1. Erato
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    Erato New Member

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    What's it like in a public high school?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Erato, Feb 25, 2012.

    I'm a bit in the dark here, having never been in a public school myself, and I'd love some descriptions. Every time I try to write about a kid in high school, I can't describe the school, which is a major nuisance.
    Thanks!

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  2. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Any specific grade? Rural or city (big city or small)? What part of the country? Time frame (60s, 70s, currently)?
  3. louis1
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    louis1 Member

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    I went to both, private and public high schools so maybe I can help, depends on what years you wanna here about. I finished high school 2 years ago.
  4. Jeeves
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    Jeeves New Member

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    I can tell you what it was like in a public high school 30 years ago!;)
  5. JPGriffin
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    JPGriffin New Member

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    The clearer you are with your question, the better I can help, being a Junior in High School now.
  6. Erato
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    Erato New Member

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    Sorry, I meant contemporary or within the last 20 years or so. Any grade is fine. Also the levels of subjects?
  7. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Awaiting a good story in the local pub... Contributor

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    Oh my good Lord! To think it was just four years ago when I graduated.

    Well, let me tell you...when I was in high school, football was IN!! You either loved football, or you were a sissy. The football team, specifically? The school's very own football team. Arrogant? I don't know, but every Friday during football season, they would cram the whole school-faculty and students-into this spacious gym for a pep ralley. In short, a bunch of cheerleaders would dance and perform acrobatics for the football players that sat right in front of them. I liked to pretend I was some British explorer observing a tribe by thinking thoughts like,

    And the women, in these peculiar outfits that exposed their tan legs, would dance merrily with weird, fuzzy balls in their hands. Before them were what I assumed to be their warriors and on either side of them were the rest of the tribe with the teachers, the chieftan, and fellow children. Was this some sort of weekly ritual to bolster the warrior's spirits? Every so often, the rest of the tribe would issue out a loud hollar that sometimes chilled the bone. Was there some kind of magic behind this, in which I did not understand?

    Yeah, to put it bluntly, I hated football, and the entire culture my school had built around it, so thinking stuff like this helped me endure having to go to those damned pep ralleys that I had to go attend! No exceptions!!

    90% of the adults there were coaches. 90% of the kids there were either football players themselves or cheerleaders. The rest were just regular kids like me trying to survive, but I'm sure most of them were football fans themselves.

    Because I was the stark contrast to it all, I made damned sure to not paint a bullseye on my back by doing anything. I kept my face in my books, listened quietly to the teachers, and patiently waited for the dismissal bell.

    But know what's funny? My high school football team never won a single game in the whole time I was there. Perhaps their ritual wasn't doing them any good? xD
  8. live2write
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    live2write Member

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    Lets see my high school years:

    It was all about: Sports (football, track, soccer, field hockey, golf, bowling, swim team, tennis etc), your major. My high school was a college prep school where we had english, math, science, history, language, business, computers, art, theater and music departments. Teachers who were also coaches or who made the classes interesting were on the students good side.
    Also school spirit where we rivaled against other schools.

    Aside from the sports you have stereotypes.
    The jocks, the popular crowd, the nerds, the gamer geeks/computer geeks, the druggies, the punks/goths, the rejects and the people who just hang out with anybody no matter what.

    It was more of a place where you both got an education and where you hung out with your friends to discuss what is going on outside of school or in school. GOSSIP!!
  9. Erato
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    Erato New Member

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    Thanks! This is all very interesting! It kind of feels, like Link was saying, as if I were some sort of alien looking in on this experience and being rather amused...
  10. jo spumoni
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    jo spumoni Member

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    I graduated high school 3 years ago, but I'm an odd person and I didn't feel like I ever fit in very well, so I'm not so sure my experience was typical. Plus, every high school is different.

    But my general impressions were this:

    1) High school is cliquish, but not in the way TV makes it out. There aren't definite crowds. There's no "popular" section or "nerd" section, and the snobby assholes who think they're better than everyone never really become "popular," since they just piss everyone off. There are social butterflies who seem to know everyone and do everything, but most people hang around in little clusters of maybe 10-20 students. In our case, we were almost all girls, but we had a few boys here and there who joined us; usually they were dating some of the girls. If you're alone in high school, you feel very excluded, so you latch onto a cluster ASAP, even if the people don't really share your interests that much. The result is that within your cluster of "friends," there will be people you connect with intensely, but there will also be people you barely know at all and will lose contact with immediately after high school is over.

    2) There was a definite overachiever crowd at my high school, and they made the rest of us--even the good students--look like slackers. I took six advanced placement classes in high school, which were plenty. I also joined the National Honors Society, which is a community service club, but a very exclusive one that you can only get into if you have a good GPA and fill out this really long application. The result of all of this and my hard work was that I ended up with a 4.1 GPA. In high school, I only had one "B" ever, and every other class was an "A." I was ranked 30th. This is good and everything...but it means that there were 29 people ahead of me who NEVER got a "B" and had GPAs so overly inflated with IB and AP classes as to be ridiculous. The #1 student in our class had a 4.7 GPA and was involved in so many clubs it would make your head spin. AND she played piano AND she was captain of the tennis team AND she worked in a hospital and discovered the cure for malaria...I'm not really exaggerating. These people just keep raising the bar higher and higher to the point of ridiculousness, and they never seem to enjoy themselves all that much. They end up at Stanford and places like that, but I wonder at what cost. They sure put a lot of pressure on themselves!

    3) Love is a big theme of high school. You'll walk by a bench and there will be two people holding each other and making out in the open. The passion is striking. Usually these relationships don't last, but every now and then you'll see one that does. My two friends dated all throughout high school and are still dating three years into college even though they go to different colleges in different states. Most of them, however, are doomed to end with senior year, if not before. In high school, you're still learning what kind of person you are.

    4) There is a peculiar lampoon culture stemming largely around sarcasm. It's rather hard to explain, but it often revolves around someone or something being so uncool that they're almost cool, sort of like David Hasselhoff. So for example, I knew a boy who had a My Little Pony backpack. And I myself sort of got a reputation like that: I was decidedly uncool. I was very serious about my schoolwork and I was one of my history teacher's favorite students. I ended up being lampooned just a little bit as a nerd, but not in a mean way. My classmates didn't dislike me. They used to talk me up a bit, doing things like naming our study group after me in history when the other people just chose names like "AP American History Group 2" (although we did have a Team America, Team Canada, and Andrew Jackson 5). They were being funny, and I think this was a sign that I belonged.

    5) While not everybody is working all the time, most idle chitchat is about classes. It's mostly because that's what everyone has in common. So you'll tell about something funny that happened in class that day or about how much you hate x teacher. You have to have very thick skin to be a high school teacher because we were ALWAYS criticizing them and their assignments. There is a lot of gossip about students, too, but it tends to just be about what's going on in the school itself. Home life is not talked about very much, except with your closest friends. That's why students going through tough times at home sometimes end up feeling very alone. They don't feel like they can talk to anyone about them.

    If I think of other things, I'll let you know, but I have to go right now. Feel free to PM me if you want to know anything else or if you wonder if a particular scene rings true or something. I'll do what I can.
  11. Erato
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    Erato New Member

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    Whoa. That is really exhaustive and helpful, thank you.
  12. TanvirBD
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    TanvirBD New Member

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    Thanks! This is all very interesting! It kind of feels, like Link was saying, as if I were some sort of alien looking in on this experience and being rather amused...
  13. OriginalUsername211
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    OriginalUsername211 New Member

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    It also depends where this is taking place. I attended high school in New York, and compared to friends who went to school across the country our experiences were very different. If this is a New York/urban-ish school I'd be happy to help out in any way I can :)
  14. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Member

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    I went to a highschool that did have a strong sports section, but performing arts was equally important. Many students I graduated with went on to Broadway, Nashville or Hollywood. Though not all *made it big*, they did make a liveable career out of their art. And one or two did do quite well for themselves. But I don't like to name throw my links to fame, so I'll leave it at that.

    My highschool was set up in the shape of two squares. The perimeter being the two story hallways and classrooms. The interior of the squares courtyard and parking areas. Along one side of the hall were doors to classrooms and tan lockers. The other side was windows/walls. The walls had 1ftX2ft tan tiles that proceeded to about 5 feet, the rest of the wall was an institutional offwhite color that made it feel more like a prison than an educational facility. But we made memories there. We painted windows, and hung posters for whatever we were advocating for at the time. It was home and for many a safe haven away from disfunctional families.

    Morning started in homeroom, a shortened class period, where attendance was taken, announcements given over the intercom, the pledge of allegiance was stated and a moment of silence to do ... whatever it is you need to do in your mind to get ready for the day. Each class ran about 50 minutes after that, and each class was in a different room.

    There were definitive cliques in my school, and there were some bullies, but nothing like what goes on today. I never fit into any specific group and was a floater between cliques. It worked for me. I can't think of anymore to share, other than, teen age relationships are awkward, complicated and yet overly simple at the same time.
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Think shark tank, but with body odor, bad breath, and pine-scented cleaner smell. Add greasy hair and the tragedy of facial zits. Then throw in some twelve year olds who see themselves as the next Snooky, or the Situation, or Katy Perry (no, I am not equating them!)

    Next throw in some teachers and staff trying to look tough yet compassionate, and trying to hide the panic sweat.

    Now chum the waters...










    (hey, I'm only kidding!)






    (Mostly)
  16. James Berkley
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    James Berkley Banned

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    Ummm, depends on the school. I was at a public HS with a large JROTC contingent that I was in. The older cadets held themselves as being a cut above our non-cadet peers because well we were. We also got minions, I mean new cadets we were in charge of.
    sports where not big. I think Cross country was the best (non JROTC) males sport as far as producing wins. I personally ran cross country and shot on the JROTC marksmanship team.
    Their was a bit of marijuana being used at different points along with the typical drinking. Most people that could drive drove to school, I preferred taking my motorcycle. Being in the rural north east driving was a big thing because of distances. Ummm I don’t know what else you want but feel free to PM me.
  17. Catzeye
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    Catzeye New Member

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    Well I'm currently in high school (senior year) so I might be able to help.

    My school revolves around...nothing. There is a lot of apathy for the school that comes from the students.

    The school it divided into

    -Athletes: Our athletics program is pretty good although most of the money goes to the football team. Nobody really cares to go to games unless it's against our rivals.
    -Art: We have talented singers, dancers, writers, musicians and artists here. Too bad they don't get as much exposure as they deserve.
    -Academics: We have people with 4.7 and 4.9 GPAs here. Again not much notice unless you get into specific sections.
    -Greeks: We have sororities and fraternities here, although technically they aren't official. Most students at my school just want to see the step shows.
    -Weed smokers: One of the few things people DO care about.
    -The rest of the school: They just don't care.

    The weed smokers and the apathetic folk comprise about 60% of the school. The rest of the groups I stated tend to stick together and there is a lot of mingling between the groups. I am sorority member who happens to have a 4.4 GPA and I was a former track athlete.

    We have plenty of food fights and fist fights at my school. We almost went on lock-down a few weeks ago because of a rash of fights that broke out. If we took out the weed smokers and the apathetic people our school wouldn't be as horrible as it is.
  18. Mark_Archibald
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    the bell rings and the hall instantly floods with people.

    Each clique claims its own piece of territory to hang out. Smoker kids have a corner outside the school. Nerd kids get the library. Preppy girls have a table in the cafeteria. As cliche as that sounds its true in most schools.
  19. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt New Member

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    One thing that hasn't really been mentioned is Marching Band. It is a culture in and of itself. Marching Band is all consuming of your time. Most of the summer you have band camp. Everyday after school for hours.You play at the football games on Friday nights. Almost every Saturday you go to a contest and get back very late at night. You hang out with other band geeks and because you spend so much time with them there's a sense of friendship and belonging among the band members. Then when Marching Band ends (ussually the very end of October beginning of November) there's pep band which goes to the basketball games and plays fun up beat songs (they also play at the football games after they do their pre-game or halftime marching show). Then there is a few month break and it starts all over. It's rare for a student who does Marching Band their freshman year to not continue doing it the rest of their high school years. The other thing this group has that is slightly different than other club and groups in high school is the band moms. The moms are around helping so much of the time it's not unussual to develop friendships between the students and the parents. The parents don't hangout with the student all the time but it's not strange for student to say hi or chat for five minutes with one of the band moms. The cliques in band are within sections; the trumpets watchout for the other trumpets and so forth. Your ranking within the group is ussually more on how well you play than most other factors.
  20. Erato
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    Erato New Member

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    I never thought I'd be grateful I was homeschooled.
  21. VioletBlade
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    VioletBlade New Member

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    While most of the people who have posted here have covered nearly everything, there are some other things I'd like to mention. I graduated in 2011, so that's to add to credibility on my part. I have to say I agree a lot with what jo spumoni said, because they covered pretty much everything. We had a kind of divide between people who cared about their grades and school and frankly, those who didn't. Those who didn't were usually partying and doing drugs, getting minors every other week, not to sterotype, and were usually involved in lots of sports, though some of the academic students were definitely as well (but more sports like Track and Field, Cross-Country, Skiing, etc not Football and Basketball) Within these groups there are the top-ranks as well, and they are the most 'well-liked' by people belonging in those groups. It really did appear to me as two giant cliques, because although we were split further into smaller divisions, you didn't much talk to the other people in the other 'clique' simply because they weren't in your classes. For me, I was an AP and Honors student so I associated with one of the cliques and hardly ever talked to the other group because we didn't have anything in common. Most of them probably couldn't tell you who I was, and it wasn't as if I didn't have friends because I did (well until junior year, but that's another story). The gist of it is, some things you never see that are in all the movies: The torture popular kids inflict on the nerds and outcasts. So yes, sometimes the outcasts were definitely a part of the gossip mill, but they were never shoved into lockers or had swirlies done to them in between every class. Something that is so big: The way to really take someone down is not by brutally harrassing them: it's by tearing down their reputation and spreading rumors. We're a very passive-aggressive generation, or we were at my school. That's what happened to me. After fighting with the wrong person, I lost all my friends except probably a good five and none of the rest talked to me anymore. It was a good learning experience, let me tell you, since it really did teach me who my friends were! She took me down, not with violence, but with rumors and isolation, so much so that after that year, I never went back! (I went to college instead, don't worry, I didn't drop out) So yeah, passive-aggressive behavior is rough, and probably the worst of anything else they throw at you in HS, except maybe relationships and heartbreak. Hope I helped a little!
  22. jo spumoni
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    jo spumoni Member

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    Hey, I just wanted to say that what AmyHolt says about marching band is TOTALLY true, at least in the school I went to. I never did join, but one of my friends was in it, and we completely lost touch with her for that year because she was so busy doing marching band things. It was sort of its own cult, in a way.

    I myself was in our high school's orchestra, which was a little different. We were string players--violins, violas, cellos, and basses--and we definitely had a close bond, but we weren't as busy as the marching band, since we didn't compete and we didn't have shows every week. The violinists, however, could be VERY competitive when they cared to be, and everyone wanted first violin and first chair. There were, however, a lot of apathetic students who were only in orchestra for the elective credit or because they thought it would look good on their college applications. Pretty much no one I knew ever seriously wanted to become a professional violinist, though, and though I'm the least talented person in my orchestra circle, I'm one of the few who actually still plays in college. Orchestra became a very gossipy sort of class, especially since the teacher himself seemed to think he was the greatest person on earth. He became an integral part of our lampoon culture simply because he was so weird, and he didn't seem to mind how much we teased him. Really bizarre things would always happen in that room, my favorite being when someone fell asleep in the supply closet during break and walked out dazedly in the middle of our class period! (Naturally, a whole slew of "coming out of the closet" jokes followed this incident).
  23. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    We were a small school (my graduating class had 73 students) so our marching band was also our pep band was also our concert band :) The drummers were always the top dogs; the trumpet section thought they were :D
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