30 Years…Looking Back

Everyday I walk into my office I am greeted by 9 serious looking faces staring down at me. No not our secretaries, (they are lovely and often too busy to pay much attention to me). I am greeted by 9 faces that represent history and the a legacy for our school. On the wall above my office door hangs the portraits of all the past principals of our school. 9 faces, (too completely male and Caucasian for my liking), that have sat in the chair that I currently occupy. 9 faces looking at me as I start and finish every day. I would be lying if I said there is not at least a bit of pressure when I consider those faces and the work that they did to bring this school to where it is today. The work that they did to bring the school to me; now waiting above my office; waiting to see what I do with the gift they have entrusted to me.

I have had reason to be reflective as we celebrate the canonization of our namesake and the 30th Anniversary of the school all in one big day (May 9th).  The faces are made all the more intense because they are not just voiceless faces of people that I know little about. Due to my own history at the school, (student, VP, family having been involved for over 20 years), I know all the men who look down at me every day. I know the sound of their voices and so I can imagine what they may say about some of the decisions that I have to make or some of the directions that the school is going during my tenure here. Don’t get me wrong, I am not spooked by this or obsess about their approval but I do wonder what they would think about what the school has become and what I see as its most immediate future.

I also spend more time than probably most principals looking at the grad composites that hang in our cafeteria. Again, I know many of those faces so I can hear their voices, but I look at them and wonder what they think, or if they ever, think about their old high school. When I tell people that went to high school with me that I am now the principal of our high school, they often have a hard time processing that.  I suppose there are a lot of reasons for that including the fact that we probably all thought that the principal was so old and we also all think of ourselves as still incredibly young. The truth is that probably neither are really all that true.

I also think, however that people have a hard time processing me as the principal of our school because I honestly think that a lot of people try to forget about high school. At least subconsciously they try to distance themselves from the emotions, the insecurity and the disappointment of that stage of life. I chose to stay in high school forever, so I often have the chance to look back but I can understand why many would not.

While I understand not wanting to look back, I hope some alumni come back to the school during our celebratory evening (May 9th) so that they can have a chance to look forward. What do I mean by looking forward? I mean I think it is important for people to come back to school to see how different these kids are from when I walked these halls. How are they different? Let’s see:

  1. They are much more social with each other in the truest sense of the word. This exists in many different ways but they do actually talk to one another but they also have an entirely different social experience than we had: social media. Like it or not, this reality means that the youth of today communicate, commemorate and collaborate in a completely different way.
  2. They are much less racially cliquish than we were. Sure there are still groups based on background but I don’t feel it is as prevalent as it was before. The word “multicultural” has become almost obsolete as it is not so much an issue any more. You don’t need a term for a norm, because people dont have to talk about it as much.
  3. They are much more socially active and minded. No one can argue this. The Baby Boomers will say that they were the most socially active generation because of all the protests etc. but I honestly think that was more about rebellion than about a true cause. I think they were just trying to distinguish themselves from their parents so went against their norms. Evidence of this is that they eventually became exactly like their parents (see the 1980s). Youth today are genuine about their interest in social activism. Probably because they truly believe that their actions can have impact. It is amazing what I see on a daily basis in our halls. It is cool to care!!

There are just a few things that I think my classmates could learn by coming back to POPE for a visit and actually meeting the current batch of Panthers, but there is something that I have learned even while writing this post. I think about how different this time is and then I think about how amazing our students are and how I KNOW that they will change the world. I think about these things and then I look in the staff room and see so many of the same faces that would have greeted me (or my siblings) when I came to the door 25 years ago. What does it say that the same people that helped to prepare me for the world are still being so successful at preparing students for a completely different world. It says that these are some of the most amazing professionals one could hope to ask for. I don’t say it enough and I probably make people feel like they are not changing or challenging themselves fast enough but that is not their failing, it is mine. My lack of patience is something I am working on but I hope the staff knows how much I appreciate the incredible job they are doing with an incredibly hard job.

I am really enjoying walking down memory lane these past and future few weeks and I truly enjoy saying good morning every day to the 9 friends on my wall (Facebook pun there!!), but writing this blog has made me realize that the eyes I need to worry about and consider are not hanging on the walls of the office but are in the classrooms and halls or my school. I hope I give them something to think about and something to look forward to.

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