Personal Development

The Questions That Reunions Raise

Today at brunch, I ran into one of my high school teachers and her partner, Burt. I mentioned that going to my 10-year high school reunion had raised some questions for me:

* At graduation, what were my hopes for the coming years? How close have I come to living out what I had envisioned, and how do I feel about that?

* In what ways did school help me get to where I am now? In what ways is it holding me back?

* How might I have turned out differently if I’d been able to do what I wanted in school instead of what was required of me?

Burt said that he’d attended his 35-year high school reunion this year, and he and his classmates had been having similar conversations. They’d been talking about how their education had shaped them, and what effects it was still having on them. It fascinates me that these questions are coming up not only 10 years after high school graduation, but 35 years after. It reminds me of how important it is to reflect on them throughout our lives, so they don’t occur to us for the first time at our 50th high school reunion, or our 70th.

How would you answer these questions yourself? Leave a comment.

Ten Years Later: My High School Reunion

My high school reunion was this past weekend. I graduated in June 1998 from a small, Catholic high school with a class of 95 students. Although I spent a lot of time as a stressed-out overachiever, I always felt grateful for the community where each person had a unique niche. While people had loose identities as “popular,” “jock,” or “brain,” the school never felt cliquey to me. Here’s the scoop on the reunion events.

Friday: Casual pub night.

Reuniting with my classmates was much less of a big deal than I’d imagined it to be. Almost everyone looked the same, with the exception of a couple of people. Thankfully, no one seemed to care about impressing anyone with status or material success. In fact, we hardly asked the question, “So what have you been up to for the last ten years?” It was like we were used to seeing each other all the time and were just having beers and enjoying each other’s company.

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Growing Pains

I’m feeling stuck. Stuck, stuck, stuck. That’s all I can think to write. The whole point of taking a break from elementary school this week was to catch up on blog posts, but I can’t seem to finish a single post. I can’t even seem to finish a sentence.

On my To-Do list are around 50 posts about grades K-3 that I want to generate, dozens of features I want to add to this website, and 200+ miscellaneous items, but all I can do is sit here feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. Darren’s in town, and instead of spending time with him, I am staring at my laptop and deleting every other word I type.

Tonight I had a breakdown. I got misty-eyed in the coffee shop where I’d spent hours agonizing over a blog post that I never finished. I teared up when I walked out of the coffee shop and saw the parking ticket on my car. I full-out bawled when I felt like I was ruining the farmer’s market date that Darren and I had been planning for a month.

It was one of those days where I wanted to drop to my knees, look up at the sky, and sigh, “I give up.” It was a day when I was surrounded by reasons to be happy, but I still wasn’t. The farmer’s market was full of music and laughter and delicious local food. Darren surprised me with roses to cheer me up. We ate incredible calzones, followed by ice cream cones. And still I felt stuck.

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Not So Little Miss Popular

I never thought I’d get the chance to say it, but it’s true. I’m the most popular girl in my class. This is the first time I’ve ever had that experience, and you better believe that I’m loving it.

I wish that I could have known 20 years ago, when I was in 3rd grade, that one day I’d get a chance to be the girl that everyone paid attention to. At age 8, I was more teacher’s pet than social butterfly.  I was exceptionally tall for my age and had straight brown hair down to my waist. I wore headbands with little teeth that dug into my scalp, and I had to put on thick pink-framed glasses during class so I could see the blackboard. (We had actual blackboards, not white boards like the classrooms do now.) In one class photo — the kind with the futuristic “lasers” in the background — the huge puffed sleeves of my dress are uneven in height. (FYI, those are tack-marks on the photo, not pockmarks on my face.) In another photo, my bangs are slicked into what appears to be a cowlick combined with a comb-over, which is just about as attractive as it sounds.

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Day 4 Video Logs: Classroom Update & Childhood Journal

Here’s an update on what I’m up to in the classroom this week. Fingerpaintin’, here I come!
(FYI, this was recorded Monday afternoon, 8.25.08)

In the second video, I read from my journal at age 5, to remember who I was at that age. Having spent a lot of time with 5- and 6-year-olds this week, I’ve been trying to piece together what I was like myself. I bet you’ll never guess my answer to “If I could be any famous person, I would be…” (answer at 2:12)


Class photo, 1985-1986

This week I’ll post about:

  • My 6-year-old admirer and other amusing pint-sized characters
  • Kids’ creative answers to “What’s the name of this letter of the alphabet?”
  • Recess, the cafeteria, P.E., and other elementary school memories
  • Wise words from a kindergarten teacher

If you have journal entries or keepsakes from your school days, share them here or on the new forum.

Things Have Changed Since ’85

And I’m not just talking about Tom Cruise moving to Crazytown, USA.

In returning to my elementary school, I never expected to “step into the same river twice.” I knew that the school had changed quite a bit since I attended it from 1985-1991. Over the years, I’d taken occasional walks around the campus and seen new jungle gyms (or “big-toys” as we used to call them) installed and the paint accents go from red to green. I’d seen the library and office move locations, and new portables installed.

So far, I’ve observed these other major changes:

  • Demographic shift. My 1985-1986 kindergarten class of 29 kids was composed of 27 white kids, one Latino kid, and me (I alone composed a good chunk the school’s Asian population — and I’m only half). Barbara’s 2008-2009 kindergarten class of 20 kids has 5 white kids and 15 Latino kids. This reflects the overall demographic shift in Sonoma County. Between 2000 and 2007, the county’s Latino population grew 30 percent, and the white population declined by 7.2 percent. The trend continues, making it challenging for the school to raise its test scores when many of the kids are English Language Learners.
  • Uniforms. The majority of kids in the kindergarten class wear tiny khaki or blue bottoms and solid colored shirts. Apparently, a few years ago the school adopted a policy where students would wear uniforms by default, but parents can sign a waiver opting out. That way kids can still choose their clothing if they wish, but the standard of uniforms evens the playing field for low-income kids. That way, there’s no pressure to wear the latest Hannah Montana watch or Gap Kids hoodie, and gang-related clothing is a non-issue.
  • Extended kindergarten day. Kindergarten used to be divided into morning and afternoon sessions. Now, with the exception of early release days, it keeps the same hours as the older grades, from 8:30 to 2:30. I’ve heard that the kindergarteners, even at age 5, now follow a curriculum based on state standards.
  • Lunchroom practices. Hot lunch used to be served on washable trays, but today it’s unfortunately packaged in disposable styrofoam containers. I’m curious about the reasons for this, and the difference in cost. On the upside, chocolate milk used to be available only on Wednesdays, but now it’s a delicious permanent fixture.

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IDEC: Headspins, Helado, and Hineys

Democratic Educators: We so crazy

This is your brain on IDEC.

I’m back from the International Democratic Education Conference 2008, my head still spinning from seven days chock full of energizing workshops and conversations. Here are my relevant stats:

  • Average hours of sleep per night: 5
  • Mosquito bites: 6
  • Guest bloggers for Reschool Yourself: 7+
  • Servings of dessert: 20?
  • Blog posts composed in my brain: 25?
  • Workshops attended: 33?
  • “A-ha” moments: Beyond number

Here are a few topics for upcoming posts:

  • The FAQs of Democratic Education: If kids aren’t required to go to classes, won’t they lurk around on MySpace all day? Does this type of education work for kids from unsupportive homes, and how possible is it in public schools bound by government regulations? Won’t kids go all Lord of the Flies on us if unchecked by a firm authority?
  • The coolest alternative schools and programs you probably didn’t know existed
  • A list of online tools that make me marvel at the powers of the Interweb
  • The IDEC “Kids’ Table”: An introduction to my all-star cast of young rabble rousers who are gonna shake things up in education, big time. And they’re fun to have a beer with, to boot.
  • Why I now trust myself to raise kids one day and not screw ‘em up TOO badly. (I said one day, after a bonsai, a kitten, and a puppy have all survived on my watch.)
  • More “Reschooling Reasons” and a new series of posts called “Reschooling Tools”

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My Day of Doing “Nothing”

I am writing from the same couch where you could have found me over 24 hours ago, wearing the same pajamas. I haven’t showered or put in my contact lenses, and I have crossed off a grand total of one item — a brief phone call — from my Saturday To-Do list.

To my usual self, it would appear that I have done nothing today. My usual self would be annoyed about all the items left for tomorrow. It would sigh and fret over the opportunities missed by spending a full day vegging out. My enlightened self, on the other hand, that fleeting self that I’m always chasing, knows that I’ve accomplished a lot more in my day of doing nothing than one would think.

If it weren’t for my throbbing headache, the one that has stayed with me on and off for days, I would have gone through with the day’s agenda. I would have walked over to the Carnaval parade before going to the bank, two grocery stores, and the gym. I would have done the sinkful of dirty dishes and vacuumed the rug, then would have driven an hour to a friend’s graduation party. I might have then stopped by another friend’s birthday at a beach located an hour in the other direction before driving home. But my headache kept me glued to the couch, too exhausted even to get up and brush my teeth.

I almost never get headaches, but for the past couple of months a potpourri of health issues has started cropping up, practically a new one each day. It’s like the menu du jour in hell: “What’ll it be today: the cracked lips or the numb toes?” I know that I’d be healthy if I could just listen to my body’s needs, sleeping when I’m tired and exercising when I’m restless instead of pushing through physical fatigue in order to do more. I pulled an all-nighter last Wednesday to complete a copywriting assignment, and at 5 a.m. the anxious tightness in my chest that has been growing for months screamed at me, “You need to stop and breathe!” But I could not take a full breath, and being on deadline, I ignored my body’s warning signals and soldiered on.

I’ve been this way since I was little, not wanting to miss out on anything, trying to cram as much activity into a day as humanly possible. My mom loves to remind me of how, as a toddler at naptime, I’d tell her, “I’m not tired! I don’t want a nap! I—” and fall asleep mid-sentence. There’s even a photograph of me (see above) reading two books at once with a bottle dangling from my mouth, eyes at half-mast, my mind fighting off the sleep my body knows it needs.

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