There is a moment when it all transforms.
A precise moment when the students who will become more than just students turn into the kids who stick in my heart. They will be the few that return, who hug me in Wegmans or keep me abreast of their journeys long after they have crossed the commencement stage. These are the kids who evolve beyond the class and transcend the roles we occupy. They are the ones that really become connected to me–and me to them– in that lasting, amazing way that is really the ultimate reward of teaching day in and day out.
But that exact moment is hard to decipher and even harder to predict. There is a clear line, but it is only visible in the after. I have not been able to figure out when it is coming, but I recognize it when I have passed over. There is a perceptible difference in our interactions, big and small, and our work becomes a part of a much larger dynamic. It feels like we are side by side, shoulder to shoulder, as opposed to facing one another or, in some cases, standing with our backs to the other.
Today is that day. I wish I knew what the ingredients were or how to somehow control this bit of evolution, but that is beyond my comprehension. I just know that somehow, today, in the midst of responding to a racial incident that left adults shaken and students vulnerable, meeting in our library and not the familiarity of our classroom, and operating on less sleep than my coffee could counteract, there was The Shift. It happened late in the day and it could have easily passed by unnoticed. Except that the contrast to the past (almost) two years made this impossible to miss. It is a bright yellow dot on a canvas of grey, a rare bloom on a ghost orchid.
I know that this day cannot last. It is not a day that can be every day. But I also know that this is the other side of the line. We have transformed and it is not possible to fold the wings back into the cocoon.