Note: The second of several postings about the most amazing reunion in the history of reunions.
Dear Anyone Who Gives a Rat’s Ass About Education:
First off, thank you.
Secondly, never underestimate what you can learn watching something you’ve spent a year planning as it unfolds.
We were in the midst of the formal portion of the afternoon program – a part for which I’d taken ownership. I was simultaneously watching it and marveling at my own cluelessness.
By “we,” I mean approximately 70 of the 250 students and all four of the teachers who spent the first several months of the 1974-75 school year creating an original theater piece to commemorate upcoming US Bicentennial and the rest of that year and all of the next one performing it.
The reunion included a four-hour afternoon portion (free and open to all), followed by a catered dinner at a local restaurant ($25 and open to the first 100 people who made a reservation – 65 people bought tickets).
We wanted to keep things free form, so people could have plenty of time to reconnect and hang out.
The result was an afternoon and evening that mostly consisted of happy screeching, animated conversations and an impromptu post-dinner sing-a-long (with guitar accompaniment) for those interested in exploring the number of “American Pie” verses they remembered. Afterward, there were gatherings at a local bar and at the hotels where some of us stayed.
But Bob, who directed the theater department and had started the reunion ball rolling, had a copy of a 1975 film, “Making ‘Revolution.’” He wanted it to be a surprise at the reunion. With a running time of just under 10 minutes, it wasn’t long enough to stand on its own programmatically.
We knew from the get-go that he & Ron, our orchestra director, would be there. Those two have never been out of touch with each other. But we also wanted our choral director and dance teacher. Jim and Kathy hadn’t stayed in touch with Bob and Ron, and they hadn’t imbibed the social media Kool-Aid. We turned to more analog methods to find them, and succeeded.
So I put together a program. Our classmate Patty, who became a high school music teacher, was available to emcee. Jim wanted to speak first. Bob wanted to speak last. Kathy and Ron were happy to be in the middle of a teacher sandwich. Jim bravely agreed to end the program by leading us all in singing Peter Lukins’ setting of “The Lord Bless You & Keep You.” It was always the closer in high school chorus concerts.
At the appointed time, we got everyone seated and the program started.
I can’t tell you directly what it feels like to address a bunch of people you were paid to deal with – and evaluate – 40 years ago, who have shown up because of something you made happen that seemed like a good idea at the time and you could. Based on what I saw, it feels pretty good.
What I hadn’t expected, though, was to realize that there was something revolutionary going on right at that moment, and right in that room.
I wanted every “expert” with an opinion about public education – particularly those in politics, educational policy or educational administration – to see it, and I wanted every parent and every person who cares about the future of education in this country to feel it.
If they did, maybe more contemporary students would have teachers working in the types of settings that generated the kinds of things our teachers said last Saturday afternoon.
We, the People, are the ones who need to make it happen.
I will leave you with our teachers’ words, and some links to video where you can actually see them being said. (Cynthia, one of my contemporary teacher pals, declared: “It sounds like Mad Men with teachers!” when I told her something about what was in the 1975 film. I won’t spoil the surprise, but let’s just say that there’s no way in Hell that you’d ever see one of today’s teachers on camera engaging in that behavior in any kind of work-related setting. Everything they were saying would have been drowned out by howls of outrage and screams about “Degenerate Bad Role Models” from smug Ignorami who are certain that teachers are lazy wastrels doing a job that they could do cheaper and better.)
“Where do you have a job where you go every day, and love what you’re doing and make music?”
“I could not wait to come to school – to work – in the morning. I loved every minute of every day I spent…If UFA were still open, they would have had to drag me out in chains, kicking and screaming before I would ever retire.”
“Over our careers, we were often asked to sit down and make sure we had enough statements available if someone asked us why the arts were necessary or what was significant…. It would be lovely to take a capsule of this and take it back, because you don’t see it until after the fact.”
“We started out as a group….and we rehearsed and we rehearsed and we rehearsed and then we became a family.”
“I was only going to stay a couple of years and move on, but I kept getting these terrific kids and they kept coming and coming.”
“The fact that I wanted to do a dance class, (administration) could have said, ‘No, that’s not happening,’ and (the principal) didn’t. He said as long as the numbers warranted it, we could have it as an addition to gym opportunities. And then it kind of snowballed, so we were able to think about how, choreographically, it would help in musicals.”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOIDgZBDXJ0 – This is the speakers, no frills, nicely done. (Video credit: Calvin Powers)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJbXNAIPAmU – This is us, singing Lukins’ “The Lord Bless you & Keep You.” Mr. Hanosh was very relieved that we didn’t “find the lost chord!” (Video credit: Calvin Powers)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cu5xE9FjRyk – This is the 1975 video, which was digitized from the original celluloid version, which had deteriorated. For that reason, the digitized version was sped up some. All props to Jim Houghtaling, who took the digitized version and did his best to restore it to the actual speed.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyHqne6B4KE – This one is quite long and expertly produced by Jim. It contains images from the reunion itself (probably not terribly interesting to anyone who didn’t go to school with us). Some of the speakers are edited, and there are reunion scenes. All the music is our high school selves on the recording we made at the time, and the 1975 film begins at about 25:52.