The last time we were in high school during school hours, baggy jeans were cooler than skinny ones.
“Selfie” wasn’t a word yet.
Flip phones, iPod click wheels and small digital cameras with terrible resolution were considered advanced technology. Frosted tips were found on the top of every guy’s hair. Justin Timberlake was just the teen heartthrob who led ‘N Sync and Beyonce was one of three who made up Destiny’s Child. Belly buttons were considered fashionable.
And hashtags were only used if you wanted to connect directly to the operator.
a few a lot of years to the last full day before Spring Break 2014. The day BEFORE Spring Break. Keep that in mind.
Amy’s former yearbook teacher sent us a private message on Facebook and asked us if we’d be willing to speak with five photography classes at our former high school about our journey: high school sweethearts turned professional photographers. We hardly blinked before we accepted, for a number of reasons, really. We felt honored. Who wouldn’t? It’s the place where we met. The teachers there gave more to us than we could ever thank them for. A lifetime of our memories still walk the halls. The higher we climb in our career and the less time time we think we have to spend, the more time we need to give back, not less. The next generation depends on this generation’s investments in them. Plus, TED Talks hasn’t called yet — and probably won’t soon, or ever — but when they do, we’ll be ready!
The night before our talk, we felt strangely calm, yet very nervous at the same time. Speaking to adults, fellow photographers, who choose to hear us speak is one thing. Speaking to 14- to 18-year-olds, early in the morning, one day before Spring Break, most of whom probably chose to enroll in photography class just because they didn’t want to take ceramics or another foreign language, is QUITE another thing. Sure, we were teachers for a few years, so we had a leg up, but high school is not the same. Not by a long shot. We taught elementary school, the place where the person in the front of the room is still a mini-celebrity. Where the girls couldn’t wait to hug Amy each morning and fought to be the first to tell her how pretty she looked. Where every one of Jordan’s jokes got a round of laughs every. single. time. (He still misses that part of the job!) Where the hands go up fast and enthusiastically and the wide eyes tell you, “We’re listening!”
No. This was high school. The place where they make you earn it. Where you’ve gotta be more interesting in the first five minutes than Snapchat and Instagram, or you talk to the tops of heads for the next hour. It’s the toughest crowd in the world, but with the largest possible impact. High risk, high reward. That’s kind of the cool part, actually. You walk in as a nobody, and the only way you walk out as a somebody is if you impact someone in the room.
When we arrived in the morning, we checked in at the front desk, got our green visitor badges, and made the long walk to the home economics kitchen turned photography lab. The school was already buzzing, and by the time we got organized, the first bell had already rung. Half asleep (who could blame them?), students filed into their first hour classroom. Heads down. Not talking. Thumbs moving. Minutes later, the red digital clock in the back of the room clicked to 7:30 a.m.
We kicked things off with our personal story. Jordan admitted to taking someone else to the homecoming dance the night he fell in love with Amy, did an embarrassing demonstration of high school dirty dancing (you can’t un-see that!), and then, judging by this photograph, tried to put the students under a wizard spell of some kind. Expelliarmus!
After we finished telling our personal love story, all of the girls (and most of the boys) were engaged, which was a relief, because we’d never talked to the tops of heads before, and we’re so thankful we didn’t have to!
Next, we walked everyone through a typical wedding day from start to finish, with Jordan interrupting and going off point, from time to time, to tell funny stories from past weddings.
And then he tried to cast more spells on the students! What are those hands doing, man?! Apparently, talking with our mouths just isn’t enough. You can’t tame these wizard hands.
Witty banter with front-row students…
Well done, student in the back. You got our Mean Girls reference. You go, Glen Coco.
We wrapped up our time by explaining why we do what we do. We explained that our goal is to preserve a young couple’s love in its raw, pure, joyous, unfiltered, emotional state for generations to come, so that fifty years from now, when our clients are grandparents and their granddaughter gets engaged, they’d be able to open their wedding album and that 20-something would be able to feel the real, fresh, vibrant emotion come back to life and jump right off the page, that she’d know by feeling not just by seeing, how much her grandpa truly loved her grandma, because we believe that a legacy of love, generational love, an inheritance of love passed from one family member to the next, has the power to transform marriages and, therefore, entire family trees.
You could’ve heard a pin drop as we concluded. Some tears fell, and that was good, because we felt like we’d cracked the tough exteriors of many students in the room and connected with their hearts, hopefully inspiring them to lean toward a life of significance over success. Getting stopped in the halls afterward and receiving messages in the days following, saying things like, “You inspired me to want to do what you do,” was humbling and deeply touching. There was nothing we loved more than getting to hear questions and feedback straight from the students. These kids were incredible.
One of the ironies of teaching is being thanked for teaching, even though you felt like you learned more from the students than they learned from you. Huskies, thank you for opening up your classroom to us for an entire day. Thank you for listening with an open mind and honest heart. Thank you for laughing. Thank you for crying. Thank you for making us work for it. Thank you for responding when we did. Thank you for welcoming us into your home for the day.
Thank you for making our homecoming an exhausting but entirely rewarding experience. Because of you, we’ll be back…
Photo Credit: All of the photographs were taken by two fantastic students who volunteered to shoot during two of our presentations. Bryan Campbell and Ryan Steele, thank you for making us look better than we actually did — and for capturing Jordan’s wizard hands. He’ll never hear the end of it from Amy…
In between classes, we snuck off to visit the same English class where we met 13 years ago. Aside from some fresh paint on the walls, it’s exactly how we remembered it. We chatted with our former teacher on her lunch break, and then she snapped this picture of us before we jetted out to the courtyard for a quick pic where we used to have lunch together.