Between Teacher and Student

A few years ago, I hosted a lunch in Durham, NC, for a group of Poly alums, alumni parents, and former faculty members living in the area. The conversation about the school’s past and present was lively during the gathering of about ten people. One of the most poignant moments occurred when a graduate from the 80s arrived and was surprised to see one of her teachers sitting at the table. In that instant, a great deal was conveyed without any words: reverence, admiration, recognition, and grace. As the conversation unfolded, tales of resilience, renewed confidence, and inspiration enlivened all of us.

The best teachers I know are keenly aware of what a student is carrying with them when entering the classroom. Preparation and study habits are obvious examples, learning styles often less obvious. These transformative teachers see students, not classrooms; growth, not perfection; joy, rather than amusement. Without judgment, they know how complicated growing up is. 

A couple of weeks ago, hundreds of people gathered to celebrate the life of a Poly teacher’s son. When we arrived the church was full, so my wife and I found seats in the annex where we could view the memorial service’s live stream. Glorious classical guitar music played by one of our Middle School students filled the air. As the service gently moved forward and the camera panned across the nave, I could see many of her current and former students scattered throughout the pews. Honoring their teacher and supporting her with their presence, they offered comfort, generosity, and compassion. No words needed to be uttered about what she meant to them; it was clear that they would always be there for her—the magical dance between student and teacher. Moments such as these nourish a teacher’s soul.