Hanging out in the teacherís lounge

When Melissa Stagnaro and I walked into the Oxford Retired Teachers Association luncheon on Tuesday, we were buck naked. Worse, they started to give us a test for which we had not studied, in a course we hadnít taken. But before the test even started, they engaged us in a particularly brutal game of dodge ball.

Thatís how it happened in my high school angst-ridden dream Monday night, anyway. Fortunately, reality on Tuesday turned out to be far less humiliating.

As I understand it, a member of the group contacted Melissa a few months ago and asked if she, Tyler Murphy and I, as esteemed alumni of Oxford Academy, would speak at the groupís annual luncheon about our Blackhawk experience. And I say as I understand it because, despite her protestations otherwise, I swear Melissa never told me about it until Mrs. Franco called me to ďconfirm.Ē

Never one to turn down an opportunity to talk about myself (another trait Ms. Stagnaro and I apparently have in common), I jumped at the chance. (Tyler, he just missed this chance of a lifetime by a couple weeks. Poor guy). But as the day approached, I was filled with dread.

What had I gotten myself into? (I ask that question a lot). Public speaking is one thing; although I still get a tad nervous, Iíve done it a thousand times and know Iíll muddle through. But in front of a roomful of my former teachers?!? What was I thinking?

No matter how far removed you get from the high school experience (and this June marks 25 years for me), former teachers will always have the ability to regress you into a snot-nosed youth with a mere glance. And even though my own hair is now as gray as theirs, I still felt like I was 8 years old in front of most of them. Twelve in front of the rest, I suppose.

Despite my teenaged agita, I think I managed to suck it up and put on a pretty good show for my former teachers (and just a couple Iíd never had) at the Oxford Library on Tuesday. Melissa more than held her own in our witty repartee Ė throw in a hearty lunch from Hoppieís (provided by fellow Oxford alum Danielle Marshman Williamson, of course) and all in all it wasnít a bad way to spend an afternoon away from the office. It was a pleasure, truly, to see such familiar faces from my educational past Ė Mr. Cooper, Mr. Lanfear, Mr. Runyon, Mrs. Cooper, Mrs. Mohr, Mrs. Burrell, Mrs. Ross, Mrs. Troicke, Mrs. Nowalk, Mrs. Fowlston ... yes, thatís right, none of them have first names. Thatís something that never changes, no matter how they tried to get me to accept otherwise.

Oh, what did I say to those former educators? Funny, itís been a long time since I considered what impact the Red & Black had on my life. I could pay lip service to the standard ďgave me the building blocks to build a solid foundation for my futureĒ spiel, but the truth is I hated it. Címon, my formative years werenít any different than anyone elseís around here Ė I was a malcontent youth who couldnít wait to get out of Dodge and never look back.

Well, I didnít get very far. And in retrospect, Iím glad I didnít.

While I failed to appreciate anything about Oxford while I was growing up Ė the community, the school, you name it Ė the fact of the matter is these things take time to sink in. The lessons I learned from that learned bunch, and the experiences I had in that small town, did in fact become the building blocks to a brighter future Ė itís just that my future ended up 10 or so miles up the road.

And I donít look on that as a bad thing, at all. The night before this little talk, I sat through Norwich Dollars for Scholarsí annual awards ceremony, and was impressed by what a bright, talented group the Tornado has in its Class of 2011. The same is true, Iím sure, for every district across the county. Itís my fervent hope that at least some of them will come back Ė either by choice or circumstance Ė and make Chenango their home.

Follow me on Twitter ... @evesunjeff.

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