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Posts Tagged ‘high school’

I think I have written about my high school years quite a few times. For those that have missed those way past posts, here’s another.

I, like many of us, belong to a Facebook group for people that graduated from my high school in the 1970s. Yeah, I’m an old lady! I joined it about five years ago when it was set up for the purpose of getting together for a multi-year reunion, which finally happened about three years after the group was set up. Well, on Saturday evening, someone posted about the death of one of our former teachers. We had amazing teachers. With very few exceptions, our teachers were not only very well qualified and more than capable. They were excellent teachers and most of them chose to stay in our district and at our school when they had the opportunity to move to affluent areas with fancy new schools. They felt a duty to our population and we, the students, were the beneficiaries of that duty.

This time it was Sal Orlando who was an English teacher. He taught Senior English and, for many years, also taught Journalism. I was not lucky enough to have him as a teachere and I was actually disappointed about that. My siblings had told many stories about the amazing Mr. Orlando. He threw things at people that fell asleep, things like chalk board erasers and chalk. He had a reputation for being really tough on his students but also keeping things light with his jokes and sarcasm. Kids knew he really cared about them as people and as students. I didn’t take Senior English because I had taken four years of Journalism which actually gave me way more English than was required for graduation as each year counted as a year of English plus the three years of English I did take! And he would have been my Journalism teacher except that the year that I first began Journalism as a freshman, we had a new teacher who was also the newspaper advisor for the three years I was on the paper staff. So I didn’t have the privilege of having Sal Orlando as a teacher but we did have many exchanges out of the classroom, most of them teasing each other about why I wasn’t his student or he my teacher.

He was just one of the many revered teachers at that school. I’ve written about Mr. Henry and Mr. Flanagan, and Ms. Paszkeicz. I’ve written about Rudy Del Rio (who was my Journalism teacher and newspaper advisor) and about Mr. McCready.  I’ve written about Mr. Keneally and Mr. Matalone. Those are just a few of the many teachers who were giants to us; legends in their own time. And losing them is a real loss for most of us as many of us are still in touch with at least a few of these teachers. It’s also a reminder that we, their students, are getting old and are at that age where we see the names of so many of our teachers and our fellow students among the dead. Last month it was the death of Mr. Matalon. Today it was Mr. Orlando. I don’t want to know who will be on that list of fallen tomorrow.

I was fortunate to have such amazing teachers. I wish all teachers were like them and that everyone could have that experience.  Everyone should get to know their teachers like I knew mine and everyone should have that feeling that their teachers care about them as students and as people.

They were giants. They were legends.

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I was lucky. I had more than my share of wonderful teachers. Of all the teachers I had in seven periods times four years plus some changing at the quarter or semester, there was only one I did not get along with. There was some kind of “reverse chemistry” or bad chemistry between us. I think part of it was that everyone always told her that she was a slightly older version of me and they told me that I was a slightly younger version of her. She was a first year teacher and didn’t like being compared to a student. I think that was part of it. But, I had wonderful teachers who actually believed me over her and went to bat for me so when she tried to fail me, she couldn’t.

The school is on the east side of San Jose in California. It’s now a really bad place to live but in those days, the immediate area around the school was not so great with the outer areas being pretty good, if not great. The school had its share of tough kids. No gangs in those days but definitely groups that didn’t get along with each other. It was not an affluent area, for the most part. The teachers at the school could have jobs at other schools, and other districts in the city, some of them much closer to their homes. But the CHOSE to be there, at that school, with those students. They chose to serve that community and try to teach the kids that weren’t the highest academically. There were a few of us that were above average, but very few. I believe that I was in the group of the first ten students to be accepted at a private university and about the first to get a full academic scholarship. The student body wasn’t made up of shining stars. But the teachers chose to be there, often accepting a salary less than what they could get at an adjacent school district. Why? Because they were dedicated teachers. Their hearts were in the right place…with us! I think that’s why they were so inspiring. At least to me, they were the best. They were the epitome of what a teacher should be. I learned more than academics from them. They changed my life and not a day goes by that I don’t think of one or the other of them.

That’s what teachers should be. I’m glad I was privileged to have so many wonderful examples.

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My mind tells me that I have written about him previously but I can’t find any such post so today I will tell you about Mr. Henry who was my first period teacher my freshman year in high school so he was my first high school teacher, so to speak. The class was called Emerging Nations. It was taught by three teachers, each for a different quarter and the first quarter was more geography. So during my first quarter, Mr. Henry taught us the geography part of the class. That was the first time I really understood the seasons and the movement of the planets in our solar system. He used different sized spheres to simulate the planets and their orbits and a very bright light for the middle. The lights were turned off and he had some of us hold spheres and walk around the “sun.” During that time, he held the globe with which he simulated our orbit while also turning the globe on its axis so that we could see why we have winter while the southern hemisphere has summer, and so forth. That was the first time it made sense!

I also did a few after school jobs for him, typing and copying worksheets, for which he paid me. Then in my junior year, I was his teacher aid. Sometimes I supervised his class while he had to run to the office. Sometimes I typed and did clerical stuff. Not for pay but for school credit. In the summer I did a lot of typing for him and got paid.

Aside from being my teacher and sometimes employer, he showed he trusted me many times and we had a lot of deep talks about philosophies and psychology and world conditions. He treated me like an adult. He valued what I had to say, or at least I got that impression.

Through the years, I have kept in touch with him, even now, forty-two years after my graduation. During the most difficult times of my life, I have called him to talk and his advice has always helped me make decisions and hang on to my sanity.

John Henry was an excellent teacher. I have been a better person for having had him as my teacher.

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Yesterday I told you about Mr. Clark, my seventh grade math teacher. He was pretty awesome. Today, I’ll tell you about Rudy Del Rio. Well, he was really Mr. Del Rio and I called him that all the time but with other students, he was Rudy. And when talking about him to students, he was Rudy. I think he got a kick out of the students that called him Rudy. He would kind of “half laugh” when anyone did that. He was a good guy. He taught Civics to the seniors but I was lucky enough to have him for four years of Journalism. He taught me a lot. He inspired.

And up until about five or so years ago, I was still in touch with him even though I graduated from high school in 1974. I still have his email address and I know he lives in Bend, Oregon. I just haven’t had occasion to contact him although I’m thinking I might do so the next time we go to Bend. I think I’ll email him and see if I can have a cup of coffee with him…or more likely a beer because Bend is home to some really good breweries!

I remember him walking into a classroom, always easy going but once in awhile he would have something serious to talk to us about so he would walk in…all five foot zero inches of him…and for some reason, his goatee which made him look super cool on most days, would make him look somber…my mom said he looked evil…and we could do nothing but pay attention and hope it was not one of us that had gotten him upset! Not a big man in stature, he was respected.

I don’t think I would be who I am today if it were not for Rudy Del Rio!

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One of my favorite years was 1974. I was 18 and a senior in high school then a college freshman. I was well liked at my school, by students as well as the Faculty and Administration. I had been so involved in extra-curricular activities over the past four years that everyone knew me. I had worked in the school office for three years. I was pretty much on top of the world.

I hadn’t done too much about college until it was almost too late and that had been only because one of the administrators had called me in to his office to speak to a recruiter from Stanford and promised to get me out of P.E. for a week (he knew I hated P.E.). The application deadline was less than a week away but the recruiter called the Admissions Office and got an extension for me and a waiver of the application fee. I didn’t think I would get in and I knew that if I did, there was no way my parents could afford it. My dad, a cannery worker all his life, had been disabled in a work accident in five years before and my mom had never worked outside the home. We were living off of food stamps.

That was the only school I applied to. I didn’t even apply to San Jose State (now Cal State San Jose) which was where everyone from my school went. I had just figured that I would get a job and work. I didn’t think I would be going to college. Not only was there no money but my parents needed whatever money I would earn at a job.

One day in very early April, I got home from school and my mom said there were a couple of letters for me. They were both from Stanford. The first one I opened was the thick one, full of all sorts of forms. I had been accepted. I couldn’t believe it. I was happy to be accepted, but I knew I wouldn’t be going. Then my mom waved the other one in front of me and said it was from the Financial Aid office. Maybe, she said, there was a way to go. If they gave me scholarship money and loans, maybe I could go. Neither one of us knew how much tuition was, we just knew it was a lot! I opened the second envelope and had to read it several times. I wasn’t sure I was reading it right. My mom took it and read it. She wasn’t sure either. I got on the phone and called my counselor at home and read him the letter and asked if he thought it meant what I thought it might mean. Yup! I had read it right. They were giving me a full scholarship. No loans. I would have to get a work-study job as part of my financial aid package but my expected contribution was very small and very doable.

The next day, at school, it was announced over the P.A. system during our morning announcements and when I got to first period, my teacher gave me a big hug and called me “Money Bags” then sent me away. He said he knew by the ear to ear smile on my face that I was not going to be able to concentrate so he said I should go visit all my teachers and let them congratulate. I don’t even remember what I did or who I saw that day. I was just floating along about ten inched off the ground!

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This was what I came up with for this prompt: “Pull out a coin at random and write a story about something that happened in the year the coin was minted.”  My coin was a 1974 penny. I’ve used this prompt before. It’s a good one when you have no idea what to write and the year will be different almost every time!

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High heeled shoes.  They can be such a pain to wear, both literally and figuratively. They can be sexy. They can be clunky. They can be cutesy.

I’m very short (I have to stretch a bit to reach the 5 foot mark) so as soon as my parents allowed me to, I started wearing high heeled shoes and when they came into style, platform shoes which were far easier to wear than heels and more appropriate for certain occasions.  They made me look taller and in the days of hot pants, they made my legs look a lot longer than they are and those seemingly good legs brought some (not unwanted) attention.  In fact, I remember one boy in our senior year that once, when I got back to my desk from the table at the front of the room, asked me to go back to the table and then back to the desk just so he could look at my legs again! That was the first time anyone said anything like that to me.  It was flattering.  It was embarrassing (he said it loud enough so everyone heard). It was confusing (I wasn’t in to the physical appearance factor but this comment actually made me feel kinda good).

Fast forward seven years and my high heel wearing days were over.  When I was 25 I was in a head-on collision.  I was pregnant at the time and luckily, my knee took the blow and not my belly.  I’ve had six operations to repair the damage to my knee but it has never been fixed and to this day I can no longer wear any kind of heel or wedge or plaform. It is “flat city” for me.  Sometimes I really miss the high heeled shoes.

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Ritu over at But I Smile Anyway asked her readers to post an embarrassing photo last week. I told her that by the time you get to be my age, you’ve destroyed all the bad and embarrassing photos. Then I had to go look and I found at least one that I really dislike. (Well, I found more than one but I’m not sharing the REALLY embarrassing ones!) So I figured I would go ahead and post it but then I would post a couple of not so embarrassing ones to balance out the bad one!

First the embarrassing one that was taken at the beginning of my high school junior year so I was 16. I don’t like it because I am not smiling. The photographer snapped the picture at the wrong time and it looks like I am smirking so I don’t like it. Not to mention that bright orange was never my color!

11th grade photo

11th grade photo

Then the two “good” ones. The first was taken in December of 1973, just before my 18th birthday. It was at the end of the Junior Miss Pageant, hence the dress, gloves, and rose. The second one was taken just before high school graduation in June of 1974. I’m signing yearbooks outside of class and we were all laughing and goofing off. What I like about these two is that I’m happy in them.

Junior Miss Pageant

CJC laughing

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Picture Day

I found a blog post a couple of days ago that made me think that I wanted to write about it but I hadn’t gotten around to it. Then just a few minutes ago, my niece posted a picture of her daughter’s hairdo for picture day on Facebook that reminded me so I had to come write it.

The post was called Picture Dayyy by Unoriginalblogger. She’s a young high school blogger that I just discovered while participating in the Blogging 101 exercise that WordPress is doing. I like that she is young and innocent and honest. She seems to be very open minded, too. I’m following her blog for now, and even when I don’t comment on her blog, she’s making me think!

The post is about it being picture day at her high school. It reminded me of all the picture days of my school years and, then later, the picture days of my own children. One of the first things we looked for when we got our school year schedules at the beginning of the year was the date of picture day. And then we started planning what we would wear and how we would fix our hair. Luckily, picture day was usually right at the start of the school year, the first or second week. Had it been any later in the year the stress would have been unbearable. We thought about it that much. In my family, with four girls spaced five years apart, we wore each others clothes so we had to make sure we all understood who was going to wear which outfit for picture day or there might be a mini war when the day arrived! How would we fix our hair and which jewelry would we wear? My high school years were in the early 70’s. We had long dangly earrings and chokers and tinted granny glasses. We had “ratted” hair, hair in braids, long stringy straight hair, hair done in a ‘fro (we called it a “natural” in those days) and all sorts of hair that was in style. Which would we choose? Just a couople of years before, in middle school, wiglets were in style so most of the girls added a wiglet full of curls at the back of their hair then we had to worry about it falling off! Talk about stressful!

Once the picture day had come and gone, we were left biting our nails until we got our pictures back. How had they turned out? Of course, even when they turned out great, we weren’t happy! Then we would start scheming on how to get onto the list for the “Make up Picture Day” which was really for those who had missed picture day the first time around but if you knew how to do it, you could get onto the list and have a re-do of picture day and hope for a better outcome!

Such stress. Such excitement. Such anticipation. Such memories. How did we survive?

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Reunion Round Up

I’ve attended four high school reunions and one college reunion. After the third high school reunion, I said I would never attend another. I said the same after the one college reunion. This year, my high school had a multi-year reunion and my college is having a class reunion for my year (1978). I definitely have no desire to go to the college reunion, even if they paid me to go. However, when it came to the high school reunion, although I had pretty much decided not to go, I kept getting more and more curious as the event got closer and closer. Then, my daughter who moved from Baltimore to Santa Rosa after college graduation last month, called and reminded me that I had some of her furniture at my house and she could use if the next time I went to California. That clinched it. I decided to go to the reunion and take my daughter her furniture. A friend even helped out with the cost by inviting me to stay at her house for the weekend. That was a bonus and a “sign” that I was meant to go.

I must say that the best way to approach any kind of reunion is with no expectations whatsoever. Then you are sure not to be let down. The reunion was more than I expected, not only because I had such low expectations, but because it was quite good. I think that the best part was being in a room full of people with a common background and who shared the school’s history. Because it was a multi-class reunion (1969 to 1979) most of us knew a lot of people there, either personally or through siblings.

So, the company was good, (with the exception of a few who proved to still be who they were in high school with no growth whatsoever). The food was delicious. The music was, for the most part, excellent, but way too loud for a small enclosed room (and for many deaf and nearly deaf ears). The camaraderie was there. It couldn’t be missed. It sure made the evening the success it was.

Will I go to another? I don’t know. I guess it depends on where I am in my life at that point. Maybe I’ll go back to the no more reunions attitude.

I’m still processing the weekend. There are many stories to be written from the events and characters to be created. I supposed you’ll read about all that here if you keep coming back. Not sure when it will be but it’s coming.

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Once upon a time, in a high school far, far away, in a geometry class, sat a young lady in the last seat of the first row.  In front of her sat a young man.  The two had taken a fancy to each other.  You could tell by the way they looked at one another and by the way they lingered before and after the class began.

The young man had taken to passing things to the young lady, notes and such, by reaching back with his arm and handing her things under the desk.  After a while, he got daring and began to pass things by reaching back over his shoulder.  The young lady didn’t really feel comfortable with that because the teacher might see and because it would cause a distraction but it was nice to have a little extra attention from this young man.  So when he passed things to her, she accepted them without discouraging him.

One day, while the teacher was at the front of the class demonstrating how to find the area of some geometric shape or the other, the young man whispered that he needed to borrow an eraser.  The young lady only had the one on her pencil so she passed that to him.  He used it but then didn’t pass it back and she needed it so she could continue taking notes and following along with the teacher’s demonstration.  She tapped him on the shoulder and quietly asked for it back.  While passing it back, the young man grabbed onto her hand and wouldn’t  let go.  She managed to take her hand back and a couple of minutes later, he asked to borrow her eraser again.  She passed it to him and this time, when he passed it pack, he wouldn’t let go of her hand.  The teacher had been glancing over from time to time, not saying anything, knowing that both were good students and whatever was going on would stop.  However, it was while the young man was holding on to her hand that the teacher chose to look their way and call on the young man.  The young lady quickly pulled her hand back so the teacher wouldn’t see and as she did that, the pencil, which had been partly in both their hands, broke in half! “Is there a problem back there?” asked the teacher.  “No. No problem at all,” answered the young man.  The teacher continued with the day’s lesson up at the front of the room while quiet giggles rippled from the back of the first and second rows.

Now there was a problem.  The young lady had only the eraser half of the pencil and needed the lead half to keep writing her notes.  The young man, somewhat embarrassed, though refusing to admit it, said “It’s okay.  I’ll fix it.”  “How will you fix it,” asked the young lady “it’s broken!”  The young man proceeded to whisper to the others around him, asking if anyone had tape.  He found someone with a roll of tape in their binder (you know the type that is always prepared for anything and probably got a 110% on every test they ever took) and borrowed the tape.  As the young man proceeded to carefully and comically (for he had now drawn the attention of at least a half a dozen classmates in the surrounding seats) tape the pencil back together, failing several times yet not giving up, the teacher’s attention was once again upon the back of the first row.  “Young  man, do you care to share with us the answer to the problem?” he inquired.  The young man cleared his throat and said, “No.”  “No?” asked the teacher.  “I mean I don’t know the answer because I’m sort of busy back here.  You see, I’m performing surgery on this pencil.”  The class cracked up and not even the teacher could keep a straight face.  “Okay then.  You finish up as quickly as you can.  We wouldn’t want to interrupt such delicate surgery,” said the teacher, who was actually a pretty cool guy.  There were more chuckles from the other students.

The teacher went back to the lesson.  The young man quickly finished his surgery and handed the still fractured-but-carefully-bandaged-pencil back to the young lady who, although not happy to have a broken pencil, was happy to have the attention from the teacher come to an end.  She knew though, that the attention from the young man, although over for the class period, wouldn’t be over for a while.  And the young man was happy to have had the whole incident end with humor and even a little bit of envy from the other students!

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