When I began teaching last century, I was in the age minority. One of only a few new hires at the time, I found unlikely friendships with people ten to twenty years my senior. While in my late twenties, I regularly celebrated milestone birthdays such as 40 and 50. My work friends and I acknowledged the last day of school with wine and cheese in the privacy of a home. When they spoke of their children’s high school sports or college search, I shared about my pregnancies and potty training.
As the years went by, one by one, they began to retire. Each retirement resulted with a new, young teacher taking his/her place. In a natural progression, my role slowly evolved from mentee to mentor. I happen to have a few more years of experience is how I viewed it the first few times. Of course I would be happy to help a new teacher.
As the years went by, the newer teachers got younger and I just got older.
I think the first time it hit me was about two years ago when I was a mentor to a new hire in her twenties. I asked my mentee how she was doing and how I could best assist her. Her fond reply included something to the effect that she valued my support and that I was a mother figure to her. A true compliment by any measure, but really… A MOTHER FIGURE? That sounded so old!
But the real icing on the cake was just the other day. My newest mentee, also in her twenties, cheerfully joined me for lunch. As she walked in, she asked me if I used to teach in the town she grew up in. I enthusiastically replied that I did before I came to the town where I currently teach.
Then BAM, she hit me with the right hook.
“I think you were my best friend’s Preschool teacher!” she exclaimed.
If that wasn’t bad enough, she managed to pull up a picture of me (with very large hair) and her best friend (about 4 years old at the time) on her phone. It seems that her best friend recognized me from a Facebook post and the connection was made. There was no denying it was me. I have the same class picture in a photo album from the mid 1990s.
Now, I suppose I should feel somewhat flattered that she was able to remember me after all of these years, but that thought escaped me at the time. I just focused on the fact that I am old enough to be the former Preschool teacher of a colleague!
Now, someone please answer me this…when did I become the old teacher? On second thought, please don’t!