The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

A Long, Strange Trip pt.2

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I know full well why I haven’t “reached out” before in regard to my hometown; in fact, I’ve known for quite some time:  I don’t like my hometown.

A friend of mine used to joke that Angola, Indiana is a good place to be from.  Growing up there, I felt marginalized because I wasn’t much of an athlete, my father didn’t own a business in the area, and we didn’t live on a lake, all of which were requisites for status in the community.

There was little opportunity for me to grow.  The activities I was involved in were little more than afterthoughts in the school and community, and I spent a long time thinking that the problem was with me, because I didn’t like or excel at what was the norm.  Then I went to college and my world exploded into something much greater.

College also helped me realize something else:  I had cause to resent my hometown, and especially my high school.  Many of my teachers were only slightly abled as educators; many were only average.  There was a deep chasm between them and the few stellar teachers I had.  I found myself lacking in critical skills when I matriculated, and that was the result of an uninspired, out-of-date curriculum and a bevy of teachers who did little to inspire or motivate me to learn.  But I qualified for college (even with an anemic 910 on the SAT), and was motivated to be there, so I didn’t mind so much the effort required to catch up with my peers.

For a long time, I thought that the inability of my high school teachers stemmed from a lack of advanced education.  There aren’t many options available for Masters degrees in the Angola area, and a lack of a Masters can many times create a glass ceiling for teachers– they only advance so far with their abilities and knowledge from undergrad, and then stagnate.  I’ve seen it happen all too many times in the 3 buildings where I’ve worked the last 15 years.  But my assertion was false.  A recent review of a few yearbooks indicated that there were plenty of teachers at my high school who had Masters degrees.  So what was the problem?  I noticed that many of them came from the same place–  a small college in nearby Ft. Wayne that in all likelihood offered the equivalent of a drive-through advanced degree that was hardly worth more than the paper it was printed on, other than the inherent value in advancing the teacher on the salary scale.  There are few things worse than no advanced degree for a teacher, but one of them is a meaningless one that was skated through with little or no challenge.

Angola High School changed drastically after I left.  Rex Bollinger, the principal who took over my senior year, helped shape it into a Blue Ribbon school that became known nationally for its innovative block scheduling.  In addition to the Blue Ribbon, the school heaped up a ton of other awards and recognitions.  I don’t begrudge the school that success; I only wish it would have been building and growing while I was there.

Despite all the success the school experienced, I didn’t see much difference in the town.  Each time I came home from campus, it was all I could do to tolerate the place.  I was openly resentful, and didn’t even want to be in the company of my classmates.  Our worlds had quickly diverged, and I wasn’t emotionally bonded to too many of them anyhow.  An exception to this has been my friend Dennis, who shared a lot of my sentiments.  We’ve become closer friends than we ever were K-12, which has been cause enough to remain in contact from McAllen, Texas to Shanghai to New York City.  Like I said, I think of myself as loyal and already make the effort to sustain contact with the important people.

So it’s tough for me to go home.  But I’ll turn 40 in 11 days.  That’s good cause to clear the decks, allow myself to be available to others, and perhaps recast my attitude about Angola.  Truth is, I’ve been working on my Angola attitude for several years now.  I try to make short visits (3 days max; sometimes more), I know where to go and what to do to occupy myself while I’m there, and the unexpected contact I’ve had with a half dozen former classmates this year have helped bolster some positivity.

Written by seeker70

June 20, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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