What I Forget…

Forgotten Memories Are Still Shared Memories

Remember that time…

I can’t count how many times a former student has started an exchange, email, or tweet with this trio of words. After fifteen years in the classroom, most of which was spent with seniors, there’s certainly no shortage of inside jokes, heart-to-heart conversations, and class-specific memories to go around.

The problem is I don’t remember them all.

Remember when you gave that fire and brimstone speech after the Heights game and you thought I was smiling? No.

Remember when you did that silly dance in the front of the room? Negative.

Remember when we had that discussion about The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and you said I made a point you’d never considered after teaching it for so long? Sorry, nope.

Because there’s only one of me and well over a thousand former students, math and cognitive psychology alone dictate that I can’t possibly remember all there is to remember. For a while, I begrudged that immutable fact. I cursed myself for not storing up all the memories and all the feels in the same way my students did. I wondered how present I was during those fifteen years.

Then I got over it.

It doesn’t matter if I remember what my kids remember. What matters is that I gave them something to remember. Our shared experience is really only based on circumstance. Our association with and contribution to that shared experience is wholly personal.

So let it be.

Let your students and colleagues remember what they want to, how they want to. Absent a floating, omnipresent scoreboard indicating how often you actually remember what others remember, being a main character in someone else’s memory should be enough.

Teaching and leading are deeply personal endeavors because they include people every day. How we choose to interact with those people, to treat those people, and to honor those people will shape their memories whether we remember them or not.

So the next time a former student or colleague starts a conversation with “Remember that time…” I’ll be honest if I don’t.

But I’m glad you do,” I’ll tell them.

6 Replies to “What I Forget…”

  1. I remember you left me a really lovely note when you returned our senior videos. That video was so important because I filmed my Mom-mom who passed away months later. I remeber watching it after she passed and reading your note and being really grateful to you for that assignment and your kindness. I have no idea what it said, it’s in a box somewhere now. But I remember how it made me feel, and that’s priceless.

    1. I had a similar senior video comment from you saying how much having our mom Mom in the video would mean so much when we are older!

  2. I have two!

    Remembering when one of the dudes in class (our senior year English class was packed full of jokers) was being a smart ass and heckling you while you were reading aloud to the class. To deal with him, you made him trade places with you; you took his seat and he stood front and center of the class, then you heckled him until he turned a ripe tomato red. It was glorious.

    The other is when I wore a vintage wedding gown to senior prom after wearing black mostly every day of my high school career. You took me aside and told me, “I gotta know. Why did you do it?” I replied that I just felt like it, but you knew how much fun I secretly had with that one.

    1. “Anonymous”…I don’t remember the first one, of course, but I’ll never forget that dress and the courage it took to wear it. You’re a boss!

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