I prefer spring semester to fall. There's the movement from cold to warm, from dormancy to life. And there are repeat students, those from the fall semester who felt safe with me or liked me, or maybe (ha!) thought I was easy, or at least the known devil. Repeat students make my classroom more fun for me. I know what I've taught them, and usually they know what I expect from them right from day one. There's no farce of "oh, my professor last semester didn't teach us anything about MLA" or such madness.
This spring, I've had a lot of repeat students, and it was a joy for me to teach them again. Two in particular stand out. A. and L. sat next to each other during the fall semester, but didn't know each other. I paired them up for group work, and they hit it off. When the class wrote personal narratives at the end of the fall semester, I gave students writing about deeply personal or sensitive subjects an opt out of the mandatory peer review. L. wanted to take it, but then said, "If just A. reads my essay, I'm fine with that." I was pleased that she'd found someone she trusted in class.
Fast forward to spring. The girls sat next to each other again. About mid-way through the semester we had a storytelling exercise. L. told the story of how she passed a note to A. one day when she looked upset. A.'s parents are going through a messy divorce, and as brave a face as A. puts on, she's clearly hurting. Anyway, L. invited A. to have coffee with her in the lounge. She told us that they started to talk about the role of God in their lives only to discover that they'd grown up going to the same Bible camp!
Today was our last class. L. had a presentation in which she talked about an experience that changed her life. She got choked up while speaking, but held herself together and finished. As I checked writer's notebooks, I could see A. had wrapped her arm around L.'s shoulder, comforting her. They lingered until the classroom was empty. Tears coursed down both of their cheeks, and I had to bite my mouth not to cry, too. I hugged them each goodbye, told them what a pleasure it was to be their teacher, and invited them to visit my office next semester. They looked like they needed to say something, but didn't know the words.
I know them, though, because I've felt the same way. When I left New Mexico, I cried like a baby to leave my Dana girl out there. A. and L. have a developed a deep, profound friendship, one that I hope will last until they're old ladies. My desire for them is a wee bit selfish; when they're in their 90's cruising the Greek Isles together, I want them to reminisce about how they met in my class. They might not remember much that I taught them, but they'll always remember that their freshmen Comp. class was the instrument of their friendship. There's not much more I can ask for as a teacher; they can look up where a comma goes in a sentence. This bond between them, though? Priceless.