Thoughts of the past: words of a former student


I have been mulling over a recent communication I had with a former student. I was, in effect, totally blown away. Sometimes, we have no idea how what we put into a situation is actually perceived. More often than not, we have no idea. Then, years later, you find out that your care, concern, and demeanor were better understood than you ever would have thought.

My student was a most charming, young man who did things that were off the wall funny and interesting. There is no doubt, however, that given the time constraints and material that needed to be shared and hopefully absorbed, that sometimes, clownish antics and comedy might be less than welcome. Especially in the classroom.

I never doubted that this young man was intelligent, bright, creative, and hysterically funny. He was one of many I had and as I remember, not always the type of student that would be appreciated by other teachers. I don’t think I ever had to kick him out of class, but he may have had that occur in other classes.

I am not sure, in my memory, if he always did his homework. I do know that his grade perhaps didn’t reflect his true ability. I also know, having three sons very close in age to him, made me a bit more understanding of his persona and his plight. I also remember the extreme ease with which he picked up everything. His mind was and is like a proverbial steel trap.

On social media, recently, I saw that he had changed jobs. I asked him what he was doing, not being very clear to point out that I knew for whom he was working, as it was pointed out in the message. I wanted to know what he was doing for this well known national concern.

I have not used his name or the location of his work to protect him and his job.

This is what he responded.

“oui je travaille pour ((())). c’est celui que tu connais. s’il vous plaît, ne leur dites pas à quel point j’étais un gamin de quatorze à dix-huit ans. j’aurai 40 ans le mois prochain je suis différent maintenant.”

Here, he was quite impressive to respond in understandable French. He said, “Yes, I work for ((())). It is the one you know. (He had done something like put the letters of the concern, like AT&T and I had asked if he worked for ‘Animal Traffic and Transportation.’) Please don’t tell them what I was like when I was a kid between the ages of fourteen and eighteen years old. I will be 40 next month and I am a different person now.

He continued in English.

“Wow I can’t believe it’s been ten years since my last message to you.

I am now, and again, working for ((())). It used to be ((())), which was owned by ((())). then Xerox bought ((())), and moved everyone to New York City. i said no. I stayed here in Boston and I’ve made, what people will tell you, is a huge career for myself. So now I’ve gone back to working for ((())). I write all the commercials and campaigns for all of our upcoming events. 

I think about you all the time. I really wish I could have done things differently. I am so sorry for how I acted back then. I was someone who didnt know how to be himself. But you always, always believed in me. And you always took care of me.

I wish you were still teaching so that I could come in and tell your students how much of an important person you are. But please know that it will never be lost on me. Thank you for everything.


Needless to say, this almost had me bawling. No joke. 

Again, one never knows. I am so glad I asked him about what he was doing. Just before I did, I had spoken to my wife about the past and students she had encountered and we compared notes on similar ones we had both had. We know them well and despite sometimes being a bit annoying, we always loved them and knew they would turn out well.

Well, this one certainly did and this one really made my day.

About Richard Koerner

Seventy something, father, papi, educator, organizer, Francophile, traveler, amateur photographer, gardener, cyclist, kayaker, calligrapher, cinephile, reader, and overall renaissance type human being.
This entry was posted in Life in general, New Trier High School, Thoughts and philosophy. Bookmark the permalink.

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