There is an old saying among teachers that the students we teach are only in our classrooms a year but in our hearts forever. I've learned over and over again the truth in that adage.
"Rico" was a cute little boy in kindergarten during my last stint as an assistant principal. He always made it a point to run up and give me a hug throughout his early years. He became a fifth grader the year following my retirement and my return to the classroom at the same school. I was fortunate to have him as one of my students for that year. He was taller, yet that innocent little boy remained. A witty child, yet sensitive and compassionate, he overflowed with joy. And yes, he still gave me a hug every day.
At the end of his sixth-grade year, I announced to the school that I would be leaving due to staff reductions. Rico was not happy at all with this news, and he let me know his feelings several times during the last month of the school year. One day during the last few weeks, while I stood at my spot for afternoon duty, Rico stopped and tried to persuade me to stay.
"I don't really want to leave, Rico," I sighed.
"Then why don't you just stay?" the boy persisted. Kids don't really understand the politics of a school system.
"Rico," I said softly, "there are no openings here. I really wish I could stay with you and all these wonderful kids at this school. But I've got to go where there's a place for me."
Dejected, Rico said that he understood, but I could tell that he didn't really approve of the situation. Nonetheless, he gave me a hug and headed off for home.
A few months later, I began a new life in a new school with a whole bunch of new kids.
In December one of my stories was published in a Christmas edition of Chicken Soup for the Soul. I was invited to sign copies of the book at our local Barnes and Noble. To my surprise, the first customer in line was Rico, along with his mother and his brother "Santos." I gave the boy an autograph (although I am sure he had several of them on school papers from his year with me in fifth grade). He smiled and gave me a hug before leaving the store. The rest of the afternoon was filled with mini-reunions with other former students from many of the schools in which I have worked.
Rico will be an eighth grader this year. How fast time has flown!
A few nights ago, this wonderful kid infiltrated my dreams. I was back at Garden Lakes School as the assistant principal. Rico was in second grade. He ran up to me and squeaked, "Mr. Ramsey, my soccer ball went over the fence. Can you get it for me?" I lifted the little boy up over the fence. He retrieved the ball, and I lifted him back into the schoolyard. He giggled and gave me a hug.
I woke up with a smile.
Today, I received an email from Rico's mother. The subject line read "Christmas in July." She told me that the entire family had read my Christmas story and that her boys missed me. Of Rico, she wrote, "You are and will always be his favorite. Thank you for being the way you are."
A teacher hopes that his students will think of him every once in a while in their years beyond the classroom. This teacher wants each of them to know that he's thinking of them all the time.