I’ve been experiencing this really eerie feeling lately; where every time I walk past any of the first year buildings on campus, I feel surprised that these places are still alive and bustling; and that people still come here to learn. Being as self-centered as human beings are, I think places are only alive when my life touches them. And when I move, they either automatically shut down or remain untouched until I come back; as if they have no other function to serve.
I walk in between the students carrying books, and realize that they look and dress and act just like we did, yet I recognize no one and no one recognizes me. Of course, it’s been eight years! It’s been so long!
This last week I substituted for a high school science teacher at the AIS (American International School). I used to be an AIS student myself (at a different campus); so for one thing, it felt very funny to walk the halls out of uniform, while everyone else was wearing it – the same navy blue pants and white shirt with the navy blue logo, and for another thing it felt very funny to be at least ten years older than most people there. And the students, well they looked, acted, and dressed in much the same way my classmates did when I was in high school! I felt like I already knew them. And finding myself on the other side of the picture, I realized that high school is one story that repeats itself over and over and over. No matter, how ‘new’ you think you are, you’re really not – it’s all been done before. Self-centered human being that you are though, you think you’re novel!
As a student, I was pretty geeky, and I always saw the picture from that point of view. Sometimes I wished I was more outgoing, other times I wished I was more athletic. And at all times, I thought everyone that was more talkative or outgoing or athletic had it easier than me! However, this last week, I got to play teacher; and I got to see the classroom from an unbiased outsider’s point of view. And I realized that for a class to be whole, it had to have the geeks and the athletes (athletic girls are my favorite!), the princesses and the tomboys, the class clown, the goofball, the ladies’ man, the cheerful, the quiet, the outgoing, the shy, the smart kid, the achiever, the musician, the artist, the one person that never seems to fit in, and the one person for whom it seems to come naturally. Each one of these guys is important for the picture to be complete, in other words, important in making everyone else’s experience whole.
With all their apparent differences, though, one thing was common – they were all simply children trying to figure themselves out; and they were looking for inspiration anywhere they could get it. It was no easier for the princess than it was for the geeky girl in glasses; neither was it easier for the athlete than for the goofball. The fact of the matter is high school is a tough experience – it is a daily battle between you, yourself, and everyone around you as you begin to understand your adult self (which by the way, still has a few more changes to make!). And, it is exactly the same for your peers. High school is where you start to prove yourself, and claim your rights to existence. Of course, it’s not easy. It’s the strength you develop here that you’re going to use in the real world later on. I think it’s an experience strangely similar to childbirth – fetuses have to puts up a fight to enter this world and become living breathing infants – claiming their rights to existence.
Despite its toughness though, I found I was in a place full of hope – much more than the world I’ve been living since I entered the workforce; and it was a most welcome change! This week I met presidents, ministers, psychologists, and world-class football players in the making. I met kids who seemed like trouble makers on first impression, but later proved to be very smart, very mature young adults. And, I met sweethearts who reminded me of the sincerity of a first love, and who restored my faith in the whole romance thing, slightly! These guys all spoke with the confidence and positive energy of high schoolers, with that funny faith that if things are happening in our imagination now then they’re bound to happen in our future real life!
Being a high school teacher was by no means an easy task, but it was definitely inspiring. There are professions that give you a reason to get up and go to work in the morning, and there are those that don’t. I think it’s safe to say that high school teachers belong to the former group, and in that sense are quite lucky.
I haven’t decided if I’m going to share this with them yet, but just in case you were in my class this week and are reading this at any point in time, thank you grades 9 & 11 for a truly inspiring week. It is much appreciated!