Senior Musings November 2011

Posted 11.03.11

Reunion Revelations


Many high schools hold their reunions in the fall, and The Latin School of Chicago, where I taught English in the 60s, follows this tradition.

Early in 2007, one of my former students decided he would take on the task of finding all his 1967 classmates to see if they would attend their 40th reunion. There were only 29 of them (The Latin School in those years was still fairly small) and he managed to get a great many not only to plan to attend, but to write biographies which John compiled and sent out to an ever-growing list.

He included a few faculty members, and specifically invited me, as he's one of the former students I've kept in touch with over the years. He offered to be my "designated escort" for the weekend, and since I have a sister in Chicago, I was able to spend a delightful six days there.

John has continued to organize subsequent classes for their 40th reunions, and although I haven't been able to attend, it's been wonderful to see what happened to these teenagers, and hear their perspectives on education as parents now in their late 50s.

These biographies have provided a fascinating glimpse at what made the most significant impressions on these vulnerable kids, many of who came from dysfunctional families. Although their parents were rich and sent them to excellent universities, many described bouts with alcoholism or drugs, one or more divorces, and quite a few failed attempts to find a suitable profession.

Many of these teens formed lasting friendships that have remained through the decades, despite moving far away from each other. And some have kept in touch with favorite teachers as well.

What surprised me was how so many of the naughty little boys in that class became responsible adults. John, who could never sit still or stop talking in class, went to law school, later took over his father's business, and has been happily married for more than thirty years.

Susan, who was easily distracted and lacked confidence, is now the producer/host of a successful TV program, an artist, writer and teacher. I had faith in her talent, but few others did. I've kept in touch with her over the years, and I'm thrilled to be proven correct. The former students who have contacted me were grateful that hey had learned certain things, chief among them how to analyze texts, how to write clearly and persuasively, and how to study. They mentioned favorite books they read in my classes, and many mentioned that I was kind and fair.

As a teacher, I've learned that it often isn't what you teach that matters most. Basic skills are important, but good teachers impart far more than information and techniques. They model behavior, transfer enthusiasm for their subjects, and provide insight into how everything connects -- geography with economics with history with literature.

High school is important, and if teens have strong teachers and develop close friendships, they'll be just fine.


Bobbi now teaches primarily on-line, through her books and her website, www.SimonTeakettle.com.

Copyright © 2011 Barbara Florio Graham/Log Cabin Chronicles/11.11