Having worked at an early childhood center for 18 years before retiring, I discovered a predictable pattern regarding former kindergarten students and the memories they had of me once they moved to a new school. First graders easily remembered me from the year prior; second graders looked at me and knew they knew me but couldn’t always connect the dots; and once kids got to third grade, the large majority didn’t recognize me unless we had history. With this in mind…
I recently saw a former student – now a teenager – at our church. We had quite a connection given his many behavior concerns. Between regular meetings with his parents and working with him in social skill groups, we had strong history – which is why I was so surprised he couldn’t immediately place me.
He stared at me for quite some time and then suddenly his eyes lighted up. “You were that nice mailman!” He then proceeded to give me a detailed account of how I once delivered a valentine to him when he was in kindergarten. He was so excited he couldn’t contain himself.
“Really?” I thought. “Given the extensive nature of my interventions and supports, the one memory you retained was of me dressing up like a mailman and delivering valentines to all the 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.
The lesson? Teachers, keep on keeping on. You never know what interactions will find their 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.”