren't you my son's teacher?"
That's what I heard, anyway. Turns out he said "weren't you my science teacher?"
From there I'm a lot more comfortable even though I had to admit to him that I didn't remember who he was, but once he threw out that he was Renaldo Judkins, I remembered him from MtHHS. Renaldo then moved to PHS about the same year that I did, so he's one of the very few students who knows me from both schools. Renaldo told me that he's got a daughter, that he lives a few minutes away from me, and that he's doing well. He's part way through his associate's degree from Cincy State - which I hope he finishes up - and made sure to tell The Girl that I was far and away his favorite science teacher.
Now Mephen I remember well, having just had him in my first bell class this past year and hanging out with him often during my plan bell as he 'worked' on the Odin's Word website, but I haven't thought of Renaldo in years. The quick conversation with him - I'm sure it wasn't even five minutes - absolutely made my day. To think that I made enough difference to Renaldo that he wanted to make sure to tell me that he was doing well, that he was working toward his degree - in electrical repair, that I was his favorite science teacher ever means that somehow I made a connection with him. It's an amazing feeling.
And it reminds of me a third story in this same vein...
I promise, last story for today.
I was playing tennis at Western Raquet Club and headed that way in the trusty, ol' Jeep Cherokee - an '87, reliable, my first car - when something went wrong. I was on the interstate, about half a mile to my exit and pretty much coasted down the ramp and across the street into a BP station. I called the club and told them I wasn't coming and then AAA to get a tow. The tow truck took me to the car repair place - around 8pm, certainl after they closed. The drivers dropped me off - pre cell phone in my world - at the closed repair shop and headed off to their next run.
I knew The Girl wasn't getting off work for another hour or two, and I was a solid and daunting seven-mile walk from home. So I walked the four or so blocks to a White Castle and used their pay phone to call The Girl and arrange a pick up. I needed somewhere to wait, so I planned to walk another half mile to the UDF and kill the rest of my time until she could pick me up. It wasn't exactly a thrilling neighborhood nor, however, was it anything that had me particularly scared to walk through.
When I hung up the phone, however, I got the same sort of Renaldo Judkins yell, "Hey, Mr Dusch!".
Turns out another of my Mount Health students was coincidently in the parking lot with me. He asked what I was doing - clearly out of my element and a bit unsteady in myself. I explained the car problem, the walk coming up, and The Girl's eventual pick-up. He offered me a ride - in his white Cadillac with the red, crushed velvet interior (not just the seats, pretty much the whole interior) and the thumping base - down to the UDF and talked to me about what he was doing since he left MtHHS, telling me where all the students from the class that we had together had gone, and just reminding me of how much I love being able to make some kind of connection, to come together for 180 days with my students, to be able to maybe sneak in a few science lessons along the way.
He dropped me off at the UDF and headed on his way. I've never seen him again and have - I hate to say - entirely forgotten his name at this point.
I remember when I first started teaching - at THSVHS and then at MtHHS - I avoided seeing my students outside of school, in the grocery store, at the gas station, in the park. I wasn't comfortable being the teacher instead of their contemporary without the safety and authority of the classroom. It took me a few years before I wanted to see them out in the 'real world', but now I find myself looking around all over the place hoping to see them, wanting to say hi and to connect again.
It's been amazing to get to know so many amazing people and to be even a small part of their lives - or bigger in some cases. (Thanks, especially, for the letter that one of you wrote to me this year.)
I know now why my dad never seemed to mind talking to his students when we ran into them seemingly everwhere in The Hometown when I was growing up.