“Hey, Mr. Light!” I heard a voice yelling in the distance.

I was waiting for a traffic light at a busy intersection. My car window was down. It was a gorgeous day.

The voice came from somewhere off to my left. I scanned the streetscape for several seconds before I saw him.

It was Jake! He was standing in front of a pizza joint, wearing a uniform, about to jump in his car to make a delivery.

I waved and yelled back.

Jake had been in my group piano class at University of Louisville a few years before. I don’t think I’d seen him since that semester ended. A guitarist, he was one of the large group of students who had to pass piano proficiency by the end of sophomore year. (Mine was not a class students took by choice.)

Jake was always a good sport about my relentless posture reminders. His default posture at the piano was so bad, I once took pictures of him and posted them on a class “wall of shame.”

It was always good-natured teasing though, and students understood that. I think my students typically know that I like them and enjoy working with them.

But Jake wasn’t someone I got to interact with outside of class. Unlike the students I collaborated with for juries and other performances, I really had minimal contact with him; so his boisterous greeting surprised me and brightened my day. It also reminded me that we never really know how our behavior and demeanor are impacting others. Even when our contact with students is minimal, they sense if we care about them. Surely, a big part of our job is caring.

As we often hear, students might not remember what we try to teach them, but they will remember how we made them feel.

It’s always worthwhile to be patient.
It’s always worthwhile to be kind.
It’s always worthwhile to be encouraging.

And, perhaps, a little good-natured teasing doesn’t hurt.

P.S. I’m happy to report that Jake has graduated from the world of pizza delivery to a full-time music industry job.