Sunday, June 12, 2005

From the Other Side

One of the interesting aspects of being a teacher is that I am constantly surrounded by incidents that trigger memories. I look around our middle school and see kids sitting and talking with their friends in the locker bays before homeroom, forcing each other to climb over their legs and bags to get to the lockers. I see them getting off the busses in the morning, doing (or copying) homework at the last minute in the cafeteria, hanging out together at recess, gossiping about who likes whom and, occasionally talking about their teachers. I see pairs, joined together by the earphones of a single iPod sharing music. The insides of their lockers are covered with photos of celebrities whom they lust after - Johnny Dep, Pamela Anderson, Orlando Bloom, Ronaldo, J-Lo and numerous pop stars whom I couldn’t begin to know, including bands from all over the world.

The odd thing is that suddenly, I am aware of seeing them through the eyes of all our teachers. Did we really think that all of those adults didn’t notice our conversations? That they were deaf and blind, merely patrolling the halls to make sure we went to class on time? That they didn’t become functioning until they stepped into class to impart the wisdom of their chosen subject? That they didn’t notice us dancing too close or flooded in tears after the dances in the cafeteria? We couldn’t have known the hours that were spent in faculty meetings, discussing their concerns about our social, emotional, and academic well-being.

The high school yearbooks have arrived. (We actually produce separate yearbooks for the high, middle and lower schools.) My husband, who teaches in the high school, brought his home. It’s interesting to see how much the traditional books have changed since we were in school. There are pages and pages of colored pictures, lots of candid shots, kids posing and making faces at the camera. And the seniors have much more space.

Each senior has a half-page spread, including a posed picture, but the students aren’t dressed as formally as we were. Sometimes they’re in a tee shirt, a football jersey, a sweatshirt and/or jeans. They could choose from a traditional head-and-shoulders pose, standing with arms crossed, or standing with thumbs hooked on jeans pockets. Remember our dress code?

Their page also includes a baby picture and a half page of comments from the student. They write about their friends in school, their families, memories of specific events (very dangerous). Sometimes they have included a poem, a dedication, and specific reminders to friends.

The best pages are called “Senior Stats”. Here they got to freely express themselves for one last time. A series of comments were posted next to each photo of a senior. The mug shot could be whatever they wanted, sometimes a too-close shot, distorting the image. Sometimes a silly face, or an extreme pose with sunglasses or a hat. Or just the eye, cheek and hairline, very arty. Each senior was asked to respond to the following categories:

N Name (Could be a nickname or wannabe, how you see yourself.)
D Dream
R Reality
N Nightmare
BQ Best Quote
BKS Best Kept Secret
PIC Partner(s) in Crime
UF Usually found...
MLT Most likely to...
LLT Least likely to...

Now’s your chance. Cast your mind back. Leave your now old self behind. What would you have written?

My yearbook disappeared long ago in one of my many moves; I never even missed it. Now, I wish I could browse those dream-like black and white pages and stir up the buried past. I hope a few of my classmates will bring theirs along to the 40th reunion.

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