Saturday, September 24, 2011

Forever in High School

For Thursday, September 22, 2011

Whether I am at home or at work, most of my days are spent in the midst of teenagers. Sure, there are some behaviors or personalities that are challenging, but most of the young people I work with have good hearts and life affirming honesty. They are the people with whom I choose to spend my days. I witness candor and energy in my children and my students that usually rubs off on me. Most of the time, I am pretty sure that being constantly surrounded by teens keeps me young. Do you realize that being away from a high school setting for only the four years I was in college back in the late 1980s, I’ve truly never left high school?

I realize that with the exception of those of us who work in a high school setting, the idea of “never leaving high school” is one that is quite horrific perhaps to most people. I even heard a particular anchor on the news the other day say that no amount of money in the world could ever make her return to high school ever again. I have witnessed enough unhappiness in teens to understand where these folks are coming from. People can be quick to say that those four years in secondary school were not the best years of their lives, that those years were really tough to endure. I share with my students who struggle that life after high school offers them so many options and a freedom they have yet to taste. I ask them to "hold on" when they want to lose themselves in despair, or when they tell me they never want to go to college. I tell them what they need to hear, that after graduation they will find the world beyond high school.

But my own high school years were great fun. I won’t be joining the ranks of those who hold onto their high school “glory days”, who think that life after high school never measured up to those years spent in that setting, who forever live in the past of days gone by, but I do think that part of the reason I enjoy teaching high school is because I was pretty happy, safe, and content in my own high school years. The years were not perfect; I had my ups and downs; but generally, yes, I had a good time.

In July when I went to my 25th class reunion I had the chance to spend time with some of the people who made up my world from the age of 14 to 18. However, with the exception of one of my dearest friends, Ann Marie “Ree”, I strangely did not hang out with the people I was closest to back then. There were several folks from “my old crowd”, but the night went by so quickly that I didn’t feel I had enough time to catch up with them. And a few of my best friends did not attend the reunion and I’m not sure why. Still, I treasured the time spent with several other classmates. The beauty and joy of dinner time spent with Kelly, Renee, Amy, and Ree made the evening so worth it; how good it was to hear of their families and life milestones. Later when I got up my nerve to go talk with Steve and his wife Debbie, I was reminded of how important it is that we take risks to reconnect with people who share our special love of our hometown. It seems that each reunion I attend, I have a special unexpected reunion with a particular classmate. This past July, the time I spent talking casually with Steve and Debbie was the highlight of my night. The simplicity of talking about our kids and their school years, a few moments spent reliving memories of Steve scaring me with drives down Dead Man’s Curve, and Deb’s mention of watching over my Dad when she now sees him in town touched me the most.

Back in my classroom, I see teens living their high school experience each day. I envision them older, at their own 25th class reunion someday. I think of the men and women they will grow to be and I often consider the possibilities for their own memories of high school. I do worry for some who struggle with the social scene and I try to tell them that even though they are young, I can see in them the beautiful amazing adults they are going to become.

Sure, being surrounded by teens can easily remind me that it has been more than a couple of decades since I was their age. I am growing older. But in many respects, I’ve never left high school. And as weird as it may sound to some folks, I am more than okay with that.

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