Slice of Life March Challenge: March 30th., 2014 – An abundance of Julia’s

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    The March Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by  Two Writing Teachers  


I tend to be a forgetful person – not about ideas or student work or things I want to write about…. but about “stuff”.  I forget where I put my keys, have hung the most comfortable winter coat, placed my warm cup of tea.  And I am often like the plaid coated man in the above cartoon – I walk into rooms with great purpose, and then forget what that purpose was.

But I do remember faces – I remember the faces of all the kids I’ve ever taught, even as they morph into adulthood.  Give me three seconds and a single line of conversation, and I can place the young man or woman standing in front of me, usually with a big smile and open arms. Which is a good thing.

But I am terrible, just terrible, about parent faces.  Perhaps it’s because I meet them just once, on back to school night. Unless there is a learning or behavior issue, or that they are  chaperoning the 6th. grade field trip, I do not see them again.  I wish I did. I wish I could have them come to school for a night of poetry, or a writing celebration. But, that is not possible for a variety of building-specific reasons, so I don’t.  This makes it very difficult when I do run into parents, which happens from time to time since the town I teach in is right next door to the town I live in (what was I thinking???!!!).  So, I often have moments like this one, which took place yesterday at the local (i.e. my town) grocery store.

As I am reaching for a container of chicken broth, I hear a voice behind me say:

“Hi, Mrs. Smith! How nice to see you here!”

I turn around and there is a lovely lady, a parent, I am sure of it from the way she is smiling at me – that’s a smile of affectionate remembrance, but who?

After a moment or two of pleasant back and forth about the winter (every second of which I spend racking my brain to try and nail the identity of this nice lady), she says,

“Julia still talks about you – you were her favorite teacher!”

Julia! Now I have something to go on…so I search my memory for Julia’s – I have had twelve over the last ten years, which Julia could this be?

Julia’s mom shares some news about her – but it’s all very unspecific: she’s loving school – high school or college? she still plays soccer and the piano – well, that doesn’t help, most of my kids play a sport and an instrument.  And she still has the copy of To Kill A Mockingbird that I inscribed just for her on her eighth grade graduation.

Oh, I think to myself instantly – that Julia!!!

And suddenly I see her face just as clear as day – Julia, with her long,curly hair. Julia, who often came after school to check out a book or chat about her day or ask for a lollipop.  Julia, who left our school in order to attend a private Catholic high school, but who would stop by on school breaks and religious holidays.  Julia, who wanted to be an anthropologist, because of Jane Goodall (every research project she ever did was always about Jane Goodall). Julia – who would be in her second year of college now.

Yes, I remembered Julia.

And, suddenly, our conversation turned real.



17 thoughts on “Slice of Life March Challenge: March 30th., 2014 – An abundance of Julia’s

  1. OH I SO KNOW THAT FEELING! I too remember the faces – and the names – but cannot always connect them without some specific details such as those that lovely mom offered. She must be in the same boat!

  2. Memory is so precious, as your writing shows SO well. I’ve started reintroducing myself to people and telling them of my connection to them right away when I see someone out of context for this very reason that you describe. Then the moments of racking their brain are avoided! I’m inspired by how well you know your many, many years of students!

  3. I love this peek inside your thinking. It’s impossible to remember all the names that fill our lives. Glad you finally connected all the clues!

  4. Yes, this is a feeling I have had many times over. Often, I don’t make the final connection about who the student is or who the parent is until a 3 a.m. wakeup/moment of clarity – “oh, that’s who that was!” I like that you conversed long enough to get that distinguishing morsel – here’s to longer conversations!

  5. I totally get this feeling. I usually ask students for the first two letters of their name if I can’t recall their name immediately. I love how you finally got to her name.

  6. Thank goodness for that final clue, Tara. We see parents more often, but now I have parents talking to me because I’ve taught their child in a book group, etc., & I have no idea who they are. I’m trying, but 200 plus parents is a lot. Just like your Julias! Sometimes when an older alum returns, the faces are so familiar, & you’re right, it clicks. We don’t forget the students. Love hearing about this!

  7. If you’ve been teaching for any length of time, you can totally relate to this post. I’ve had these very experiences. I love being the kind of teacher who becomes a favorite. I had this happen in an airport. I had taught twin Indian boys in third grade. The mother told me I was still their favorite teacher. My goal is to be listening to NPR Fresh Air and hear an author thank their teacher, me. We have purpose, Tara, and passion, and that’s what it should be about.

  8. Love this post and what triggered your very specific memories and real conversation! I live in the town I teach in and I see parents and former students daily, everywhere. AND, I often can’t remember why I came into the room, but I can remember what that student needs, needed and what they want! My excuse is there is only so much space that is available in my brain. The little details get crowded out by more important items.

  9. It’s amazing all the thoughts that go through our mind in a short amount of time. I am so glad you gathered enough clues to keep that Julia still has a copy of the book! That had to make your day!

  10. You had me laughing in the first part of this post because I am so much the same way, only I leave my coffee instead of my tea. My family makes fun of me A LOT! The second part of the post wound its way beautifully and I was so happy that you remembered and placed Julia, especially through a TKAM connection, because that is my favorite book. Wonderful post, Tara!

  11. “Give me three seconds and a single line of conversation…l” great line! I’m the same. Even with the parenting reference. I forget their faces too but never my kids. That Julia sounds wonderful. This slice has so much love in it! I love it!

  12. “…she is smiling at me- that’s a smile of affectionate remembrance…” This is what thrills me. Usually I get enough clues to piece together the mystery and solve the puzzle of who, just as you did. But in that moment of not knowing it always makes me happy that I am approached with a smile. This is a reward of our profession beyond words really to be able to touch lives in that way! 🙂

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