Having worked for fifteen years at our early childhood center, I’ve discovered a fairly predictable pattern with regard to our former students and the memories they have of me once they move to a new school. When I see first graders, they easily remember me since I visited their kinder classes every two weeks to provide social skill lessons. Second graders look at me, and know they know me, but can’t always connect the dots without some help. Once children get to third grade, the large majority don’t recognize me unless we have history, or our paths have crossed since they left our building. So…
Earlier this week I saw one of my former “friends” who was now in third grade. We had quite a strong connection, given his many behavior concerns. Between regularly meeting with his parents and working with him in social skill groups, we most definitely had strong history – which was why I was so surprised he didn’t seem to know who I was. He stared at me for quite some time, and then suddenly, his eyes lighted up. He started jumping up and down, and screamed, “You’re that nice mailman!” He then proceeded to tell me an entire play-by-play time of when I delivered a valentine to him. He was so happy and excited he couldn’t contain himself.
“Really?” I thought. That is what he remembers? Given the extensive nature of all my interventions and supports, the one memory he retained was of me dressing up like a mailman and delivering valentines to all the kindergarten kids in our building? Although I was stunned, I learned a thing or two about the resilient nature of the human spirit and was given a large dose of hope.
That child could have easily recalled a whole host of negative interactions, but the one memory that popped through was positive and uplifting. And you know what? If that’s the emotional connection retained, I’ll take it. So, teachers – keep keeping on. You never know what interaction will find its way into the long-term memory of your students, so create as many positive ones as you are able. I, for one, am thrilled to forever be remembered as “that nice mailman”.