Monday, April 25, 2011

On My Visit to My Old High School

I had the incredible opportunity to visit my old high school while I was in Chicago last week.  This was something I was really looking forward to; I was worried I wouldn’t have enough time to cram in a visit. I wanted to not only visit my old teachers, but also to walk around the hallways aimlessly and remember what it was like to be me eight years ago. It still blows my mind that I’ve been out of high school for that long.

Okay, fine. The voice of accuracy in my head desperately wants me to clarify how long it’s really been. Technically, I had gone back to visit a few of my teachers shortly after I graduated high school, but I choose not to count that as a “proper” visit as I was still in college and coming back home quite often. It’s not like I was living out of the state as I am now. So it doesn’t count, okay?

So Wednesday morning, I walked into the visitor’s entrance at gate 3 and received my visitor’s pass for the day. It was odd because as a student, I never entered through gate 3, so this was all new to me. I was expecting a sudden rush of memories to cloud my consciousness, but nothing happened because it wasn’t a familiar process. However, I did recognize the security guard who took my name down. She recognized me as well, although I have no idea why, I wasn’t exactly known for causing trouble during my time there.

I walked down the hallway, past the Dean’s Office that I had never actually been inside of, and found myself in the main hallway that encircled the courtyard.

Oh. Hello, memories. Thought you’d left me on this trip. I stared blankly into the courtyard for a few moments.

As I slowly tried to draw myself out of memory lane, I noticed it was oddly quiet around me. I was quite sure today was a school day. I saw random students walking with a bathroom pass every now and then. So where was the noise? Where was the random student singing at the top of his lungs as he randomly strolls down hallways trying to avoid class? There was none of that.

I could hear only hear the faint sounds of walkie-talkies buzzing as harmless looking security guards patrolled the hallways. You could hardly call these people security guards: they’re wearing polos and smiling at me as they walk along. Smiling?! Seriously? Where I work now, we have security guards with permanent frowns dressed like policemen. I guess attire doesn’t matter because our guards aren’t exactly great at keeping students out of the hallways and yet these nice looking folk seem to have it easy. I suppose I was half-expecting things to be like they are currently at the school I teach at. How is my old high school doing this?

I chose to ignore that question for now and continued walking towards the teacher cafeteria, where I initially met some of my former teachers. We sat and chatted for a while and I bounced around from the teacher cafeteria to classrooms around the school. It was quite a full day and I had a lot of catching up to do.

It was great to see how well my former teachers looked. Seriously, they looked like they hadn’t aged a day since I graduated. We caught up on life and had some pretty meaningful conversation. I regret not taking advantage of that while I was a student there. I was too busy trying to do-do-do rather than socialize and learn through the experiences of others. That’s one thing my current students actually do take advantage of, when they actually show up that is.

Overall, I was quite pleased with my visit. As I signed myself out and returned the visitor’s pass, I realized two things stuck with me:
  1. My senior year English teacher sincerely thanked me for visiting. I mean, all of my teachers thanked me, but his was truly heartfelt. He said, “You have no idea how much this means to me. All teachers need this.” No problem, big guy. I guess I sort of knew that, being a teacher now. I would love see former students of mine successful in the future.

  2. My junior year English teacher taught for some time at an alternative school within the Chicago Public School system, so he sort of knew what my experience was like teaching at a transfer high school in New York City. He asked me, “How long do you think you can do this? Working in that kind of environment isn’t exactly emotionally sustainable.”
I know he’s right. But I’m not jaded just yet. I look forward to coming back this week.

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