Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My High School Experience


My 15 year high school reunion is coming up. And, thanks to facebook, I've recently been reconnected with a person who was very important to me in those junior high/high school years... but we'd lost touch over the years. As a result of all of these reminders, I've been thinking a lot about high school. Furthermore, my good pal Jessica over at Bohemian Bowmans recently wrote a post about high school and how she didn't learn much of anything. I responded that, ironically, I felt that I learned a lot in high school, had a great experience, blah blah blah, despite my unschooling beliefs. But the more I think about it, the more I'm pretty sure that my high school experience wasn't any better than any one else's experience.

Here are some of the things that have popped into my head while reminiscing about my high school years.

Socialization

In the middle years of my high school career, I happened to not have lunch period with any of my good friends. This was devastating and difficult, especially for an outcast. I finally settled into a routine of sitting with a few other misfits. I wasn't especially BFFs with any of them but at least I wasn't sitting alone! These were some of the other freaks and geeks from my school. One of them painted her nails black and the other one wore a collar. I think some people thought that they were lesbians. I didn't. Either way, we'd sit together and entertain each other. Well, there were some... uh... preps? Rednecks? Jocks? (To this day, I cannot tell the difference really) who sat at the table behind us and I swear there was this one particular boy who was a complete idiot. Anyway, this idiot started throwing stuff at us. For a few days it was just things like straw wrappers and french fries. We ignored it. I mean, it was not hurting anyone and we didn't want to pay him back with attention. Finally, though, when the weird girls didn't give him the attention he was seeking, he started throwing bigger, heavier things at us. Our cafeteria served these cans of sugar-laden fruit drinks and he started throwing those at us. He threw full cans at our HEADS. That was it. I was finished. I stood up and I started to yell. I yelled as loudly as I could. I couldn't believe this moron was stooping to such a level. Well, guess who got sent to the principal's office? Yep, that's right. Me. I was sent. I didn't get into "trouble" but I was basically told that there was nothing that they could do to this moron. To just ignore him. He never did it again. But the injustice was ridiculous. That kid should have had his face beaten. I kinda wish now that I'd done it. But I guess that wouldn't have looked good on my flawless discipline record. But man, it was just not cool and I can't believe the tolerance of such senseless bullying. I don't want my kids to ever be in that kind of situation. And if they ever are... I hope they beat the bully to a bloody pulp to be perfectly honest.

Towards the end of my senior year, I had a very upsetting experience. I was sitting in my first period class before the bell rang. I was minding my own business when this girl with whom I'd been decent friends in the 9th grade walked up to me and started in on me. She started threatening me and saying what she'd do to me if I ever told people about her business again. I was dumbfounded. And deeply wounded. First of all, I wasn't a gossip. I really wasn't. I kept my mouth shut for the most part (when it came to other people's business... not my own). Secondly, I wasn't a liar. Third, I didn't know anything juicy about her. I wracked my brain for some memory about what I could have said about her and to whom. I had no flippin' idea. I was at a loss. I kept trying to talk to her about it and she refused to discuss it any further. I was mortified. I'm STILL mortified about it. If I saw her on the street today, I'd ask her about it. Such a hurtful and painful experience... and it made me feel crazy and alone and stressed out and creeped out and... well.. so much for positive socialization, right?

Morals
My sophmore year, I was given a condom. In the same class where the dissection took place, I was given a condom. As part of the class. In case I needed one I guess. I distinctly remember losing my virginity shortly after that. Now, I'm sure other factors were involved... lack of parental supervision, lack of morals or guidance, the need to punish the boy who had dumped me for my best friend, having a crazy as all hell boyfriend, and being remotely attractive. I mean, I was probably going to have sex. But did they have to make it so easy? So okay? Did the health department have a right to be distributing prophylactics to a group of horny 16 year olds? It's disgusting. DISGUSTING. Way to go public school. This memory alone is reminding me why I will never send my kids to public high school. Geesh.

Academics
In 10th grade, we were expected to dissect... a shark I think? I didn't care what they were cutting up. I was a high highfalutin' vegetarian with animal rights at the forefront of my mind. I told my biology teacher that I would not be participating in the dissection. She could fail me or give me another option. She was nice and gave me another option. She had a "meeting" with me and said that in all of her many years of teaching she'd never had anyone refuse to dissect. She wasn't judging or pointing fingers. She actually said that she respected my decision and willingness to step up and defend what I believed in. But I had to spend all of the dissection time in the library labeling a diagram of the animal they were cutting up. My assignment was much harder than the others' but I did just fine. I learned to stand up for myself and my beliefs. But in an unschool situation, I would have never even been presented with mandatory "learning" of shark guts because I would have never sought that out. Ick. That is not me. To this day I hate blood and guts and I have NO reason to know what is inside of a shark. I don't see myself ever developing an interest in shark guts. My kids, however, love blood and guts. I bet they will be asking to dissect before ya know it!

In the 11th grade, I took a "computer class". I use quotation marks because the "computers" were dinosaurs and the "class" was a complete joke. The teacher knew less about computers than Jen on "The IT Crowd" and she handed most responsibilities over to this crazy kid who had lived next door to me when we were little and he knew computers alright. And guns. And trucks. And that is about it. Oh wait, he knew how to creep me the heck out. Anyway, I'd had a computer in my bedroom for three years at that point. I knew more about using a computer than most of the people in the class. I did not, however, have any idea how to do any of the outdated nonsense in this computer curriculum. It was clear that they had been using the same curriculum for about ten years. Every week we had to take a test with 10 True and False questions. There were no lessons. Just these things we had to try and "learn" in order to answer the questions. Well, I didn't understand the material, mind you. I also didn't understand the questions on the test. True or False always confused me. And when you add in the fact that the material was like Greek to me... well... I failed. A lot. No big deal, right? Wrong. I had set the goal of being in the Top 30 of my class. It meant a LOT to me. But my dad had made me take this ridiculous "computer class" which was a standard class... meaning I only got standard credit for it. A "B" in a standard class was humiliating but I was getting "C"s in this awful class and that lowered my average enough to make me 32 in my class. That ONE class kept me from reaching my goal. Had my dad let me pick my own classes I would have chosen a second foreign language because I loved Spanish and I wanted to try French or German. I don't mean any blame on my dad, for the record. I know that he just thought a computer class would be useful... and it should have been. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

I had this really awesome English teacher. For two years. I got lucky. I loved her and I loved her class. One year she had a list of books we could choose to read and then write about and she intentionally put Paul Zindel's play "The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man in the Moon Marigolds" in the list because she knew he was my favorite writer and that I'd not read this particular work yet. See? Cool teacher! Even defended me when this one boy in my class kept yelling at me to shut up. She said that one day I'd have my own television show and he'd feel like an ass. (BTW, He recently emailed me that he'd like to paint a picture for my home in honor of me. Hmmph.)
Anyway, like all other (10th?) graders, in her class, we had to read LORD OF THE FLIES. My teachers knew I was a good student. A down right excellent student even. But I could not get this book. I read and I read and I read and I still flunked the quizzes. I hate it. HATED it. It made no sense to me. Well, I finally broke down and cried to this teacher. I didn't want this one book to ruin my average for the six weeks. She knew me and knew that I was trying. So she said, like in secret, "Don't tell anyone I'm telling you this but just buy the Cliff Notes." And I did. And it worked. I still hated the story but I could at least answer the questions on the quizzes. Well, how ridiculous is this story? I mean, why should any person ever be forced to read some novel they don't like? Isn't the whole point of these classes to foster a love of books, reading and literature? It's absurd that an entire class of 16 year olds must read the same book and then answer questions about it. I'm so glad that if my kids and I start a book and we don't like it... we put it down and we abandon it. There is no reason on earth why anyone should be forced to read a book that he or she hates.

I could go on and on about the awful things that happened to me in high school but I'll stop there for now. Instead, I think it's only fair to acknowledge the good experiences that I did have.

For one thing, I had an amazing Spanish teacher. His name was Senor Bubb and he was a fantastic teacher and a great guy. I also had amazing friends. I mean AMAZING friends. And I am still friends with almost every single one of those people to this day. As a result of being friends with those people I had the best after school job in the town, I learned to drive, I now know doctors and lawyers and professors, I had FUN, I attended concerts, I got out of my hometown and attended college, and I felt loved, cherished, and accepted. I owe those people a lot.

The best thing that happened to me in high school was theater. In 8th grade I tried out for chorus. I didn't make it. I was like one of 2 people denied the right to sing in the chorus. But I think that this was my first experience with faith in the fact that God will make things the way that they should be. Because had I been in chorus, I would have not taken speech and drama. And therefore I would have likely never discovered that I had public speaking and acting ability. I ended up being on our school's speech team and in Performers... an honor for theater geeks. I was the star of my class's last play. It was awesome. I was one of Kim Reed-Bracey's kids and my professors could tell when I went on to college and minored in theater. Sure I could have experienced theater as an unschooled kid but considering where I grew up and who my parents were... I probably would not have. The silver lining. My days on the stage are still some of the best memories I have.

Of course, our school couldn't have been all bad. My class produced doctors, professors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, bloggers (tee hee), musicians, teachers, film makers, actors, mothers, fathers, military service men and women. I can even honestly say that I graduated with a certain American Idol and a guy who plays with a well known band.

What about your high school days? Are there particular things that happened to you in high school that have helped solidify your decision to school or homeschool or unschool your children? What are some of the best things that happened to you in high school?