Author’s Note: This piece, He Didn’t Notice Me–Reflections On My Business, took place on a NYC public train in September 2016, and has stuck with me for quite some time. When THAT happens, I know it’s time to talk about it, share it, and deeply process why it’s not leaving me.

I’ve been out of the public school classroom for four years now, and on Friday, I was sitting directly across the train from one of the final eighth-grade students I had the honor of teaching. I have waited for this day to happen since I left—NYC is a big place and every time I go out and about I look for students I once taught and people who I knew in my previous life (aka…life before switching careers and creating a life I love).

This student SHOULD have recognized me. If you read my book, Breaking the Silence: My Final Forty Days as a Public School Teacher, you will remember him as “Levon” from Chapter 16, where he freaks out about the bug in our classroom. This student and I had such a loving relationship—he showed up to my classroom religiously, while ditching other teachers’ classes because he hated the way they treated him. I helped him see why he needed to stay in school, so he had a chance at breaking the poverty cycle in his family. His struggle as a student was real, and my struggle as a teacher to keep him motivated was real, too.

The good news is that I was relieved to see he was wearing a backpack, which indicated to me that Levon was still in school. He must be a junior by now. It was a tearful and proud moment for me.

The bad news is that he had no recognition of who I was whatsoever. I didn’t speak to Levon, but choose rather to observe him from across the F train isle to see if he would remember the teacher who had his back, fought for him, and encouraged him to always do his best.

When he made eye contact with me, there was zero recognition…

I carried this heavy emotional weight with me as I went on about my day. I questioned if I had truly impacted him the way I had remembered….and if I meant as much to him as he still meant to me? By the day’s end…I had shed tears of loss and love, for the student who didn’t recognize me.

On Saturday, I woke up with a new perspective.

Levon most likely didn’t recognize me because:

  • There weren’t dark circles under my eyes, indicating a lack of sleep and stress-filled nights from trying to meet unreasonable deadlines demanded of me by a screwed up school system.
  • I wasn’t in baggy, ill-fitting clothes and tennis shoes, which is what I used to show up to teach in, knowing that this clothing choice would make the 14 hour days somewhat more comfortable.
  • My face was not plastered with frown lines and eye wrinkles from carrying the stress that comes with teaching 100+ inner city middle-school students and loving them each unconditionally.
  • I have gained 20 pounds or so since leaving the classroom—mainly because I now have time to eat properly and am not running myself ragged.

As I sat with this new perspective on Saturday, I found myself weeping at my kitchen table. This time, not because my student didn’t recognize me, but for the immense gratitude I have for the life I’ve built for myself the past few years. Growing this business hasn’t always been easy, but it’s definitely been worth it.

I also knew I needed to write to you to take time to say “thank you” to YOU! Thank you for being a part of The Writing Whisperer Community. I love waking up each and every day and serving you through relevant content, getting to know you better in our Facebook group, and working with you in my coaching programs, online classes, and retreats.