Being a teacher yields so many gifts: being around young, enthusiastic, energetic people all day; getting to talk about the things I love and hopefully can inspire others to feel the same way; the list goes on. But one of my favorite parts of teaching is seeing who these people are going to be one day. So while I would not be so bold as to "friend" a former student on Facebook, I am always happy to accept their requests, and to see who they have become.
The class of 2000 was always so special to me. As a new teacher, fresh out of college, I was given a one-week chance to prove myself and my potential to a class of sixth-graders while their teacher was on leave. I was twenty-two, and they were twelve. That ten-year gap seemed enormous then, but not quite large enough! To be honest, I was as excited as I was terrified. Luckily, I not only survived the week, I enjoyed it. I was hired, and managed to teach this group of students as seventh-, ninth- and eleventh-graders. Needless to say, I will remember all of them, and in a way, I feel like we grew up together.
And watching them grow up has been fantastic; I've attended their weddings, held their babies, applauded their many successes and prayed for their stumbles. And then one of my students gave birth to a beautiful little boy who looked just like his Mama and Uncle - same olive skin, same smile, same hair, same beautiful eyes - and I watched the student I once knew grow into a mom, and a voice and an advocate for all moms of babies with Down Syndrome, which is one very small piece of who this little sweetie is. As I watched her October posts bring awareness to all of us during this month, I wrote this to her and posted it on her Facebook wall.
From Mom to Mom: Dear Danielle,
As a mother, and your former teacher, all I can say is how incredibly proud I am of you. I hope I’m not overstepping a line by posting this on fb, but I wanted to tell you that I think you are amazing, and I'm sure I’m not the only one!
When you were in high school, you were bold, bright, and beautiful. You were also blessed with talent, intelligence, and confidence, which is a powerful combination. When you graduated, I thought, “That girl is going to make the world listen to her.” I had no idea how true this would be!
I’ve learned something every day from reading your fb posts. You have educated us, informed us, and reminded us that names, labels, and diagnoses really don’t mean what we think they mean, and that love can change anything. You will always be an educator, and most importantly, Drew’s advocate. True, his challenges will be your challenges, but his triumphs will be your triumphs, because you taught him and encouraged him every step of the way.
I am so happy that you have been blessed with the joy of motherhood, but more than that, I am so happy for baby Drew. I believe in my heart that all babies come from heaven, and that they choose us as their parents. I believe Drew chose you for his mom. And I believe it was the first, and certainly not the last, brilliant and remarkable thing he did.
I’m sorry I will not be able to walk by your side for Drew’s Crew, but I will always be in your corner!
The moral of the story: Say what you mean. Life is short. I was so proud of her and wanted to take a few minutes to tell her so. There are times in life when I haven't said what I was thinking, or the writer in me took over and kept saying "It's just not right," and the revisions have taken forever, and the moment has passed me by. But this time I wrote from the heart. Sure, I double and triple checked it, but I wanted her to get it while she was in the moment. I'll always be happy I did.