Friday, August 7, 2015

     Fifty years ago, I began my career as a French Teacher at Grosse Pointe South High School. I was 22 years old. I had just spent three months in Europe, studying French at the Sorbonne and living with a wonderful French woman who didn’t speak English. It was a life-changing trip, and an incredible prelude to over 30 years of unforgettable hours in the classroom. These photos are a few of hundreds that I have in leather-bound scrapbooks recording the history of my teaching career. I have letters, cards, notes, papers, texts from students all through the years. My oldest student from Grosse Pointe South High School should be about 68 years old. My only regret is that I have not kept in touch with those early kids. The ones from the last 25 years, I have, and thanks to face book, I get to watch their lives unfold before my eyes daily. These students range from 24 to 56.I can’t express the joy and pride it gives me witnessing their career and family experiences.

     During my last 25 years at Novi High School, I taught Humanities, French, Drama, Short Story, American Lit, Forensics and Directed Reading. I watched students stand before the class and give speeches, act on stage, light up when they read a good book, get excited about a painting we saw at the Art Institute, and I was lucky enough to take five groups of students to Europe. I am happy to report they all came back alive. Two of my more recent students just went to Paris—-one couple on their honeymoon, and the other on their two-year anniversary. Seeing them posing in front of the Eiffel Tower or holding hands in the Tuileries brings tears to my eyes. One of my students is living in Belgium after working for a French company. She is married now, and has traveled extensively all over Europe. Another one married a French man, and she gets to travel to the French Riviera to visit relatives with her two darling little boys. These students are like my own children—their success is my success; their pain is mine.

     When I lined up my dolls like students in my basement at seven or eight years old, I had no idea the thrill and gratification I would have all these years later.  

    I have four little grand-daughters. I watch one of them, Ava, playing with her dolls, ordering her sisters here and there, and I think to myself, “she’s got the teacher gene.” Her Mom is a teacher and an administrator, so the seeds have been planted. 

     Fifty years after those first few at Grosse Pointe North and South High Schools, I still keep in touch with a dear colleague who married our football coach. I correspond regularly with four or five of my recent colleagues from Novi High School, and I consider all of them cherished friends.
I will see a couple of them next week on our yearly summer trek to see our children.

     How can it be 50 years? I still feel like I’m 16! Last night at my Toastmasters Meeting, a young man of about 27 gave a speech about following your passion and purpose. My passion was and still is teaching, and my purpose is to use those skills to make the world a better, happier place no matter what project I’m pursuing. I still tutor French, I give speeches in front of hundreds of people, I read often, I write daily, and I continue to enjoy teen-agers more than any age. I am blessed to have been a teacher, and I applaud all the wonderful educators out there who continue to devote time and energy to their students.