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High School Do-Over

I’m on the front row, far right

Someone asked if I’d like to do high school over again. After some thought, I decided I would do it again if I could know what I know now. Here are a few things I would do differently…

I would thank my parents for coming to performances and events.

I would thank my teachers from time to time. I’d thank guest conductors for their work after region band and choir events.

I’d say some of the stuff I was afraid to say to my peers the first time through.

I’d spend more time visiting with those of different races or backgrounds.

I’d say, “I disagree with that” when someone said something I disagreed with.

I’d smile and speak to peers who didn’t seem to have friends.

I’d worry less about what different social groups thought about me, realizing they were probably not thinking of me at all.

I’d ask my teachers more questions, especially about their lives.

I would read more, especially books not required.

Social Emotional Learning: Fluff or Essential?

If you hang around some of my teachers, you’ll probably hear us comment about the importance of Social Emotional Learning (SEL). It should come as no surprise that we learn best from those we like and those who like, and value, us. But it goes much deeper than that.

SEL has gained popularity in education circles, but practices tend to get blurry when they become “popular.” Concepts or programs get distorted as soon as they’re assigned an acronym, like SEL.

Blurry concepts eventually lose their meaning and become all talk and no action. Sometimes, there’s the temptation to pay lip service to a topic, giving the illusion that it’s being implemented. I think this often happens with Social Emotional Learning.

Some might say that all this SEL stuff is just fluff. Some think we go too far in our emphasis of social emotional learning, saying, “it’s too much of a good thing.” To that, I say, we haven’t even scratched the surface.

Don’t let my emphasis on social emotional learning confuse you into thinking I place less value on academic expectations. Experience has taught me that deep learning doesn’t have a chance without positive and trusting relationships, a central component of SEL. Learning will be much greater when we make responsible decisions and manage our emotions, also essential components of SEL.

Inez Taylor

Inez Taylor close to the time I was in her class.

When I was a student, my best teachers built strong relationships around a shared love for the subject or discipline. This didn’t mean I was always happy with the teacher who said, “I’m sorry, that needs to be better.” I remember Inez Taylor, my high school English teacher, challenging the assumptions of something I’d written. I was upset but learned from her hard questions. I rewrote the assignment and made it better because we had a relationship based on mutual respect. I still think of Inez Taylor with fondness.

I remember my best teachers’ passion and sense of urgency. If they got emotional, even bordering on a little angry, it was about our shared commitment to the discipline, the learning. That didn’t damage our relationship but ultimately strengthened it because we realized what we were doing was important.

The following elements are all necessary for deep and lasting learning: social (relationships), emotional (resilience and stability), content, skills, and application of skills to new challenges. I want my kids to have all of this stuff! I think they’re going to need it.

Inez Taylor EHS 1965

Inez Taylor on the left with Elsie Warnock on the right. Approximately 1965

When I asked El Dorado friends if they had photos of Inez Taylor, Mamie Polk found the above photo in a 1965 yearbook. I was pleased to see my mother in the photo. By the time I got to El Dorado High School, she had moved to Barton Junior High School in El Dorado. My mother always avoided teaching in the school I attended. I never knew if this was a coincidence or intentional.

Here’s a post I wrote about others who’ve impacted my learning, including Dee Post, an El Dorado High School teacher who influenced me after I became a teacher. When In Doubt, Write

High School Reunion and One Regret

EHS Class of 1974 1019

I enjoyed everything about our most recent high school reunion. Visiting with old friends and catching up was fun. As I walked around our rather large class, some of whom are pictured above, I realized I have one regret.

When I was in school, I tended not to venture outside my safety zone. Our class included about four-hundred students. I had a circle of friends, usually sharing common interests in band or choir. While this is perfectly natural, I now realize some of what I missed by not approaching more of my peers and finding common ground while we were in high school.

Thanks to social media, I’m now getting acquainted with some of those peers. They’ve led rich and interesting lives and provide a unique perspective that enriches my own. I’m thankful for time to learn of their past and how they’ve traveled life to this point.

Four Agreements EHS

EHS Reunion Memorial Sharon Fant

Sharon Fant sharing with the class

One of the most meaningful times of our 45th Reunion was the memorial held Saturday morning at the South Arkansas Arboretum. Rusty Meadows challenged us to remain open to the varieties of grief we feel from the losses we all experience in life. Raymond Higgins shared thoughts about the significance of each life represented by our classmates and a scripture reading. Sharon Fant shared the “Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz and other thoughts about the Class of ’74.


Memorial to classmates who have died.

Beth Waldrup, minister at First Methodist Church in Camden, shared the names of classmates who have died over the years as we added their names to a display.

Don Parks led the group in singing Amazing Grace and the El Dorado High School Alma Mater.

I’m looking forward to watching my classmates’ continued progress and hope we can share common paths from time to time. Hopefully, we can update each other on our journeys when we meet again on October 11, 2024.

If any of my classmates would like to follow Hiker-dog and me on the trails, join us at OzarkMountainHiker.com.

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