and there in my classroom doorway stood one of my former students, a girl whose older brother regularly hung out on the stairs of our school with a five inch knife in his belt, a girl who wanted – and still wants – to become a neurosurgeon, a girl who – I’ll confess it – has always been one of my favorite students, one of the ones I worried about, will she have the strength it will take to bring her dreams within reach? So there she was in skinny jeans and a long slouchy sweater, looking just like herself, only older, and I gave her a hug and asked how she was doing. Good, she said. She’s in tenth grade now, taking chemistry, at a private school upstate. Do you feel prepared, I asked? Yes, I have a 97 average! I gave her five. But I miss you so much, Ms. Frizzle. A few minutes later, I asked if she’d say something to my sixth graders. I introduced her, and she told them a little about herself and then I asked if she had any advice for them. I was always talking a lot in school, she said, but I got good grades. So, just make sure if you’re going to do something like that, you have the grades to back it up. And pay attention to science, because you will need it.
Then I had to go back to teaching, and she left. In my head, the tension between sustainability and meaning buzzed a little louder.