Reliving my schooling. Rebooting my life.
Walking into St. Vincent High School on Monday morning was like entering a time warp. Though I’d taken a tour recently during my 10-year high school reunion weekend, it had been on a Sunday morning, when the campus was nearly deserted. This week, seeing the school swarming with teenagers and squeezing my way through the crowded hallways has played tricks on my brain, transporting me back to the mid-90s when I was a high school student. This feeling has hit me at various times this week, as I sit in my old desks in classes taught by my old teachers, most of whom are still at the school. I’ve had more powerful memories at SV than I’ve had at my other schools, because I attended the school more recently and knew most of the 400 students by sight.
Just being in certain spaces has triggered deja vu more than a few times. As I walk through the halls, I search for the faces of my old classmates without thinking. Strangely enough, there’s a boy who looks like my classmate Michael, and another who looks like Kingston. When I sit in Mr. Riley’s original Spanish room, I instinctively look around for Siobhan and Erin, and in Mr. G’s room, I expect to see my conversation partners Alicia and Ben. Walking through the double doors to the back parking lot reminds me of our senior prank. Several of the boys pushed Leah’s little orange car through the doors into freshman hall right before the bell rang, so students poured out of their classrooms to find a roadster in front of their lockers. The teachers got upset about the fire hazard and demanded that the car be removed immediately. At the time, I rolled my eyes at their outrage, but now I realize that ruffling their feathers was half the fun.
The school, though changed in a lot of physical ways, feels the same. Here’s an updated — though not complete — list from my post about the tour I took after the reunion:
These things remain the same:
These things have changed:
I have to emphasize that the current technology blows my mind. When I graduated in 1998, I don’t think that Internet use had even completely caught on. In class, we watched videos on televisions perched on wheeled carts instead of the pull-down screens the school has today. If I remember correctly, some classrooms still had blackboards with chalk, instead of the modern interactive whiteboards that make my jaw drop. Teachers can project their computer desktops onto the whiteboard, then use a variety of functions like digitally highlighting notes, drawing diagrams in multiple colors, and showing photos and video with the click of a button. They can even control these things from anywhere in the room by using a little drawing tablet, or a wireless mouse. These boards are so intelligent that I’m suspicious they may one day turn the tables on us unsuspecting humans, like the cyborgs in Terminator 2 or the apes in Planet of the Apes.
Despite the physical updates to the campus, with classrooms and offices and parking lots being shifted around, the space is still rife with memories. The muddy track that I’ve run so many times…the spot on the floor in freshman hall where I used to finish homework in the mornings…the multi-purpose room where we held assemblies and occasional Catholic Masses. Tonight I happened to be on campus after dark, and I stood for a long time looking from outside into the empty, brightly lit hallways. I imagined how many little dramas had happened within these walls, how many relationships had begun and ended, how much growth thousands of students had experienced during their four years at the school. I’m still processing all the ways I changed during high school, but I know that my time at SV was one of the most formative periods in my life.
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If you’ve been back to your old schools, what spaces triggered memories for you?
At the age of 28, I went back to kindergarten. I needed to get my life back on track, and I wanted to start over from the very beginning.
Over several months, I repeated my education, from kindergarten to college. I spent the months that followed learning how to grow up. I'm still learning.
This site is a place for me to tell my story of education, and for you to tell yours: our experiences past and present, and our vision for how it could look in the future.
— Melia Dicker