Bumping into former students

Published 6:00 am Friday, July 27, 2018

Fond memories surround my years in the classroom. I loved being a teacher. Part of me will be a teacher forever. It gets into a person and never leaves.

Occasionally, former students cross my path. I’m always glad to see them, get hugs, and updates from them about their lives, their families, and pursuit of dreams. Sometimes it is hard to recognize former sixth graders as full-grown adults, some with their own children. It is more difficult to recognize a sweet boy’s face that is now covered in facial hair than girls who are now lovely young women. At times I stumble over trying to get the right name with the right face or trying to place the student in the right age category.

This past couple of weeks, I have run into many former students who are now involved and working in the medical field. Some are nurses’ aides, some nurses, and some techs. For some the work they are doing now is merely a stepping stone to career choices in the future.

I’ve been amazed at how many of the Harlan Appalachian Regional Hospital staff are former students whom I enjoyed in class. I’ve also been surprised to find former students working at the Tri-Cities Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center. These encounters give me such hope for this generation who have chosen vocations that serve others in need. These young people have so many more vocational opportunities than I had when I was in grade school and high school.

In my day, women should aspire to be wives and homemakers. Those who dared dream beyond this “normal” might choose a career in teaching, nursing, secretarial work or missionary work. For the young men, the sky was the limit, but for the girls, thinking outside the box was not encouraged.

I tell former students that I’m glad to see young people working and paying in their taxes to support the system for the rest of us who are retired. This is somewhat of a joke, but in reality, it is an important part of our social structure for senior citizens.

I would like to praise the former students who have assisted in the care of my dad during medical testing, surgery, ICU, recovery, and now rehabilitation. A certain amount of pride has arisen in me for each one of them. I’m so happy to see these students actively pursuing their dreams.

My dad has done extremely well through his health ordeal and we are all so very thankful for his progress. I can’t help feeling that his amazing recovery at this point has been an answer to prayer, but also the active role of these students in his recovery process. To be given the care of senior citizens in their young hands and to do so competently and cheerfully is a wonderful thing.

I may, perhaps, have more compassion on the nurse’s aides than others because that was my first volunteer job when I was young. I was so sure that I wanted to be a nurse. The summer after my eighth grade year, I had an opportunity to volunteer at a nursing home within walking distance of our house. I was so proud to put on my crisp red and white striped pinafore, starched white shirt and nurse’s hat as I marched off to the romantic notion of helping others.

I’m glad I did this volunteer stint in the nursing home. It cured me of ever thinking I could make it as a full-fledged nurse. I couldn’t handle the emotional loss of going in and finding a favorite patient passed on to eternity on several occasions. This was the turning point that made me begin to look toward teaching.

I certainly admire and appreciate all the caregivers involved in my dad’s progress from nurse’s aides to department heads, physicians, and every other person who pours themselves into the care of patients. And I couldn’t be prouder than to find my former students among these amazing people at every level of care provider.

Reach longtime Enterprise columnist Judith Victoria Hensley at judith99@bellsouth.net or on Facebook. Check out her blog: One Step Beyond the Door.