I looked at my class roster today, and cried.
There was one less name than there was yesterday. And although I barely knew the student taken off my list of students, it crippled me emotionally.
I love getting to know my students. It’s why I became a teacher. It’s why I choose to teach at a small college. By the end of the semester, I get to know all my students — some more than others, but a little about each person. And they learn a little about me. But I’ll never get that chance with Anna.
I met Anna three times, to be precise: summer orientation, fall orientation and in the first meeting of the freshman experience class I teach. That means I called her name three times, and she responded each time, either by saying “Here,” but more likely by simply raising her hand.
I take that simple process for granted. When I call a student’s name, most will usually be present. There’s always some absences, but I never worry about the missing student. Whether they’re legitimately missing class or just skipping it, they always come back.
But Anna, who’s still on the class roster I printed out at the beginning of the semester, will never come back. Of course, I could print out the new roster with her name removed, but that doesn’t seem right. She didn’t drop the class. She didn’t change majors. She didn’t fail.
She died on her way to class. Tragically killed by another driver who hit her car head-on after crossing the center line on a busy highway.
She’s no longer on my class roster. She’s not on my list of advisees. Her seat will be empty in my classroom. But even though I never got to know Anna, I get this sense that I’ll never forget her.