John N. Gardner
I can’t believe it. I am headed this weekend for my 50th high school reunion. I love reunions. I have been to every one—both my high school and my undergraduate college. I think a lot about what it makes some former students want to return to reunions, and others very content to skip them. Obviously, this is a commentary on personalities, life histories and stories after school, and on the school experience itself.
I return out of loyalty (a truly passé quality in early 21st century American life). I return to pay respects to those few on the faculty and staff who invested in me. I return to renew certain pacts I made with myself about what kind of an adult life I was going to endeavor to have.
- Affirm their self worth and dignity
- Help them develop and discover a new and preferable identity
- Get them really excited about learning and about seeing how much they could learn
- Creating opportunities for them to experience vigorous interaction with their peers from which lifetime relations could and would emerge
- Celebrating their accomplishments
- Being there for them when they needed us
- Intervening when asked and sometimes when not asked
- Engaging them in powerful and meaningful rituals, rites of passage
- In some ways, it doesn’t really take much
- Setting a compelling example for adult fulfillment yourself and urging them to emulate some of your values, beliefs, practices
- Showing them that they too could make a difference
- Simply always remembering them, calling them by name, showing respect
- Let them know I/we REALLY cared about them, and for them
One of the things that I have liked the best about my career working with higher educators who want to improve student success, is that they are the kinds of educators whom former students want to come back and see at reunions—to let us know what they have amounted to—and, yes—to say thanks.