Today was one of those weird experiences where you feel like a little girl dressed up in big people’s clothes, doing something ‘out of your league’. I was invited to speak to 150 teachers at my old high school. It’s one thing going back to talk to the students (also quite daunting) but it’s even stranger to find yourself on the other side of the desk, with the teachers in the audience.
I had to remind myself that I was there as a fellow adult and they weren’t grading me on my presentation. There was only one who remained from my time at the school and I was unable to call him anything but Mr Kent…
When I arrived, I took the last car park, down near the gym, right near where my parents had parked in February 1986, when they’d taken me to my first day of Year 7. Getting out of the car today, I was sideswiped by a cocktail of 40+ degree heat and nostalgia.
In those minutes, walking in, I was twelve again. Small, nervous, not sure how this was going to go and hoping people would like me. It’s intriguing how the insecurities float back…
Then, before I started the talk I’d prepared, I shared something off-topic with the audience. I told them about a teacher I’d had there, who had been very kind to me several years later when I returned for a prac-teaching placement, during which I discovered that teenage girls were terrifying and decided not to be a teacher. Her wisdom had lingered long after prac-teaching ended, and when I heard that she’d passed away a year or two ago, I regretted not having got in touch and told her about the impact she’d had on me.
After her death, I contacted her colleague – another role model: in fact, ‘the teacher’ that you remember as having really taught you.
What I shared with the teachers today is that, as the night wore on at our 20-year school reunion in 2011, more and more people started talking about the teachers we’d had and the lessons they’d taught that stretched far beyond the classroom. Far more people felt that way about them than ever got in touch to say so.
There’s a task in our 15-Minute program involving thanking someone who isn’t aware of the impact they’ve had on your life, and I feel as though I was able to do that today. Even though all but one in the audience weren’t my own teachers, the sentiment was the same.
The talk went well, and I was invited back to contribute to the Leadership Program for students…which can only mean that I didn’t come across as ‘twelve’ as I felt. Twenty-eight years have passed since I walked up that path on day one, feeling unsure of myself. Sometimes it’s only by going back, that you learn how far you’ve come.