Tuesday, October 27, 2009


(that's me, drum major, poofy bangs and french braid. oy.)

on NPR i heard that geocities is no more. which strangely brought back some (not-so-great) memories.

in my former life, i was a high school english teacher (and even yearbook adviser). yes, it's true.

at 5'2" and 24 years of age, i lorded over those 9th, 11th, and 12th graders. at least i tried to. mostly they just thought i was grouchy and mean and _________ (fill in the blank with whatever obscenity a teenager in the mid-late 90s would have used).

i LOVED teaching. well, i loved hanging out with the kids. the english lit and grammar were just ways of allowing me to do what i felt called to do at the time--spend time with teenagers, listen, encourage. i loved imagining that i was the "cool" teacher they could share things with, talk to, get advice from.

things sort of went downhill when i taught 9th grade honors english. i don't really know it all started. maybe i was too tough on them. maybe they were just punks. maybe i gave a test or 2 they didn't like. maybe they had always enjoyed resting on their middle school laurels and didn't prepare enough. maybe i should have been more flexible about turning things in late. maybe they should have heard me when i told them that grown-ups don't usually get extended due dates in life.

at any rate, one day i found out that a few boy students had created a website about me. now, this was in 1997, so way before it was normal for kids to just be messing around on the Internet. unfortunately for me, i had graduated from the high school at which i was teaching, so the students had easy access to (awful and embarrassing) pictures of me in my pre-swan stage. ok, maybe i never reached the swan stage, but i had some ultra pre-swan growing pains.

(this is how badly i want to forget how i looked in high school: a while back someone posted pictures of me from 9th grade, and i was so horrified that i ended up de-friending about 200 people and locking down my FB page for a while. talk about needing to get over it...)

the only thing i can remember about the page is that there was some (funny) prose about me heading to florida (for spring break maybe? or christmas to visit family) and being satanic (i'm guessing because at the time rick was a youth minister) and there was a picture of me from high school.

as soon as the boys got wind of the fact that i knew the page was up, they took it down. i'm not sure how many people saw it. my ego was really bruised. i have never been very good at laughing at myself. i wanted the boys punished, which our school administrator wouldn't do because one of the boys' dads was the president of the football parents association (whatever it's called--see i've blocked all school lingo out of my vocabulary) and he didn't want to offend the parent. seriously?!

the other boy came to me and apologized, which made me feel a lot better.

but even now as i type, i feel my palms getting sweaty, my heart racing a bit. it definitely was not the most fun experience. i think maybe it was so traumatizing to me because i had hoped they would think i was awesome, and instead i realized that at least some of the students regarded me as their enemy. or maybe they were just being stupid. maybe now they would feel bad about it.

i know in high school i didn't always behave in ways that i would be proud to admit now.

isn't it strange how hearing one word, geocities, can bring back such a flood of memories?


jon said...

this made me sad.

Little C and Little J said...

you are an angel for ever being able to work with teenagers at all! in my experience, you got off easy. Good luck with sticker charts.

Pixie said...

You are 5'2"? Granted we never stood back to back and measured but I have always thought you were my height. Hmmm....

It is crazy all the memories that can be associated with one word. I would have the same reaction as you did to that situation. My pictures are of the home-schooled, fundy, koulots type. I hope we're both strong enough by the time our kids our in high-school and find old pictures of us.... or maybe we should start saving pictures of them so that they will never ridicule ours (I am such a mature parent sometimes).

elise said...

Meanwhile you taught honors english? to high schoolers? How impressive is that? Like, so very. Love that geocities brought all this out. and love the rear-view majorette pic.

Anonymous said...

Ok, the weirdest thing a0bout this post is all I can think about is that I could have been in your English class, had our paths crossed earlier. That is freak'n me out right now! I'm glad they didn't. I was way to nerdy. Even a drum major wouldn't have been my friend in the late 90's. Love you K! (And we ALL have bad high school memories... I sang in front of about 1000 people. I don't sing. So I'm not sure why I thought I could that night...)

Amelia Plum said...

I feel your pain. It's a really poignant post. I never taught teenagers but I can so relate to the insecurities when you think about yourself back in ninth grade. I sometimes wonder why it is that those memories can be so visceral, I think it might be that their our first experience with them in a that makes a mark throughout our adulthood.

beki said...

Geeze, I would certainly be traumatized!

CalebE.Greene said...

I was on the other end of a similar situation:
In high school, while going through photos from youth trips (post-Rick, I was in 6th grade when you guys left) I realized that well over half of them were more or less Youth Group Gone Wild photos. Obvious course of action: Website. Not Geocities, but Angelfire (also crummy and free). I included goofy photos of kids making-out on the bus, a married chaperone couple asleep, spooning, on the bus, guys running around in their boxers in hotel hallways after lights out, etc--the stuff I'm sure Rick is glad to be done with.

We all had a habit of taking photos with unattended cameras, and in my case, a Sunday school teacher's son had grabbed my disposable camera and taken a picture of his nipple. I put it up with the rest of the photos. A week or so after the site was up, the youth minister called; he needed a conference with me because a concerned parent had called him and was upset that I was "running a gay porno site of the youth group." He was also afraid that some students might be upset that my candid photos were online for anyone to see. When I got to his office, it turned out that by "conference" he just wanted it to be face-to-face when he told me to shut it down. I told him that the characterizaion of the site as gay porno was ludicrous, but that I would take all references to our church off, and that if any parents had any concern about the content of my website that they should contact me (since I was an 18-year old "adult") and we could discuss the photos of their children misbehaving. I thought I was real slick.

You're right about the early days of teens and the internet. Back then people went ape. They were certain that because it is possible for everyone on the planet to see a site, then everyone will see it. The kids just thought it was hilarious. Now, kids still think it's hilarious, and parents have grown comfortably numb. Like every other behavior they ignore, they don't tell their children not to do something, they tell them not to put pictures of it online.
Now that first internet-immersed, heady generation is getting older and sober--last month a guy on the website got in touch with me. He's looking for work and when he Googled his name, my nearly-decade-old Angelfire website popped up, and it terrified him. So, I'm in the process of taking it all down. But for a few months in 2000, it was a lot of fun to watch everyone squirm.