Today I went for a walk with my son to the 7-11 to get a bottle of ketchup. We had just run out, and he won’t eat much if there isn’t ketchup on it. Our home is in a cute part of town that is walking distance to really anything we need. I live in the community where I work so I often see students and parents while I am doing my regular-life things. I’ll be honest - it used to stress me out. I always felt like someone might be watching me. Perhaps, at the grocery store buying toilet paper, or something even more embarrassing…
I don’t know what changed, but now I am not stressed about it anymore. In fact, I actually enjoy seeing familiar faces at the park with my kids, at the bank, and even at the supermarket. Today was no exception. On our short stroll to the store, I ran into two of my former students.
The first one, Doug, shouted from across the street, “Hey! Mrs. Rafferty!!” He came right over and wanted to tell me about his new year at school. He told me how much he loved playing the guitar in my class. “I’m really good still, you know.” He went on about all the songs he practiced and was proud to say that he learned a few things since he took my class two years ago. It was good to see him, and I was glad he was still playing. He struggled socially in school - constantly finding himself in the middle of the junior high drama. I was glad to know that he still had a connection to the guitar, especially now that he is in high school.
We continued on our walk and saw another student, Karter, who graduated a few years ago. He told me about college and his training for the National Guard and how he still finds time to take out his guitar to play. It brings him joy in his very busy life. Even writing this makes feel overwhelmed with emotion.
Teaching is hard stuff. There are many challenges that we face everyday, but through it all, at its core, teaching is the most important work that anyone can do. We lay the foundation for every other career and can affect the lives of so many people. As I go into my second full week of school, today’s encounters were a timely reminder about why I do what I do. I teach music to help people discover the music that exists inside of them. Today was validation that yes, I am making a difference. All of this...on the way to buy some ketchup.