Sunday, April 26, 2009

Fifty Years Ago. . .

...I was a young teacher with four classes of tenth grade English and one class of Spanish in the original building housing Central High School in Jackson, MS. The half century class reunion of 1959 held its gathering last evening in Jackson at a site that was a wooded area fifty years ago. Those posing for a photo showed that despite the number of deceased, there were a large number still living. They are now retired or nearly so, have contributed much to their community, and only twelve years younger than I.

Today I wish I had begun my teaching at Central. I had chosen to "learn the ropes" in two small Delta towns before tackling a large school in the capitol city. Blessed is what I call my years at Central, a school being torn apart by progress--new high schools in the northern and western ends of town. Soon Central High would be an empty building with its wide hallways, creaking wood stairs, stalwart lockers lining the walls like sentinels, dark basement rooms, empty patios. Silent but for the echoes of the once-heard marching of ROTC students outside and the commands of their drill instructors, locker doors slamming between classes, and the thousands of feet pounding the wood floors only to quieten when the bells clanged to warn of classes beginning or ending. With little trouble I can transform myself mentally into those hallways just left or right of the auditorium. As I progress through the hallways,I hear teachers explaining the history lesson, the math problem, the rules of grammar. No school was like Central High, and I was in a bit of heaven last night as I saw and talked with many of my former students, my mind reeling with photos of them as seventeen-year olds.

There were five of us teachers out of ten who attended. At our table we talked about the meaning of this school and declared that our time at Central High was the best of any school where we had worked. We were family. What better way to explain the warmth we still hold in our hearts for these students and faculty with whom we worked?

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