Every once in a while, though, an event grabs me by the throat and shakes some reality into me. It's not a horrible shock; I don't mind getting older. It's just that I forget that I am.
So yesterday, one of my sisters turned 60. That occasioned a number of jokes from her relatives and friends. But it reminded me that she was in eighth grade when I began teaching eighth grade--fortunately for her, not in the same town. What that means is that my first class of eighth graders is turning sixty also this year. They are retiring or thinking about it soon. I can't handle this.
What were they like in 1968? What was school like then? My knee jerk reaction is that nothing has changed much. See what I mean about delusion? That was 46 years ago. And 46 years before that was 1922. Would I have said things hadn't changed much in that time? Of course not.
First of all think about the year. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated earlier in the year. The Democratic Convention in Chicago that summer brought out the police and dogs. Vietnam was heating up. These kids had been five years old when JFK was assassinated and they remembered it. There was no cable TV or video games so most of them at least occasionally saw a news broadcast. And, of course, news broadcasts in those days didn't cover celebrities or human interest stories. Newspapers and magazines did but there was enough going on in the world to fill a nightly half-hour show. Apparently not so any more.
To use technology in those days, one ordered a film from the area education agency, reserved the AV room in advance, marched the kiddies down there and hoped that the film didn't break or, as happened to me once, the reel didn't jump off the projector and roll to the front of the room between the chairs.
Mini-skirts were in and that was important because female teachers and students were not allowed to wear pants unless the temperature dropped below -10. I wore heels everyday---not extremely high ones but heels nonetheless. Woman teachers were paid less than men. It wasn't a question of equal pay for equal work. Men were expected to work at extracurricular events for their extra pay but women couldn't opt in and men couldn't opt out.
But they were a good class. I often gave thanks that they weren't out to drive me from the field of education my first year. I guess after all this time, they deserve to retire.
And maybe I need to take a closer look in the mirror.