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In Your Words

What would surprise your students if they knew you at their age?

If my kids could see me growing up in the 50s and 60s, they would say, “Wow! She was really cool!” I was a free spirit who loved having fun. I got to see Elvis in concert. I wore miniskirts and long, straight hair, and I loved to dance. I don’t see my students today as being all that different from myself when I was growing up. I had to make a lot of tough choices just like they do today. 

Nita Jones, Elementary School Counselor, Dyersburg, Tennessee

My students are always surprised when they realize that I know all the “cool” things they know. They think their coolness applies only to teenagers. It surprises them that when I was in high school, we did the same things they’re doing now. They think they are totally original, and they get very annoyed when I tell them how similar my classmates and I were to them!
Chimiya Turner, English teacher, Jonesboro, Georgia

What usually shocks my students, especially the girls, is that we had to wear dresses. Our elementary school principal believed we would act more like ladies if we dressed the part. Of course, we climbed the monkey bars and slid into third base with every bit as much abandon as the boys did. I was a junior in high school before we were allowed to wear slacks—but no jeans!

Pat McKinney, Middle School Science Teacher, Holton, Kansas

My students would be surprised that I went to elementary school with no shoes and my hair uncombed, but was one of the brightest students in my class. They’d be surprised how skinny I was in middle school, and that I’d roll up my skirt and roll down my socks while waiting at the school bus stop. They’d also be surprised that I was a high school basketball star. Those were the days!

Gladys Lake, Special Education Teacher, Antioch, Tennessee

I was raised in a very liberal atmosphere and was able to drink and smoke with the adults. I had shoulder-length hair and rode a motorcycle. When I was 17 and a junior, I quit school to join the army and had no intention of ever using my GI education benefits. That all changed when I began studying to become a minister. But I soon discovered that my ministry was not preaching, but teaching, which I’ve been doing for 21 years.

Jim Ludwig, Math Teacher, Cleveland, Tennessee

My students are always surprised to learn that very few of my friends and classmates had after-school jobs during the school year. Everyone was eager to find a good summer job, but usually the only students who worked during the school year were those who had family businesses.

Sandra Mitra, AP Biology and Botany Teacher, Fall River, Massachusetts

If my students had seen me at their age, they’d be surprised that I was thin and wore my hair in an afro and my skirts above my knees. My friends and I dressed alike most days. They’d also be surprised that I haven’t seen my middle school friends since desegregation closed our school and we were split up.

Deborah Montague, Principal, Jackson, Tennessee

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