Back to the Past: FCS Teachers Reflect on Teenage Experiences

By Katia Campos ‘22 FOCUS News Reporter


With summer almost here, the teachers here at Friends Central welcome spring with open arms. For this article, FOCUS reporters went around and asked for some details about teachers’ past lives when they were in high school.

FOCUS reporters asked many teachers to share some inspirational and enlightening stories from their high school years. The common theme is that at one point, our teachers here at FCS thought a lot like students do now.


One of our Intro to Art teachers, Ms. Deirdre Murphy, recalls what she was like during her youth, “I have to say that I am much the same, an extrovert and introvert. Extrovert in that I really enjoy my friends and family but the artist in me needs solo time to make my art and reflect. I was most likely more rebellious in self expression through my art making.”

Ms. Murphy looks back to spending a year in Japan studying art: “At 17 I graduated high school and moved to Japan through a Rotary Scholarship. I was scared and the night before had second thoughts about going. I could hardly speak Japanese, I didn’t know the families that I would be living with, there were no cell phones and I knew I would miss my family and friends. In hindsight this ‘gap year’ was the best experience for me and sent me on my current path. In fact, I am still working Japanese motifs into my artwork and I am able to say hello to the Japanese families on the FCS campus.” The common fear of going to an entirely new place in general is relatable, the goal is that we learn, live, adapt and have fun!


As other teachers looked back, our music teacher and instrumental conductor, Mr. Carl

Bradley, read through his journals and realized that not much has changed since his high school years. “I was just reading an old journal and was surprised that my young self was just and idealist and romantic as I am today.” While being idealistic, Mr. Bradley does admit that he took a few slips on the road to growing up, preparing for the worst. He shares, “I wrote a musical while I was a senior and skipped several classes to get it going, at the time I was hiding from my Lit teacher because I was afraid she was going to fail me. Of course nothing happened but at the time I was preparing to plead my case with my mom.”


It feels like most teachers here were very good students. Would you be surprised if you were to find out how enthusiastic Mr. Gruber was in theater and art? At the same time, however, there was a bit of a rebellious spirit residing in our Mr. Gruber. “I was a good student, especially in French and Behavioral Science courses. I really loved the theatre and acting. I was more to the quiet side, but also a bit rebellious - I liked to push up against edges and I loved to travel, any time, any place,” he explained.



Once, when Mr. Gruber was about 16 or 17, he went on a trip with a friend to Sicily. “We were near the water and saw a boat with many people lined up to board. We asked someone where it was going and they said ‘Tunisia.’ I knew nothing of the place except that it was on the coast of North Africa. So we got on the boat and crossed the Mediterranean. We arrived on a day that was a national holiday-no currency, everything closed and just kind of jumped in. It turned out to be amazing-wandered in souks of Tunis, saw Roman ruins in Carthage, visited where Paul Klee lived and painted in a tiny town. That's kind of who I was-,” Says Mr. Gruber, “always wanted to jump into the unknown, put myself in totally unfamiliar places and situations.”


Our Spanish teacher Betsy Katzman recalls their past as well. “I am far more friendly and

less aggressively opinionated. I have always been studious, and I have always been intellectually rebellious. I never take an answer for true just because someone says so,” says Betsy. They recall other lessons as well: “Hardest for me was not getting certain big things I applied for in high school: being a prefect senior year and my top choices for college. I wasn't secure in who I was or what I wanted, so I just wanted everything.”


Some teachers remember being quite shy as well. That shyness didn’t stop them from doing whatever it was that they loved to do the most, though. This was the case for both Ms. Dickerson and Mr. Soper. Ms. Dickerson vividly remembers being very shy in her high school years: “I was very nerdy in high school. I took honors and AP classes and read a lot. I was also a swimmer and a runner and thrower on the track team. Something that might surprise some of my students is that I was very shy, especially when it came to public speaking. When I was a sophomore, my history class did a mock trial, and my teacher assigned me the role of the lawyer. I tried to get out of it, but he wouldn't give me a different role. When I got on stage and tried to give my opening argument, I burst into tears. That's how shy I was. I learned to be less shy, but not until college.”


Mr. Soper also recalls some of that shyness, what these two stories have in common though is that shyness does not stop what makes you special. “I was quiet and almost never spoke in class, but I played Varsity soccer and participated on the set crew for theater, so I had a pretty broad friend group populated by musicians and actors, athletes and misfit geeks. Most of us were pretty awkward, a little socially immature and insecure. My group of close

friends were gamers, not video gamers, but tabletop gamers. We played D&D (Dungeons and Dragons), most weekends at one of their houses. It's a hobby I still enjoy today, and I even play sometimes with those same friends I had then. I was also deeply religious, being raised Catholic, and this is something that still informs my life, though I don't practice Catholicism anymore and haven't for some time.”



After reminiscing about the past, FOCUS reporters asked the teachers had they any words to share with the students. Teachers gladly obliged. “Life is beautiful! As you get older you realise not that you have changed but that you stand more revealed. Cultivate your love and wonder, take care of your young self your older self will thank you,” says Mr. Bradley.

“I appreciate the moment of feeling ‘I have a path before me that my own actions and choices can create and influence, but I'm not fully sure what that is yet’ and also feeling like ‘there are things that I can't really control that may be really important ot what happens in my life.’ I think that's still true for me today, but I really felt it strongly when I was in high school,” Mr. Gruber says.


“It is a temporary stage of your life, though when you are in it, you can feel like it will go on forever. You will grow up and your life will extend far beyond this place and the experiences you have here. As important as those experiences are, they will be a collection of memories. This is something the seniors are feeling now, how this place simply can't contain them anymore. They are ready to move on, some desperate to do so, not just because they don't want to do the homework anymore, but because they've grown beyond it. One day you will, too. So, try to make the most of your time here, every day. Try to see every experience, even the difficult ones, in terms of its opportunity.” Mr. Soper voices.


Betsy says, “Trust yourself, it's okay to explore, you don't have to be perfect, intentionally pursue things where you can make mistakes.”


Time is a fleeting phenomenon. “It’s interesting to think about,” a FOCUS reporter states, continuing, “how they all were capable of becoming great models in such little time, and yet the one thing they tell us students to do is to try and [sic] preserve it and live it. You know what I think? I think that high school is like a soundtrack. As a freshman going through some stages of angst and emotions it feels like the world’s most aggressive Green Day song. But to seniors, it feels like the end of one of the Beatles greatest hits. It seems too short.”

Taking in what the reporter said, I find this true. Time is a precious thing never to be wasted. At the same time, we should preserve it with small things like taking photos, making home videos, and having fun with friends. These teachers, at one point, were teenagers too. They once felt a little fear when entering a new school. They felt their share of angst and love for weird mixtapes, too. It just goes to show we are all the same on the inside, each mixed with a different flavoring or spice.

© 1845-2020, Focus, the official newspaper of Friends' Central Upper School

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