Friday, March 4, 2011
Reliving High School
Before you label me as some kind of masochist, I'd better explain Tandem School, my high school in Charlottesville, VA, to you. It's now a Quaker school, but when I went to Tandem it was a hippy college prep school mainly housed in a former plantation house. Total school size: just over 100 for 8th to 12th grade. My class graduated with 28 kids, and we were considered unusually large. I attended Tandem 8th through 12 grade, and look at high school (mostly) as a happy time. Middle school was a different story altogether.
7th grade was my year from hell. I was tall and skinny, and owned nothing fashionable or trendy. My best friend had just moved to Germany. School was boring and I sat at the back of the classroom and read when I finished my work. My school in Northern Virginia was 1350 kids for two grades. High point: a very good Creative Writing teacher. Low point: a really mean gym teacher who was a former Drill Sargent.
My school believed that kids should have a voice in the school community. We had a meeting every morning to discuss issues. I remember passionate discussions about clothing (the head of the school objected to pants that were ripped, um, too much -- and we defended our right to free expression), language, and getting along. We complained when our classmates were slobs. We were encouraged to speak up, participate, and become engaged. We helped to keep the school clean. We called our teachers by their first names. Our soccer team usually lost. But we all knew how lucky we were to be there, and to find a place that encouraged us to be our own true selves.
The school is different now. It officially became a Quaker school years ago. It's a good fit for the school, although I really preferred it to stay non-denominational. It's a lot bigger. They've increased the number of students. They have a gym, and a basketball team that does pretty well. And the area around the school is no longer woods. There's a new public high school across the road, new condos nearby and even a supermarket up the street.
I'm in touch with most of my classmates through Facebook, and I see quite a few around town now that I've moved home. They're parents, artists, musicians, professors, business people, entrepreneurs sales people, designers, and scientists. I really hope most of them come in May, but I know most won't. They're not people desperate to relive some golden age. They're too busy living their interesting lives in Italy, China, California, New York, the Virgin Islands and beyond. I feel lucky to have known them all and had an usually interesting and fun high school experience. And, in May, I'll go out on the back porch and toast them all (present and absent).
Bonus picture: my high school class picture on the front steps of the school. I'm not hard to find (I'm told I look pretty much the same!).