Monday, December 08, 2008

School Reunion

Some of you kindly asked for a report so here it is.

The reunion was of my class of 1988 so they would now be about 36-37 years of age. I believe there were about 100 there including 10 members of staff. It was a senior boys Catholic college which was a unique school. When I started there in 1976 it had about 250 boys in years 11 and 12 collecting students from 5 feeder schools. It was hard to get a place so the standard was high and I thought it was nirvana. By the time I left in 1991, it had 500 boys, still just years 11 and 12 (16 & 17 yrs old) , coming from just 2 feeder schools so the standards had fallen greatly and I was not sorry to leave. They closed the school in the late 90's as the Diocese now prefers colleges to include the full years 7 to 12. Strangely the State school system is now creating these senior colleges.

The reunion was held in a large Sports Club near to the school but about 80 km from my home so I decided to book into the Travelodge Hotel which is above the club for the night and to travel each way by train. Not being willing to leave my car at the railway station on a Saturday night (vandalism is rife) I had to walk the kilometre to and from the station, unfortunately up hill and down both ways.

Almost exactly 4 years ago there was a reunion of my class of 1979. This was when the school was smaller, I knew most of the students and although I was not 'out' until a year or so later, a small group of gay students quickly took me into their group (outing me to the staff of that time by telling me to come and join the photo being taken of the gays) and I had a wonderful night.

Last night's year group came from the time of larger cohorts when everyone knew my sexuality and I only taught about one third of them so last night I spent more time with my fellow teachers.

The Principal of the time was present for about 1 hour. He is a religious brother, now in his late 70's and still teaching full time. I felt a bit guilty saying I had retired in my early 60's. I know he had a hard time having to defend my continued employment to several groups of parents at the time but has always remained friendly to me. The principal who followed was less supportive although much younger.

I will use initials for the students as I know too well the power of google.

I was disappointed that I did not meet up with DF who sent me the email in the earlier post. His name was on the list but I did not teach him and only had a grainy class photo to go by, so may have missed him. I think I will email him this week.

Most conversations on these nights are about what they have done since school, usually how they loved my subject and my teaching although they rarely used Geography in later life but like to tell me little bits they still remember and are sorry for all the trouble they caused (which I have usually forgotten).

I approached SD myself. He is very tall so stood out and although he had a completely shaved head, I recognised him easily. He was in my Student Advisor group (we kept these groups for the 2 years and saw them daily, following their general progress through the school). Shall I say he was a sensitive boy and was obviously delighted last night that I recognised and approached him. After general discussion as above, I took the opportunity when some of the others standing in the group were discussing their children to ask SD if he had any family. He said no but was very attached to his sister's children. He went no further but I will always wonder.

LS approached me and I recognised him immediately. He spent most of his time in class tormenting me. He readily admitted he had been a handful but he was the type of student who would mock my idiosyncrasies, drive me crazy as he prevented me finishing the lesson but usually have me end up laughing despite myself. He had the most avant garde haircut of the night and told me he was a hairdresser (hmmm) but soon described his children (ohh). He now owns a chain of shops with over 80 employees many of them apprentices so says he now understands some of the responsibilities of a teacher.

My night was made by PD. He was also in my student advisor group as had been his brother GD 7 years earlier. GD had been in a group of very religious and very bright boys with whom I had developed a special bond as they took the top level in Geography. They were at the school when the local television station's news program kindly outed me by zooming in on me while sitting in a gay rights meeting. It was all over the school the next day and I remember their shocked looks.

I asked PD how his brother G was going and he replied that he was living happily with his male partner. Then he added. Can I speak seriously for a moment. I want to thank you for being so open and honest about being gay. It taught us a lot as we respected you so much as a teacher. It made it so much easier when my brother G came out many years later. We use to stand up for you in the playground when the other guys knocked you for being gay. You were our teacher and our student advisor and we told them we loved you (yes he used the word love).

I was overwhelmed, Thank You God for PD and his words to me. They made my night.

1 comment:

June Butler said...

What a lovely story, Brian. It was wonderful that PD and his friends defended you. That took a bit of courage on their part.