Not a Teacher, a Friend

ARF8NK Red-kneed tarantula Brachypelma smithii

About 17 years ago I taught a really small class of 4th graders. It was the first year I taught 4th grade. I had previously taught 6th. The students seemed so little and less smelly and I instantly fell in love with them.  They were precious.

I had them do an activity one day, you know, one of those fillers. I had them draw and color a picture of their favorite day. I got pictures of birthdays and Christmas and then one picture of a car wreck. It was a horrible scene with bodies strewn on the road, blood and an ambulance. I took the picture, smiled and asked the student to explain it to me. I said, “how can this be your favorite day?” He said, “It’s the day I got my heart.”

Well, that afternoon I called his mom and told her about the picture and said, “Is there something you’re not telling me?” She laughed and explained that her son had a heart transplant when he was a few days old. They had taught him to be grateful for his heart.

We had such a great year! That student was so unique and fun! He brought in his pet tarantula and we kept it and his cricket supply for a week or so. One cricket escaped and stayed with us for the rest of the year, chirping during tests.

I had the privilege of teaching at the same school with that student until he graduated. I kept in touch with his family as he grew into adulthood and got a job. His family celebrated every day they had with him because the doctors had said he may not live far into his teens. He is now the longest living heart transplant patient!

Now in his 20’s I just got news that he’s not doing very well. So, today I’m going to go have lunch with him and just hang out. He’s not just my old student, he’s my friend. And that’s the cool thing about being a teacher: once your students leave your class they become your friend. You end up with a lot of them. But none quite as special as the one I’ll be visiting today.






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