Contacting the Past

Last night I posted a diary about an email I received from a former student.  It contained the following words:

I hope that you can find it in your heart to forgive me for my silence as you struggled to simply live your life. I am a father now, and I would never want my children to have to suffer cruelty that I know you had to deal with when you were in Conway.

The diary (A Letter and a Response) includes my response to this and the rest of the letter.

I would have been remiss to not look at the incident from a slightly more detached viewpoint as well.  Here was a student contacting a professor after a decade or more to try to correct an injustice he had perceived himself committing towards that teacher.  How often does that happen?

Crossposted from Teacher’s Lounge

In fact, how often do people contact their former teachers?  I remember my high school physics teacher telling us when we graduated that he never wanted to see us again, because the only ex-students he ever saw were losers.  Is that true?  If it is, why?

After I came out, I contacted many of my former college math teachers because I thought I would like them to know who I was as well as who I had been.  But I mostly did that in person.  I’m not sure what I would have said in a letter.  Maybe I should try to find that, to do some more deep digging and tell my professors how they have participated in the construction of this person here before you.  

I did write such a letter…the inklings perhaps of what it should have been…to my Ph. D. adviser/mentor/friend when I asked him to write letters of recommendation for me after I had my surgery.  But I fear that, again, this was more about me than about what my teacher meant to me.

My own life has been one of constantly moving on, often severing ties with my previous incarnation in order to establish new ties.  I understand that most people’s lives have not been like that.  So perhaps the wall I perceive between people and their former teachers is breached more than I perceive.

I’d like to believe that.


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    • Robyn on December 15, 2007 at 7:41 pm

    …or maybe this can be the impetus for some folks to reach out to their teachers while there is still time to do so.


    • Alma on December 15, 2007 at 7:57 pm

    to visit her favorite teacher every year.  He really enjoyed it.  I don’t know if she’s still doing it or not.

    When my kids were in school, I had the opportunity to thank a lot of my old teachers.  I doubt if I would have done it if I hadn’t already been at the school for the kids.

    • jessical on December 15, 2007 at 10:16 pm

    …I may have mentioned this before…my folks have taught all their lives, both at the K-12 and university level, all in the same small teacher’s college town.  People come up to them and say hi all the time, remembering first grade, or high school, or stuggling through college math or ed classes.  

    On the downside (short transie whine) people in the local education community are sometimes surpassingly cruel to my mother, because of my transition.  Just don’t have words for that stuff, but you can imagine.  The fact she’s had so many of their kids ameliorates this somewhat, I think…there’s a bond, even if the woman’s child is a monster :}

    And some people…hell, in my misspent youth I had more than one person at a party seek me out and say “y’know…I just wanted to say to you…even though people laugh teachers and stuff…I never, ever would have understood algebra without your dad.”  

    • RiaD on December 16, 2007 at 12:35 am

    this will encourage people to reach out, say ‘thanks, if not for you…’

    I’ve told you about my contacting teachers… all of these were 4-12- haven’t had higher learning & I don’t remember earlier teachers 😉

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