Remember High School?

School Buses

It’s back-to-school time again and that seems to provoke adults, even ones without children, to remember their school days.

I remember high school. Somewhat. Sort of. It’s been a while. I can remember a few things about freshman year, a few more about sophomore year. Junior year has it’s blurry moments.  Senior year has a few more clear memories. For me it wasn’t the hell hole some make it out to be. It also wasn’t the glorious, best-time-of-my-life experience either. I walked the line, I suppose. I had some good times, I had some crap times. I wasn’t bullied. I wasn’t popular. I had my friends and my insecurities just like everyone else.

It wasn’t my best period in life, but if it was, that’d be a real downer. Who the hell wants their life to peak at 16?

I didn’t go to my ten year class reunion. Not because I couldn’t, but because I didn’t want to. I still live in the same town I went to school all my life in. Many of the people in my class still live in town. Working at Wal-Mart I saw a lot of them. To me it didn’t feel like ten years was long enough to get together and pretend life was a strawberry picking festival back then. Especially, since some of the people I’d be seeing at the reunion acted like they didn’t know me when they saw me around town (and maybe they didn’t recognize me, maybe I’m that easily forgotten; but I know that’s not the case for all of them).

And there’s some people that even after all this time, I just do not like and I’m not going to like. Period. Not even for an evening of good times.

Sorry. No amount of booze makes me want to play nicey-nice with you.

Now, this isn’t to say that everyone I went to school with was a jerk. Some of them were. Some of them still are. Time doesn’t change everyone and the ones that time does change don’t necessarily change for the better. Through the magic of Facebook, I’ve found that several people that I got along with and hung out with in high school have become people I don’t care for very much.  (It should be noted that this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad people. It also means that I’m not excluded in that whole change thing. Personalities that once worked together mature, grow, change and end up no longer meshing. That kind of thing happens. What I’m saying is that this sort of judgment is subjectivity at its finest.)

However, there were some people I went to school with that hold a special place in my timeline. They were truly lovely people that made an impression during a turbulent time in my existence and I’m happy to have known them. I’m friends with some of them on Facebook and I’ll be honest when I say that they still give me warm fuzzies when they pop up on my timeline.

Oddly enough, those are the people I haven’t seen in person very much since graduation.

Apparently, there are plans to attempt a 15 year reunion next year. I’m not sure if I’d go if it happens.

On one hand, I don’t feel like 15 years has been long enough either, though I got out of retail and don’t see a lot of my old classmates around town as much as I used to. Now I see them on Facebook and that’s kind of good enough for me.

On the other hand, there’s this theory that when you get people together in a class reunion situation, the old cliques and social hierarchies come back, like an instinct, and I’m half curious to see in person if that would happen. I suspect that it would, despite the time passed and the changes everyone has gone through.

There’s something that hasn’t changed since high school.

I’m still the weird girl that thinks about things from a totally different angle.

Writing–Honors English

Cover of "MLA Style Manual and Guide to S...

I took three years of honors English in high school. Freshman through junior year. It was expected that if you took three years of honors English that you’d take World Lit, where honors and A English came together as one, your senior year. I did not. I didn’t care for the teacher and frankly, my brain had had enough. I took Sci-Fi and Mythology classes instead.

Best choice I made considering I ended up working forty hours a week that year and between that, the only two hard classes I did have (physics and pre-calculus), and the extra work I put into our final play for theater arts class, I wouldn’t have had the time to devote to World Lit, though I doubt it could have been harder than honors English.

I don’t believe I’ll ever take a class harder than honors English. I could take quantum physics, not understand a damn word the teacher said, and still thing it was better than my freshman year final in honors English.

I’m not joking. My teacher was a taskmaster, an absolute tyrant when it came to honors English. Everything she did was to prepare us for college, she said, and in the three times I’ve been to community college, I never had anything come close to what she put us through. The class was so hard, the teacher so demanding that we never had more than eleven kids in our class. In fact, it was the biggest class. I think by junior year, we only had eight.

Brutal.

Don’t think so?

My freshman final was to write three five paragraph themes answering questions covering three of the four books we’d read that year. We had an hour and a half to get it done. The questions involved exploring themes, symbolism, and all that good literary junk. The books we read that year were Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mocking Bird, A Tale of Two Cities, and The Scarlet Letter.

Sophomore year we read a few Shakespeare plays, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, and Macbeth. In anticipation to the reading of two of these plays, we had to write a five paragraph theme pertaining to the play in question. In class. Fifty minutes. That’s all the time we got. One theme was on the word maturity. The other theme was on the word ambition. That’s right. We were expected to write a fully developed, edited, five paragraph theme in fifty minutes on a single word.

Good times.

Sophomore year also featured the required research paper all English classes had to write. Twenty pages on a controversial topic, presenting both sides without bias, in correct MLA format. And notecards! Fifty properly formatted research notecards had to be turned in as well. And to make sure that education stuck, we ended up doing a couple of ten page papers the same way our junior year.

We had ten vocabulary words to memorize a week for three years. The words were given to us on Monday. We had to present definitions on Tuesday. The test was on Friday.

We did independent grammar study on Mondays. That’s right. We were responsible for teaching ourselves and each other grammar (the teacher helped when needed, of course). We were then tested once a quarter. If everyone didn’t pass to her liking, we risked going back to having formal lessons.

It was like boot camp every day for three years.

And it was the best thing ever for me as a writer.

I didn’t realize it at the time when I was being put through my paces, but this hardcore teacher was doing more than prepping me for college. She gave me many of the tools I was going to need to survive a writing career. She taught me organization, attention to detail, how to revise (really gave me the best advice on that), the importance of word choice, the importance of doing it right, and how and when to settle for calling a piece done.

I hated it at the time, but I love that I went through it now.

I saw my honors English teacher in the post office the other day. I doubt she remembers me (it’s been 15 years since my last class with her), but I recognized her on site. Her beehive is still intact, though a little grayer. She still looks a bit like a bird, small and pointy. And I bet she’s still running kids through her honors English gauntlet with the same toughness she did when I was in her class.

I hope those kids eventually come to appreciate it as much as I do now.