What we remember

In high school, I used to talk to my friends about how I would never be a high school teacher.  I used to look at those teachers, and discuss how they were obviously just people who never wanted to leave high school.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved high school.  I started in the lower level classes and had to work hard.  As I progressed through school, I moved up in ranking and in my junior and senior year, had a good group of friends — we definitely weren’t the cool kids, but we were happy.  Most people would call us nerds.  We, of course, didn’t think of ourselves that way — mostly because we were teenagers.

And that is high school.  Thinking stupid things, because you really don’t know.  Only knowing who you are by what you think, or what you hear other people say about you.  Your whole life before you, and, well, you’re a teenager.

Your fears, your happiness, your successes and failures are all based on an immature brain.  When we, as adults, think about how hard or easy high school is, is based on faulty evidence collected by an unreliable narrator — just as we should question everything that Holden says, so too should we question what high school is like.

The only people who actually know what high school is like, are the people who never left.

I was wrong.  First, I became a high school teacher.  Second, it isn’t because they liked high school so much that they don’t leave, but because they feel a need to help those students still in high school.

It shouldn’t surprise me that I was wrong, I was thinking, back then, with the brain of a sixteen, seventeen and eighteen year old.  Most adults would say: what did I really know.  But, that is the brain with which we remember high school, and it is with those memories that so many parents attempt to help their children navigate high school.  Those memories, though, are faulty, and, for many, decades old.  Times have changed.  People have changed.  School has changed.  Furthermore, all of the memories of high school only had one purpose: to get you through high school.  Therefore, they are limited to the interests you had, the classes you took, the needs specific to your plight.

When their children are approaching high school years, I always feel that parents should have a guide; a person by their side who can gently inform them of how credits work, how tardiness is determined, how to ensure that homework is completed – all of the minutia that is high school.  Unfortunately, since we all went through high school, most of us believe we understand how to help our children traverse that complicated maze, but we forget, our memories are those of a person who often, and sometimes only, thought of him or herself.  A person who was concerned about what would happen after graduation, but who also was concerned about with whom he would attend the football game, or the date on Friday, or if he should have his backpack hang off of his right or left shoulder – the important stuff.

In helping our children through high school, we should remember that we need that help.  We should consider how little of what we do now is solely based on information we learned a long time ago when we were teenagers.    We should look towards those people who can answer the questions we don’t even know we should ask.  Most importantly, we should keep asking questions until we are completely positive that we understand.  We should think about that what we remember may be different than what really was.


2 thoughts on “What we remember

  1. My experience (43 years) was that some parents thought they knewabout high school because they went to high school. I understand that. However, those parents did not realize what teachers have to do to make it all happen or how much a teacher knows or cares.

    • I agree Lynn. And it’s not because they didn’t want to, but because of where they were in their lives. That’s the rub, isn’t it? We’ve all been to high school, so we must know about it. I think your point really gets to the bottom of it: even though we traveled there, we really don’t know the people. It’s by living there, and truly experiencing the culture that we begin to know the depth of those who support us.

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