It was a scene, straight out of the ending of Disney’s Mary Poppins. Somehow I almost expected to see people popping into and out of chalk drawings and chimney sweeps kicking up their heels in front of me on the footpath.
In the early afternoon, on Monday, I met up with a former student. A teenager who participated in SADD, came with me on a field trip to see RENT in NYC and was a musical star in high school was in southern California for a show. The sixteen year old, who sat in my American History classroom over a decade ago, is now fully grown and living a life he loves. What more could a teacher possibly want for her students?
Tim embodied creativity when he was in school and now makes a living doing just that-creating. Between making music, performing, working with people and showing up on television screens daily, he brings out his happy all day long. Social media allows for constant connectivity and it’s how a former teacher and student managed to grab coffee and go for a walk years later in a new city, on the other side of the country from where they first met. Oddly enough, connecting with his eleventh grade social studies teacher wasn’t the strangest part of the day-later, he was off to lunch with his second grade teacher. Now that’s saying something!
After paying for my hot chocolate, with the sweet remark of ‘thanks for the education’, we spent a few hours meandering through the pretty streets of downtown San Diego, the Gaslamp District, Seaport Village and the Embarcadero Park. He bought a kite. We flew it together. A new memory was formed.
It was in this moment that so many things came full circle for me. On this Monday, in San Diego, California, I was able to take a few hours to catch up with someone and spend time just being. Had I never taught and then left teaching, not been able to freelance, or had something else going on we couldn’t have connected. If his talents and dream hadn’t brought him to the west coast, the moment wouldn’t have existed. We stood on the footpath, surrounded by nature and pedestrians alike, and did one of the simplest things possible while finding the utmost joy. I can’t remember the last time I flew a kite, or if ever. I’m sure at some time in my youth, I did, but nothing jumps to mind.
As we filled each other in on the gap between student and adult and teacher and peer, there was ease in the air. Perhaps it was the gorgeous sunshine and slight breeze off the water, perhaps it was a shared past and reconnection, perhaps it was two people who are happy in their lives and space sharing an afternoon or maybe it was none of the above. Maybe it was the gifts of travel, social media and the connections they bring that help to reestablish friendships. Perhaps it was a bit of Disney magic infused in a weekday. I don’t know.
What I do know, is that for a few hours, on a Monday in June, I remembered the joys of teaching, the rapport and connections made with students through both formal and informal education, what fun it is to watch kids reach their full potential or even exceed what they originally thought possible, that character matters and that if you do it right, even someone who is now walking red carpets with Hollywood movie stars remembers, tells you it mattered, and in his own way-thanks you.
Who knew flying a kite could be so very special.