Last May designated 10 years since I graduated high school, and the question for everyone was: Should I go?…
So many people are skeptical to attend their high school reunions but I think it is so important to remind ourselves of our roots is so important to understanding our identity. Of course, when we graduate, and we can move out of our house, and we have perhaps more freedom to be around the kinds of people and kinds of situations we want to be, we have more flexibility to create the kind of identity we desire. But, we cannot ignore those very formative years up until that point.
I think, from T.V. and movies, these perceptions are engrained in us that, at our class reunion, we inevitably will face our ex-boyfriend who makes fun of us, and brings us that awkward time in gym class that we hoped to never re-visit; we expect the high school jock to still be a jerk, the lead cheerleader to still be a Mean Girl, and the band geek probably hasn’t showered since high school. What I found in this reunion was, actually, those imaginary social boundary lines no longer exist. It used to be that I was not allowed to sit at that lunch table or to talk to that person for no other reason than these arbitrary social boundary lines that prevented us from interacting.
I realized that other people’s perceptions of us are often not our own perceptions of ourselves. In my memory, I hung out with the Bible beaters, I was quiet and attentive in class, and embarrassed when my parents couldn’t afford to buy me that new Motorola RAZR phone. But, amazingly, those were not the memories that stuck with everyone else about me. They remembered standing at the bus stop and getting yelled at by the neighbor for throwing rocks into the street. They remembered that time in German class when Frau got mad and kicked a hole in the wall. They remembered the lunches, when we were seniors, and brought spiders to school for Spider Wars–their perception of High School Britany was NOT my version of High School Britany.
What I take away as a high school teacher: the high school experience is so much more than learning content. Sometimes as content teachers, we get so caught up in “kids needing to learn grammar rules” and “kids needing to learn the list of US presidents”–which, not to say those lessons are not important. But, as I reminisced about our high school experience, I can’t say that there was one person who said, “Wow, remember that lesson on fractions Mrs. Anderson taught us? Wasn’t that so cool?”, or, “I’m really glad we did editing circles in Mr. Jones’ class! That helped me so much.” We get so tied down to achievement scores, passing tests, sending kids to college that we forget they have this whole other preoccupation and set of developmental milestones that will far surpass presidential lists and editing circles. Our memories of high school are so much more about our relationships, about the embarrassing things that happened to us, about breaking curfew and then suffering the wrath of our parents.
No one is where they though they’d be ten years later. Heck, I was voted, “Most Likely to Become a Millionaire”…and now, I’m a teacher…”millionaire” will never be in my personal description. Our identities will shift and change, we will develop new interests, go into new careers, befriend new people–but what will always remain is someone’s character–the way they treat others. It does not matter if you have blue hair or if you dated the star of the basketball team in high school, and it does not matter how successful (or unsuccessful) you are now–because all of those things will change, but what will remain is your character and how you treat others.
I think, as a high school teacher, the takeaway is really challenging me to reconsider the content that I teach, and how I teach it–how I can help to recreate these so valuable memories and experiences in my classroom (right, because those are the things that last), how we can integrate more character building, and how we can cultivate relationship amongst our students.
It may be a social faux paus to NOT attend your class reunion–why would I travel so far? why would I want to be around THOSE people again? why do I care what THEY think? But, I think I can speak for everyone at the reunion–the experience was FAR better than anything we ever imagined it to be and I’m still riding on Cloud 9!
Thanks to everyone who showed up!