My least favorite emails from students include these kinds of sentences: “I wasn’t in class this morning. Let me know if I missed anything important.” Or this: “I’m going to miss class Monday. Will I miss anything important?”
Yes. Yes, you will miss everything important. What will you miss? I’m so glad you asked.
You will miss that moment that will never come again, with people who will never gather in this same configuration again, with words spoken by us all that won’t leave our lips again in that same way.
You will miss a comment by a student that could have changed your mind; you will miss talking to the one girl about something that might just make her your new best friend; you will miss a lesson on writing that might have inspired a novel or memoir that the world needs. You will miss writing something in your notebook that you’ll keep for forty more years and read again when your own daughters take a writing class.
You will miss this. And we will miss this.
We will miss your voice answering a question that unlocks something for someone else. We will miss the tilt of your head as you think about something and the way you tap your pencil like that. We will miss your insight. When you miss class, you miss you being you at that moment, in that place where verbs and semicolons dance in some spiritual place where students gather with coffee cups and bagels and notebooks and pens with a teacher whose entire life culminates in this moment when she holds the chalk and begins.
So yes, you missed something.
You missed everything.