Today on the way home, I had to run two quick errands. I was delayed a little, but for reasons that I realize I'm thankful for. At my first stop, the cashier behind the desk welcomed me with a friendly "Hey Mr. Smith!" I stopped for a second to hear about how community college was going for a former student. She asked about Allison's health, and I asked about her grandma. When I picked up an order, the brother of a former student of mine was working at that desk. He greeted me by name and asked how school was going. We chatted for a minute about his brother, who has had a rough few years.
At my next stop, another former student greeted me in the aisle in the grocery store. A student whom I recognized, but whose name I don't know, was my cashier. He mentioned having friends who knew me and had taken my classes at Riverside. Then, in the parking lot, I ran into two friends and their kids. I hadn't seen their children for over a year. We talked about elementary schools and the coming summer vacation. While we were talking in the parking lot, a former colleague, who transferred to teach at another high school, walked out. The six of us chatted for a few minutes until I got to head home.
In the late 1990s, the idea of "six degrees of separation" became really popular. Today was one of those days that reminded me how interconnected I am with Durham and the lives of thousands of people because of my work. Earlier this week, some friends and I were trying to figure out how many students we had taught over the course of our careers. If I've taught roughly 150 students a year (a low estimate, probably), I've had the opportunity to work with 2700 students in my classroom since starting my career. It has been good to remind myself that teaching is human work this week, because some of the ephemera of the job has been causing me stress. I'm thankful for community today, especially my classroom, my school, and my city.