This fall semester was, not at all surprisingly, one of the hardest semesters I’ve experienced in a decade of full-time teaching. I’d stack it up alongside my first semester teaching full time–exciting in some ways, but also exhausting and overwhelming and frustrating and depressing all at once as well. I know I’m hardly the only one to feel that way, but that’s actually not at all my point here.
Instead, I want to briefly reflect on a set of developments outside the realm of pandemic-induced, and far more positive. I’ve had the good fortune of seeing a number of former students sharing things about their graduate school experiences and careers and lives in new places via social media over the years, and running into others who are teachers at my kids’ schools or work at the public libraries. But for whatever reason, it seems like this year I’ve seen much more of all of this–weddings, and babies, and home purchases galore. This is always fun to see and hear about, knowing that students I enjoyed are out there living good lives. But it goes beyond that, too. One former student wrote to tell me about finishing up her PhD in archaeology and her new job working in cultural resources management for the federal government. Another who works at Ferry Farm helped me get images of artifacts uncovered around the property and information about them that I used for my class on local history, and whether she knew it or not chatted with one of those students who made the trip across the river to visit. I took a trip to Gunston Hall with my cousin, and it turned out both the woman working the visitor center and the woman guiding the tour were former students.
I think my point is that I’ve been here long enough, worked with enough students, and spend enough time out and about in the community that these encounters are getting to be more common, and that’s more fun and rewarding than I ever expected it would be. In what has been a pretty bleak 9 months, seeing all the great things these students are doing with their lives has absolutely been one of the brightest spots.