Departures, arrivals and the magic of layovers

Published 12:33 pm Friday, November 14, 2008

As a high school English and writing teacher, my profession is unique.

Essentially, my colleagues and I give students the skills they need to leave us behind, go out into the world and achieve success.

I’ve been teaching at Pelham High School for more than two decades. As a faculty, we work hard to prepare and empower our students. Lately, I’ve been reminded that what we give our students might have more to do with the warmth that surrounds them within our school.

Last winter, I received an email from one of my former students who was enjoying her first year at a large university.

Her words captured a sense of nostalgia that I often find lingering at the edge of my own consciousness. She told me that, although she really loved her life at the university, she was surprised by how much she missed high school.

“Oh, I don’t miss high school in a tangible sense,” she wrote. “Who could miss the crowded halls and the tardy bells? No, I miss knowing that everyone wanted the very best for me and believed I could achieve the best in a way that made me want to prove them right. I miss having teachers who knew me and were truly invested in me and committed to helping me achieve my dreams.”

College was great, my student assured me. She simply found it ironic that, only after leaving high school, did she realize what a warm blanket of support had enveloped her in her small town.

“I wish I had appreciated the cozy cocoon of high school more, instead of being in such a hurry to graduate.”

This week I’ll be traveling with nine of my literary magazine staffers to St. Louis for the National Scholastic Press Association’s Annual Convention. Thanks to an incredibly generous benefactor, they’ll learn things about computer layout and design that I don’t have the equipment or the knowledge to teach them.

When we return, they’ll lead the rest of the staff in creating our best school literary magazine yet, showcasing our school’s most impressive student artwork, photography and writing.

In Wilder’s, “Our Town,” Emily asks if “any human beings ever realize life while they live it, every, every minute?”

Another character responds, “The saints and poets, maybe they do some.” I’m glad to be traveling with poets.

I’m hoping the nature of my young traveling companions will help me realize and appreciate every, every minute of this amazing adventure because I know what I’m doing. I’m preparing them to leave me soon, go out into the world, and succeed beyond the boundaries of even their very vivid imaginations.

Connie Nolen can be reached by e–mail at