One reason I love teaching is that it gives us the chance to really connect with kids. One of my favorite parts of being a teacher is connecting with students and then watching them grow and mature. For many teachers, our students become our "kids," a title we use with fond affection. Often these connections with students make our jobs difficult, too.
This morning Nate drove me to Lincoln so I could run a half-marathon. About 20 minutes before the race, a former student of ours called Nate. It's not unusual for former students to stay in touch with us via texts and emails. But we don't get many phone calls from kids; it was also 7:40 in the morning on a Saturday (a time college students don't frequently see), so Nate answered it right away. Based on Nate's responses, I could tell it wasn't good. "How's Lea," he asked? "How are you doing? Are you home now? Please call me again if you need to talk. Tell the other kids that as well," he said while his eyes grew misty.
"What's wrong?" I inquired.
"Emma died in a car accident last night," he stated.
Nate taught Emma for three years in choir. She was never in any of my English classes, but I came to know Emma through church and through our high school musicals. She was in two of the shows that Nate and I directed. When you help with an extracurricular activity, you come to know students on a deeper level than in the classroom, which makes this much harder on Nate. I taught her little brother Jake last year and came to know him more through FCA. Jake is young, but he's a solid kid with a great Biblical foundation (their parents did a nice job raising these kids). Tough moments like this can be a definitive moment for a person's walk with Christ. My prayer is that Jake would grow deeper in his relationship with the Lord during such a hard time.
Emma always had a smile on her face. Seriously...sometimes I wondered if her face ever hurt from smiling so much. I loved watching Emma on stage because she always looked as if she was having a great time, but this is no surprise because it seemed that this was how Emma chose to live her life. Come to think of it, I just can't picture a time I ever encountered her in a bad mood. She had a great sense of humor and a contagious positive attitude. You couldn't help but smile yourself whenever you spent any amount of time with her. Emma brought joy to a whole lot of people.
This is the first student both of us have lost. It's tough to sort through all of the emotions affiliated with such a hard event like this. Teaching is incredible because it allows us to build relationships with kids, but it's difficult to experience losses like this.