High School

“High school is the best time of your life.” That‘s what they say. Whoever they might be.

Actually, some people do say that and even mean it.

Then there’s the rest of us, those whose lives were much better after high school. I’ve written about some aspects of my own school experience as a student before — on October 10, 2016 and January 5, 2019 — but now I want to share a few thoughts about high school from the teacher’s point of view. My inspiration here is a Facebook post by a former student, Warren, who gave me permission to repost this:

I remember the greasers and jocks in my high school who made my adolescence an unruly and violent hell. They were angry — angry at me, for reasons I could never entirely fathom — and angry with the world around them, which seemed even then to be betraying their hopes in ways *they* couldn’t entirely grasp.

Well, as Kurt Vonnegut noted, it’s chilling to realize the world is being run by people you knew in high school. There are a few people I knew back then whom I’d trust with the levers of power, but the current gang is something else entirely, a blustering aggregation of junior-level thugs and bullies whose bellicosity and limbic-cortex responses make them ill-suited for positions of any responsibility whatsoever.

And even these violent dullards, somewhere deep in their lizard-brain perceptions, know that things aren’t right in the world. All of us sense the troubles descending upon us, but only some of us continue to respond with the archaic magical thinking that essentializes other humans while denying their humanity. For all that conservative “pundits” like to criticize cultural relativism as a besetting sin of the modern age, it is they who are the true relativists, for they maintain a belief that Wishing Can Make It So, whether it’s economics or geopolitics or the environment or gun control or abortion or any of the myriad issues that trigger their fury.

Can you tell from the internal evidence whether Warren is talking about Weston? Or B.U. Academy? Or Lincoln-Sudbury? Could it equally plausibly be any of these?

As a teacher I certainly had some sense of what my students were experiencing, but it was always pretty limited. Occasionally I could see it directly, occasionally a student would open up and share their experiences with me openly in a private conference, but usually there was a wall between what I could see and what was really happening. Walls, of course, have two sides, so a student couldn’t really know what I was experiencing either, but that seems less toxic. There’s no expectation that a student should understand a teacher’s experience, but there’s definitely a need for a teacher to understand a student’s experience. Some may argue that we already know what our students are going through since we’ve all been there ourselves, but it’s not the same: different generation, different location, different decade. Ask anyone my age if we would like to go back and relive our teenage experience — sound like a bad movie, doesn’t it? — and the answer will surely be a resounding NO.

Categories: Life, Teaching & Learning