I had a blast from the past this week. I came out of a classroom, and there she was. My best offensive player from that magical soccer season three years ago. I don’t think I’ve seen her since graduation, so we had a lot to catch up on and talked for over an hour.
At one point, the conversation turned from catching up to reminiscing. We strolled down memory lane that took us to Region Champs and the second round of the state tournament. We recalled the class we shared and the struggles she and her classmates had meeting my lofty expectations. Then we smiled and got a little teary-eyed.
She started it when she began to thank me for the difference I helped make in her life. Then, I chimed in and proclaimed how much she taught me. Not just lessons on being a better teacher and coach, but lessons on being a better person. Her eyes widened with the unexpectant reversal, so I explained.
I met Adriana during my first year at Jordan. As a senior, she sat in my AP language class and would constantly remind me how difficult the class was. She wasn’t alone. Most of the 43 students assigned to AP Lang were coming to me from less rigorous beginnings. Many would call them ill-prepared for a Ms. Green class. Not that I’m impossible. Just that I’m a little tough. So, Adriana was one of my kids who challenged me to meet my students where they were and then help them get to where I wanted them to be. I’d say we all learned a lot that year.
But it wasn’t until second semester soccer season when Adriana really became the teacher and I the pupil. I think it was the first week of practice, and I loaded up my SUV with five of my players to cart home. Adriana sat in the passenger seat. New to Columbus, I didn’t know where I was going, so I yielded to their directions. We turned into Wilson Homes, a place I had never been. As she opened the car door, I asked, “Adriana, your apartment looks dark, are you all by yourself?” She gave me a respectful but obvious grin. She nodded and so I asked, “What are you going to do for dinner?” Her response was simple and accompanied by yet another grin, “Noodles.” With that she shut the door and keyed into her dark apartment.
I must have had a distressed look on my face because from somewhere in the back of the SUV, one of my girls said, “You have no clue how we live, do you, Coach?” I responded, “I sure don’t, but I want to learn.”
And learn I did. That entire season I learned the most profound of lessons. I learned that my girls were resilient and powerful and strong. I learned that my girls were able to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to achieve greatness. I learned that a hug is the best gift to give sometimes. I learned that listening is more powerful than talking. I learned that time is precious and attention is, too. Above all, I learned that addresses don’t matter; what’s in the heart does.
So, yeah, Adriana and I cried. Right there in the middle of the hallway, we cried for the exact same reason.
I’m glad I saw her because she rekindled something inside me — a thirst to walk in the truth of how impactful being real and present and patient and kind can be. So, thanks, my Adriana. Keep teaching.