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It's so gratifying to see students making strides

It was a slow and somber car drive home from the elementary school where I had just finished teaching an eight-week writing course for 7-, 8- and 9-year-olds.

Although I teach only one hour a week, I was sad that I had just ended my final class for the fall semester.

There is something uncommonly rewarding about dropping into kids' lives for such a short period of time and hoping to have a positive influence.

Some people work all day and come home completely drained, ready to relax. When I get done with my Tuesday afternoons, I certainly come home tired, but there is always something one of my students said or did that was so funny or heartwarming that I can barely remember the challenge of the other 59 minutes.

I was, surprisingly, a little nervous about week eight -- graduation day. This semester there were a lot of disruptions, and I wondered if I had taught them anything at all. During week seven, I told the kids they could invite their parents for the whole class.

I asked them if they wanted to have a normal class, with their parents being their writing partners, or stand up and read their favorite story they had written during the class. Every hand flew into the air in agreement to read a story to their parents. This surprised me since most of their readings during class could barely be heard.

As the final day arrived, my 10 budding writers entered the classroom one by one and proceeded to practice their stories, quietly, in separate areas of the classroom. I asked myself: Who were these conscientious children, and who stole my rowdy warriors?

When the parents arrived, my students were excited to show their work, which I had hung on the chalkboard. Proud fingers pointed toward the masterpieces they had produced. A few minutes later, with the parents listening intently, I proceeded to start my final class.

I asked for volunteers to explain to the parents how each class went and what we did. I thought to myself: What if they don't remember a thing?

Some days I wondered if they even wanted to be there. Other days I felt like I was merely a baby sitter in an after-school environment.

But as they meticulously explained, in detail, each step of my process perfectly, I became the proudest teacher in the world. My students bubbled over with enthusiasm as they explained not only what they did but how they learned to do it. Maybe they were listening when I was speaking to them!

When the readings began, every child read flawlessly, standing straight and speaking louder than I ever could have imagined.

When the class ended, I took my traditional pictures of the group for my souvenir collection, and proceeded to put my supplies back in the car like every other week. But much like the other classes I've taught after school, the feelings of finality washed over me as I sat at a stop light waiting for it to change.

I knew I would no longer be a part of their lives. I was simply a visitor for a short span of time, and now that time was over.

In a few months, the classes will start again with 10 new students, hopefully eager to continue their love of writing with a teacher who can't wait to teach them. How much fun is that?

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