Remembering back to your former school years can be a nostalgic experience, and sentimental to think of the teachers that guided you along the journey. Some may have been neutral, and others really special – I certainly remember a number of my incredibly inspiring teachers, and I think how fascinating it would be to contact them and catch up. But is that even allowed?
You can contact your old teachers. In fact, many educators love to hear from former students, as this often evokes positive emotions and highlights the meaningful impact of teaching. Once the student-teacher relationship ends, there’s no legal or moral liability to interacting casually with a former teacher.
The remainder of this article will discuss why getting in touch with your old teacher is okay. It’ll also cover the best ways to go about it, how to address them, and more.
It’s appropriate to contact your old teacher and even encouraged by some. Teachers find it just as sentimental as former students to catch up with pupils they used to instruct in school.
However, if you are a student wishing to contact your current teacher, this may be deemed inappropriate and a major liability. In such cases, a professional teacher-student relationship should be maintained, as a teacher could get into trouble for engaging with students in topics unrelated to academics during out-of-school hours.
As a young adult making it in the world after graduating school, it can be intriguing to contact an old teacher and have conversations with them that don’t involve the same power imbalance that overshadowed prior experiences while at school.
Having grown into a more mature person, learning and accomplishing more in life, it can be a source of pride, even for students, to be in touch with their old educators. This is especially true for teachers who made a massive impact on their former students.
My twelfth-grade teacher, for example, helped me to stay focused and motivated on my studies, despite having had significant challenges at home that year. It would have been impossible to graduate and secure a place at university without her help, so it felt essential to reach out to her to share these revelations.
Reaching out to her didn’t only boost my self-esteem, but it positively impacted my teacher’s confidence and feelings of purpose.
So, you want to contact your old teacher! There are various things you can do to find out where your teacher is now, ranging from visiting them in person at your previous school to sending them a quick, friendly e-mail.
If possible, you can visit your old school during work hours. Assuming your teacher hasn’t retired or transferred to a different school, you can just pop into the school’s main office and ask to speak with them.
While the most personal, this option is also the most inconsistent because you might not necessarily get the chance to speak with or visit your teacher that day. There could be a supply teacher in, your teacher’s class may be on a field trip, or you may have dropped in during an inconvenient time, so will have to wait until the teacher is free.
Remember that schools are required to follow safety and security precautions when it comes to external visitors, so it is recommended to inform the school’s administrative team before your drop-in. In some (rare) cases, they may ask you to present a police clearance certificate before allowing you entry, so it’s wise to check with them in advance.
If you do get the chance to pop by your old teacher’s classroom, you won’t regret it. Not only will you get to see your old teacher or teachers, but you will also get to view their classroom and students from a different perspective.
Being there in person will surely bring back countless fond memories.
A simple way to get in touch with your old teacher is to check the school’s staff directory. Most school websites have a tab listing teachers’ names and school board e-mail addresses.
If your former school has that information on its website, it can be one of the easiest ways to reach out to your favorite ex-teacher.
The contact information for the school’s main office is also usually listed in the staff directory. So if you can’t find a specific address, you can always contact the school to inquire.
Once you get a hold of your former teacher’s e-mail address, you can contact them to say hello and start a dialogue.
This option is probably the most convenient. You don’t have to visit the school and potentially get turned away, and it gives both you and the teacher time to think about your responses and reply at your convenience.
Alternatively, consider leaving a message with the school secretary to pass on to your old teacher or ask that the administration staff have the teacher return your call by leaving a message.
Checking social media is a standard and convenient method to find an old teacher these days. There are nearly 2 billion Facebook users online, for example, and Instagram has between 500 million and 1 billion. So, there is a high chance that your old teacher has a social media account.
Don’t know your old teacher’s social media handles? Try the following:
Start with a simple google search of your old teacher’s name and school. This may help you get their contact info or lead to the teacher’s social media profiles across various platforms.
Helpful tip: If you have their picture, use Google’s image search function to find all social media accounts (and possibly websites) associated with your old teacher.
Facebook is one of the internet’s most widely used social media applications, connecting people, young and old, near and far.
If they have one, a Facebook search of your old teacher’s name or school should bring you to their profile. You can narrow the search to specific cities, schools, or workplaces for more accurate search results.
Looking up your old teacher’s LinkedIn profile is more likely to bear fruits than other social platforms.
LinkedIn is meant for professional networking purposes, and most of the working population has a profile with contact information. As such, the chances that your old teacher has a LinkedIn profile are higher than other social platforms.
Depending on your relationship with your teacher (and what kind of person they are), you can also stop by their place and knock on the door to say hello.
This can be considered an intrusive option because it limits the teacher’s chance to refuse or reschedule the encounter. However, some teachers would be thrilled all the same.
So, if you’re confident they would be okay with a former student showing up on their doorstep and you know where they live, this could be an effective way of reconnecting with them.
I ran into my old elementary school teacher on a dog walk a few months ago. He greeted me with a big smile and invited me to his house for a catch-up. I happily agreed, and the next day I went to his home, where he was super welcoming and jovial to conversate about past memories and current matters.
He was delighted and proud to hear that I, too, had become an educator and couldn’t emphasize enough how reconnecting with former students makes the hardship and challenge of teaching worth it.
This experience demonstrates that there are many teachers who would be happy to open the door to a former student of theirs, even if it’s a surprise visit.
Nonetheless, in most cases, it’s probably best to e-mail or call the teacher beforehand and suggest an in-person meeting. Not only is this the polite thing to do, but it makes the whole meet-up more consensual and less intrusive.
There are a few things you should consider before contacting an old teacher. To start, you should address them how you used to (usually, by their last name prefaced with a Mrs, Miss, or Mr.) and remind them of who you are in case they’ve forgotten.
They have probably taught hundreds of students during their teaching career, so don’t be surprised or disheartened if they do not remember you instantly. Tell them the school you attended, followed by the year you graduated, to help jog their memory.
Secondly, you should set boundaries for the conversation and allow your former teacher to do the same. If there are time or content limitations, bear these in mind before you initiate contact and observe them throughout your interaction.
For instance, you might want to avoid topics that are too personal or sensitive for either of you, like relationships or politics.
Finally, keep e-mails and voice messages short and to the point. Reading long paragraphs of e-mails or remembering details over the phone can become more testing as people get older.
Keeping your message precise ensures you don’t overwhelm your old teacher and opens the door for further conversation.
As alluded to, most teachers would be overjoyed with former students reaching out to them. This YouTube animation demonstrates this and highlights the importance of contacting old teachers after you have graduated:
For many teachers, catching up with old students is one of the many things they love about their job. If you use suitable methods to get in touch, your old teacher will be thrilled to hear from you.
It can be a truly inspiring, fulfilling, and eye-opening experience for both of you. Just remember to respect their boundaries every step of the way, and consider asking for consent before you plan a face-to-face meet-up.
- Personal insight as an educator with 10+ years of experience
- Quora: Is it weird to contact an old teacher?
- WikiHow: How to find an old teacher: 9 proven tips
- The Social Shepherd: 30 essential Facebook statistics
- YouTube: Cracked: The Importance of Reaching Out To Old Teachers – People Watching #8