“Ms. Watkins, do you know any humanitarians?”
Pause. When students ask me questions that I’m not expecting, I will wait a moment while I process the question and make sure I know what exactly is being asked. Humanitarians?
“Well John, do you mean like Gandhi or Mother Teresa? Where did this question come from?”
John was quiet a moment then admitted, “I was reading your bio on the school website. You talked about something humanitarians… so I was curious if you knew any.”
Now I’m mentally trying to view my bio searching for humanitarian. The quizzical look on my face made John defend his question and admission. “I was just searching around, just looking to see about all you have done.”
Humanitarian? Think. Think. Got it! “Do you mean Humanities? I received a fellowship with the National Endowment for the Humanities. Is that what you saw?”
Mystery solved, John and I had a conversation about education and fellowships and the definition of humanities. I was honored that he wanted to know more about my early life. He was interested in the opportunities I had, the education I received, and the places I traveled. As he was leaving my classroom, he exclaimed, “You were so cool before I knew you!”
I was cool! I did amazing things around the world and throughout the US. I became a life-long learner and engaged in activities that kept my mind fresh and informed. I was a dancer, a writer, and an artist. I was involved and fearless.
Wait… I’m not cool now?
Cool before I knew you. The teacher/adult John knows today is a summation of the past experiences. But honestly, the amazing things on my bio were nearly twenty years ago. 20 years! I do different things now that are still amazing, but different amazing from the adventures of the early years of teaching.
I always say teaching high school keeps me young. I am young at heart if not in years. But my students see me as a peer to their parents. And that is not cool. However, it is a reminder to my students that their parents may have been cool before you knew them. Just ask!