Ever an economist, trying to get the most from a limited budget, the “extreme couponer” in me came out recently when I went to a local store with a coupon promising me quite a bit of a discount if I spent a specified amount at that store. And so, I took the coupon and a shopping list to see what discounts I could earn. I must admit that I was so focused on meeting the requirement for the coupon that I barely noticed that the woman checking me out was one of my students. It was not until she mentioned to me that I was the third person from Ursuline to shop at that store that day did I put her face and name together with my (rather large) class. She asked me what the probability would be that three of her professors would come into the store on one day, and I complemented her on thinking about statistics on her day off. Such random encounters occur occasionally while I am off campus, and, the longer I teach, the more likely it becomes that I will run into someone from a present or past class.
That random encounter made me reflect on times I have run into students while out and about. I remember the time I saw a former student with her son at a T-ball game my daughter played in. She was now teaching math at a local school, and told me that her older daughter was quite the math whiz. And there was the time I saw another former student in the grocery store. She is also teaching math, at an under-funded Catholic school, and says that she applies topics from my (advanced) classes most days in her own classes. The time another former student approached me in a restaurant, I must admit that I had no memory of who she was. She, however, had a clear memory of me as the teacher in her introductory course that finally helped her understand how to graph lines. And the single mother who went on to medical school after graduating from Ursuline introduced me to her new young son when I met her at a local carnival. As I think of these encounters, I recall what my husband likes to say. “This county is really one big small town, so be nice to everyone.” Yes, that is good advice.
It is advice that came to mind recently as the sports seasons changed. I must admit that I was happy to see soccer season end, just as snow started to fall in the midst of (very cold) play-offs. This past week, the basketball season began and my daughter gladly took her place, as she practiced indoors, on what appears will be an excellent team.
As I picked up my daughter from basketball practice, I noticed a woman in the crowd who looked rather familiar. It took me a second to realize that she had been my physical therapist five years ago, when I broke several bones at once. Thanks to her, and modern medicine, I am once again as mobile as I was before. The leg I thought would never again hold me now brings me respectable distances on a treadmill, and the arm that flapped from my wrist now holds book bags filled with heavy text books. Little by little, this woman and her colleagues taught me how to recover from my injuries. I had the chance to thank her that night, and to (re-) introduce her to my daughter, who has almost doubled in height since they last saw each other.
I have a clear memory of not limping at all as I bid my former physical therapist good-bye. She and her colleagues were certainly good to me. I only hope that I can have as great an impact on my own students as she did for me.
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