On Tuesday I went to visit my previous school on what I thought was their last day of class before winter break. (It turns out I really suck at reading a calendar…they still had one more day. So much for my plan to be minimally disruptive.)
For some reason, I felt a little apprehensive going back, and I’m still trying to put my finger on why. Part of me is still a bit shaken from leaving my most recent school, but LSH felt like coming home, which is bittersweet and ironic and [fill in Alanis Morissette song title] because last year I couldn’t wait to come home from there. Through all the ups and downs, Lima left a mark on me, even though sometimes I hardly recognize the person I was last year. It’s kind of strange, because last year I was so much more outwardly shiny and generous to others and patently unkind to myself in the dark and now…well, I am far less generous to others and a bit less unkind to myself, I suppose. A lot has happened in the last eight months to enact that reversal; I’m not sure yet that I like it, but I also don’t think that I’ve reached true equilibrium yet, so I’m not too concerned.
I will also confess that, yes, I was concerned about how I would be welcomed. I told just a few teachers that I would be visiting so I could be sure to catch them during prep, and one student who happened to ask on Sunday how I was doing and that I should come back. I think maybe I had some residual guilt that I had somehow abandoned them/my calling, and maybe a teensy bit of glittering-image concerning how I would answer the question, “So what are you doing now?” (Taking pictures, selling makeup, exercising, and generally behaving like an upper-middle class postgraduate vagrant, thank you.)
When I got there, I went the back way through the offices like I still worked there. I could still picture coming there for my interview almost two years ago, and now I knew the school like the back of my hand. I was catching up with some of the administrators when students started filtering through the halls before lunch. I saw a few double takes and puzzled looks, and then one of my most outgoing students from last semester recognized me and flew into the office with his arms out. (I think if he had been twice his actual weight I probably would have fallen over, but fortunately Marcus is quite svelte.) The bell rang, and I went out into the hall with the intention of calling on the teacher’s lounge first. Not so much. I stood in place for about five minutes and received about ten thousand hugs in that time, after which I decided to just make a circuit of the cafeteria first before seeing the staff.
I’ve visited my own high school several times, perhaps for longer after graduation than most other people. And every year the detachment grew, and I think now that my brother has graduated my pilgrimages have run their course. I kind of felt the same way visiting LSH. Many things changed over the summer in terms of school structure and staff, but mostly there was just a general sense of unbelonging. Not in a bad way, just in the sense that I’ve moved on. When I got back, David asked if I missed it. I’ll be swift to admit that I don’t miss grading. Managing. Passing back papers. Waking up at the buttcrack of dawn. Being exhausted all the time. I miss planning a little. I miss teaching a little. I miss the staff more than a little. I do, however, miss this a lot…
But especially paragons of academic engagement such as these:
These girls asked me to do their senior pictures and/or baby portraits, which I am strongly considering and planning. I remember being pretty devastated when I found out she was pregnant this summer, but I guess for them my optimism remains undimmed. It was heartening to hear about a student from last year who took my class twice and failed both times, though he adored me for whatever reason, and is now applying himself better in a colleague’s class. (Don’t know how he’s doing in bio, though!) I think senior year has a certain cachet to it that gives students a certain maturity, as in, get it right or don’t graduate. I promised to be there for graduation this spring, and am rather looking forward to it, as I had not a few juniors last year who will (fingers crossed) walk this year. Oh teaching, the quintessential exercise in delayed gratification…
So now I am just slightly confused by why I was able/willing to give (and receive?) so much more in a place that I eventually decided was “too far from my support system” than I was here, among friends, family, and community. Maybe because there, I had nothing else but work to which to give my time, attention, and energy, and so I didn’t feel the resentment creeping in around the edges. (I also became a lot more dependent on other people and circumstances to feel good, which I had to unlearn rather painfully throughout the year.) Whereas my life here is much richer, though still haunted by self-deprivation in certain respects, and I realized that there were things I would rather be doing. How wise it to follow that particular instinct? I don’t know, only time will tell.
And it turned out to be really good to go somewhere I loved and was loved as truly as I knew how.