One of my students from last year, B., came to visit a few weeks ago. B. was a beautiful girl, frequently smiling, and maybe this is one year’s detachment talking, but I don’t remember her giving me much trouble. She had also transferred in to my relatively calm algebra class late in the year, so that’s probably part of why I remember her as gentle and sweet.
She was a student with special needs, and math did not come easily to her. She did not pass the algebra end-of-course test, but her score also didn’t count for me because she had transferred in so late. In any case, I was disappointed with the growth that I was able to make with her, or lack thereof.
When she walked into my classroom after school the other day, I had a brief moment of dread, because I couldn’t remember her name immediately, and almost in the same moment, it hit me that she had a baby carrier in her hand. With a baby. Had I forgotten that she was pregnant when I taught her? Had I even noticed? She said she gave birth in the fall, so she was definitely expecting when she was in my class; it only made me feel a little better when she said she didn’t start showing until her last trimester.
We talked briefly about what she had been doing, when she would go back to school, if she would come back to CHS. I asked her if anyone was helping her out, and she said no, which felt like a sucker punch. Inevitably, I pictured myself at 17. I didn’t even have a driver’s license. How would I have taken care of a child? How was B. doing it? I told her to take my contact info, to let me know if she needed anything. She smiled and nodded, but didn’t write anything down. As she left to visit with other teachers, I wondered if it would be the last time I saw her.
Last year, I rarely wondered that, except when students transferred out unexpectedly. I just assumed that every student would be back at CHS the next year, that I would have more time with them. But many students I had last year are gone, just disappeared like B. I want to know what happens to them; I want to know what will happen to all my students. Sometimes, I just want to fast forward to see how they are at 18, 20, 25. What will they be like when they are my age? Is what my colleagues and I are doing enough to set them up for adulthood – and parenthood? As well as B. appears to be doing, I worry that one day her daughter will ask for help with middle school math, and B. won’t be able to give it to her. Then what?