It's been a year. How does the time pass so quickly? We blink and time swishes by, leaving us in a wake of would'ves and should'ves. I have them. I should've gone to see him more. I wish I would've called him more. Who knew he'd leave us so early? Not me. Certainly not me.
Max taught at the alternative school where I currently teach, the only male teacher. Max had a great sense of humor that he claimed helped him deal with "all the women in his life." He was opinionated an/d passionate about education, especially alternative education. I was usually one of the first ones at school, followed close behind by Max. I started trailing him down to his room and asking questions. Mostly about education and kids. And I learned. A lot.
Pretty soon those morning sessions turned into phone calls during the summer or after school was done for the day. Although I knew I was somewhat of a pest, Max never got impatient with me. He influenced my life like few others have.
I called him one day. He had had some not so positive news in April but during the summer he underwent a new treatment that doctors were hopeful would shrink the lesions on his brain. I called at the end of August to see how things were going for him. Max said in his matter-of-fact voice that the doctors told him he had about six weeks left. The next weekend was Labor Day. I told him I was coming to see him. He tried to argue with me but saw the futility in that. I would be there on Saturday.
I made the twenty-hour round trip and saw him for an hour. That was the best decision I ever made Less than two weeks later, he was gone.
So why am I telling all this? Life is short. People we care about need to hear that from us. Especially in the classroom. Max taught me that. He was all about relationships and telling kids he was proud of them. And letting them know he cared. That's what he taught me.
He taught me that it's okay for students to use calculators. And that sometimes students just need to be in school because it's a safe place. And being flexible is not a sign of weakness or a lack of classroom management. And that students are more important than the content or curriculum. And...well, he taught me more than I have the space to list.
Max left his hand print on my heart. He influenced me professionally in ways for which I'll always be grateful. A year later and I still find myself picking up the phone to call Max, then I remember he's not there. But his influence is.
Be a Max to a younger colleague. Invest in them professionally. Be flexible in the classroom. Remember that some days students may not be in the mindset to work because of family problems. Don't be married to the lesson plans.
I hope you have a Max in your life. I'm grateful I had one in mine.
It has made all the difference.