I am knee-deep in portfolio assessments for my Ap Literature students right now. With a 33″ inseam, this amounts to a substantial pile of work. Fortunately, the vast majority of the portfolios – explorations of a self-selected collection of poets and their works, annotated, analyzed and complemented by original student compositions and graphic contributions – upwards of forty pages each – are stunning exemplars of thoughtful, insightful work (and if the students managed to do this without thought or engagement, they certainly demonstrated a can do attitude to get the grade…) These projects take between 30 and 60 minutes each to grade, depending on the quality. However, this preface is not a complaint at all, I am really enjoying reading the work. It is merely to set the context for this next installment of True Stories.
In order to get through the portfolios before the next coming of Christ, I take three to work with me everyday: one for the train ride to work, one for lunch, one for the train ride home. It is working out.
Yesterday, I was completely engrossed in one of these projects on the train, listening to music, contemplating the rain and heading home. As I was reading I started to get that feeling. You know, the one where you can actually feel someone looking at you? I generally do not engage on Bart, it is just a better strategy. But this feeling was a little different. I looked up at the seat across the aisle to my left and saw a face I recognized immediately. It was this weird feeling like I was seeing someone who I saw everyday.
I have not seen this person since 2002. She was a World History student of mine at Incline High the year before, that would be 2000-2001. We had matching faces of total recognition that can only come when you have lived and worked in a town as small as Incline.
I was staring and I couldn’t figure out if it was you!
Hehhehh… Well, it is. What are yo up to?
I am going to school in Oakland. I was trying to see your handwriting and then I knew it was you!
I looked down at the paper I was grading and the Sharpie in my hand.
The Sharpies… we said together and laughed.
A quick catch up… Me, still teaching after a five-year stint over seas. She, living in Berkeley with her boyfriend and studying to be a physical therapist. Both of us, apparently, looking exactly the same. I’d have known her anywhere and she knew my penmanship. The human experience is amazing.
Exiting the Transbay tunnel she got up: I’ll find you on Facebook!
Yeah, definitely. Great to see you… say hi to the others!
And she exited the train.
And the teacher had a little grin thinking back on all those years, all those faces, all those people, who I am so lucky to be able to recognize in the most random places, on the most mundane of days.