I've been teaching now for 22+ years, and students never fail to astonish me. I've often thought that teaching is in part like falling in love many times a week. Students are generally nicer than I was at the time. They're generally more inquisitive than was I. They're more kind. And they're so full of potential. I get caught up in their lives for these brief 75 minute sessions, and then, four months later, they disappear from my life.
With very few exceptions, I teach first and second year courses. I hope to plant something that will help them get through the next few years and maybe leave a permanent mark. By the time students graduate, though, they've probably long forgotten about me, and I never get to see them progress. It's tough.
There have been a few times when I've run into old students, but not many of them. I remember running into one in the parking lot who had me four years before. He was becoming a teacher and doing his in-field work. He saw me and wanted to thank me for talking about stuff none of his other teachers mentioned. I was flattered and floored. I hope he's still doing okay, and I really, really wish I could remember his name.
This semester has been one for the books. My student have had to deal with an election from hell, with a global pandemic which seems to be without end, with the turmoil of the Black Lives Matter protests. This week, I gave them an extra credit assignment which simply asked them to tell me how they are doing. I just finished grading class three's responses, and my heart hurts for so many of them. Anxiety, depression, illness...more of them are affected than not. And I'm now only a face they see on their screens. I wish I could do so much more for them. I ache for them, really.
If you know any young people, be nice to them. They are working through stuff farther than have any of us.