I always thought I hated my high school. Although it was relatively large as far as public high schools go (around 2500 students across all grades), nestled as it was in a small town, I couldn’t help but feel that by the time graduation hit, everyone knew each other just a little too well. The school board was embroiled in small town politics, and the decisions they handed down on a number of issues rarely lined up with the interests of the students. The physical structure of the building in which I spent four years of my life had started to feel small and suffocating, and I was ready for a change. When I walked across the stage at graduation, diploma in hand, I fully intended to never look back.
And yet somehow, inexplicably, I found myself parked in front of my high school two weeks after the end of this past semester. Although I hate most of the things that make my high school my high school, the one thing that I adore to this day are the group of teachers who got me to the place I am now. I was eager to toss out anything that even vaguely gave me a taste of my old, small-town life, but now, spurred to action by the twin motivators of boredom and nostalgia, I decided to go and visit my old teachers. Hands down, it has been the best decision I’ve made this summer.
Although my personal experiences are obviously my own, I believe that for everyone, reconnecting with your high school teachers is an incredibly rewarding experience that shouldn’t be passed up. After all, high school is where your life trajectory really starts taking shape, especially in terms of academics. It’s where you figure out what you like and what you don’t like, where you can start to challenge yourself and figure out where your passions lie. No other group of people has had as large a hand in that journey than your high school teachers, and it pays to go back to them and share how far you’ve come, where you’re at now, and get advice for where you plan on going.
A lot of people mistake teachers for time-sensitive resources, and pretend that their teachers vanish the moment they get their diploma. While it can be awkward to reach out again for the first time, especially a year or more after graduation, I have yet to talk to an old teacher who hasn’t been glad to hear from me.
Not only do they get to catch up with me about my personal life, but I am also able to give them valuable feedback about whether their curriculum and teaching style prepared me for college. In turn, this allows teachers to make revisions to their curriculum and make sure that their current students are better prepared for life after high school.
In addition, after you’ve graduated from high school, you can better get to know your teachers as people, and not just authority figures who control your grades. Although it’s certainly possible to become close to a teacher within the high school structure, outside the strict power hierarchy of “teacher” and “student,” you’re better able to connect on a personal level. Teachers are people too, and have lived a life just as tumultuous and problem-riddled as you have. By taking the time to ask them to lunch or dinner, you can not only gain the benefit of their academic and career advice, but also get some life advice that they wouldn’t have shared within the time-sensitive confines of the classroom. At any rate, it’s fascinating to at last see the person who hides behind the moniker of “Mr.” or “Ms.”
While no one has the greatest relationship with all of their old teachers, I would like to believe that for everyone, there was at least one teacher who made a positive and enduring impact on their life. And while it may be easier to focus on the flaws and shortcomings of your high school, it’s important to not lose sight of the people who work there day in and day out to make the lives of their students the best they can possibly be. To go back and say thank you is something so simple, but to them, it could mean the world.
JAMES MORRISON is a College sophomore from Pipersville, Pa. studying English. His email address is email@example.com.
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