This past Friday afternoon during my prep period I walked from the middle school where I teach to the copying center at the high school. A long hallway connects the two schools. After I dropped off my copying requests, and I was walking through the high school atrium, a high school student said, “Hi Mr. Eich. Do you remember me?”
It's a question I often get from high school students. I taught them as seventh or sixth graders, and so often I don't remember them. It's been sometimes five years since I've seen them and they've changed, grown from a middle school student into a high school student, a child into a teen. Depending upon which year I taught them, I taught either 300 or 150 students each year, so it's easy to forget names and often I do.
“I'm sorry, I don't,” I said to the boy.
He told me his name and then said, “Do you still like Steely Dan?”
“I do,” I said.
Then it clicked. I remembered him. I taught him in the seventh grade. I have my students write down personal information at the beginning of each year to get to know them better, and he had written that his favorite band was Steely Dan. It was such an unusual choice for a twelve year old boy. I told him I liked Steely Dan and asked him how he knew about this band. He said his dad took him to a concert. I brought in a CD of their greatest hits and gave it to him. This student, now a senior, remembers me because I made a connection with music and gave him a used CD of mine from when I taught him five years ago. This small connection is what he remembered about me, something I had forgotten, something that really took little effort on my part.
The moment was a great reminder to me as a teacher and as a person—and for all of us—that what we say or do for other people, no matter how small, can make a difference and often is remembered by them long after we forgot.