Friday, June 4, 2010

Changing Faces

Things change. It’s a fact of life. Everyone knows it, and we expect it. Still, it seems when we leave a place and return later, we’re taken by surprise when we actually see the changes. This week I experienced that surprise twice. Both experiences involved schools in my life.

I heard through a former teacher that the elementary school I attended was closing down due to budget cuts in the district, and on Wednesday there was an open house for past and present students, parents, and staff. I picked up my mom and we went to the little building where I started my school life. The outside of the building looked the same, but the inside was so different. How did we ever operate without computers? A scrapbook in the gym had old newspaper clippings and PTA programs printed out on blue ink from the old “ditto” machine. The hallways were the same, but the classrooms had been updated. I saw a few familiar faces – more deeply lined, framed by hair much lighter than I remembered.

Yesterday I went to a retirement party for a former colleague at the school district where I spent 28 years as a teacher. The gathering took place in the administration building, which had been rebuilt since my time there. That was a change I expected. The boardroom was decorated to reflect the colorful, energetic personality of the kindergarten teacher who was now stepping down to pursue other interests. There were unfamiliar faces, which I also expected. After all, I’ve been retired five years, and people come and go. But it was surprising to see the number of faces I didn’t recognize.

What is it that makes us expect things to stay the same when we’re not there, when we’re able to accept change when it takes place in front of us? Some change is good – my friend will now have time to invest in his antiquing business, and at least one younger teacher will have her job because he’s leaving. Some change is sad – the kids who attended South Godwin Elementary will have to go to a different school in the fall. But they will cope, and continue to learn in a new place.

And I will continue to be surprised and amazed at the changes, both good and bad.

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