You Can Take The Girl Out of High School…

Last night it was our parental duty to attend Curriculum Night at the sixteen-year-old’s high school. One of us was happy to go in order to learn about the topics our son would be taught this year but otherwise was not thrilled about being in the high school environment. One of us was happy to go and was positively thrilled to the bone about walking around the massive building as if it were the ’80s again.

Any guesses?

I adored high school. I light up when talking about it. I would go back and do it all over again if I could.

If you were to ask me what was so great about high school (as you, no doubt, roll your eyes and wonder if I’m for real), I’m not sure that I could give you one answer, other than a broad statement about how it was just an incredibly happy time for me. Perhaps the memory that you would find most pertinent since you read my blog is that I stalked and met my husband at high school. But that’s a story for another day. Other than meeting the love of my life, I experienced great times and met some great friends there. I was on the yearbook staff; in fact, my signature was in many places on this table in the yearbook room (chances are that table is either long-gone or painted over!):

annualstafftable We put our yearbook together using actual PAPER, PENCILS, STRAIGHT-EDGES, and that sort of thing. The photos were taken with cameras containing ACTUAL FILM. Nowadays? It’s all digital, baby.

I was not an athlete, a criminal, a basketcase, a brain, or even a Princess, yet I feel like I had a very well-rounded experience that encompassed friendships with people from all of those categories.

(In fact, I have recently reconnected with many of my high school friends via that blasted Facebook…which has actually been really fun!)

Great memories. So going to our son’s high school actually speeds my heart rate. Sitting in the classroom listening to teachers makes me smile and *want* to ask them questions. At last year’s Curriculum Night I had to restrain myself from approaching the German teacher after her summary and talking to her about my own high school German experience, especially after I found out that she is really German. The boy–who took his German name “Dieter” because of Mike Myers and Sprockets–would have killed me. (Though, admittedly, I *did* go home that night and tell him that I asked his German teacher if I could observe for a few weeks and that she told me she’d be happy to have me. I let him lose all color in his face before telling him it was a joke.)

Last night it became really clear to me that:

1. The High School Experience has grown by leaps and bounds in so many ways over the last 20-something years, especially–as you would probably guess–in the area of technology


2. I still would love to go back!

Some Curriculum Night observations, according to my son’s schedule and ten-minute parent sessions:

Period 1 (British Literature): Parking was a hassle and Jim had to drop me off for 1st period so he could park at the Community Center down the street. We arranged to meet in 2nd Period. Map in hand, I followed the schedule that my son handwrote for me, and I made it to 1st Period with 2 minutes to spare. Unfortunately, he wrote down the wrong room number and sent me to Honors English. Thanks alot, buddy. I knew it the second I got all the way to the back of the room and then looked at the teacher. He has the same teacher for English this year as last, and this wasn’t her. Super. I had to get up and leave, finding that the room next door was the right one, and I got there just as the bell went off for the passing period. Great start.

Period 2 (German 3): As his German teacher greeted us with a hearty “Guten Abend!”, I was–of course–the only parent to say, “Guten Abend!” back. Ugh. Teacher’s Pet. As she talked to us parents in her cute little German accent, I chuckled a little bit mentally as I thought about the way Jim asks the boy if he has any German HomeVork or Vorksheets. It’s very “Hogan’s Heroes”. (Google it, younguns.)

Period 3 (Psychology): Is it a rule that Psychology teachers need to seem crazy? This woman was hilarious, but clearly not a “typical” teacher. She was loud, motioned wildly with her hands, and made eye contact with every single person in that room. She talked about some of her lessons and methods, and I can tell that she makes her class memorable for students. I wish I had had an exciting Psychology teacher; mine (in college) was a total bore. The sixteen-year-old came home yesterday, telling me that he missed his opportunity to “rent” a book report book from her and she told him that if he brought in some baked goods, she would get him his book. She’s THAT kind of memorable. So, off to the grocery store he went, coming home with two packages of ready-to-bake Toll House cookies. And then he baked them and set them up on a lovely plate to take to her today.

Period 4 (Lunch): We took our time getting to the LMC (we used to call it a library) for cookies and punch, and then got ourselves reoriented with the school map.

Period 5 (AP Chemistry): We got a little lost on the way; easy to do in this mammoth building. Got the details on his being able to take the AP Chem test for college credit and found out that he has a unit test today. Note to self: Go home and make sure son is studying for Chem test.

Period 6 (P.E.): Did you know that high schoolers get to choose from a long list of P.E. electives nowadays? Back in the day, we didn’t get a choice, and it was all sorts of sports that I hated, like soccer, volleyball, tennis…ugh. Our son has chosen “Strength and Body” (weight training: woo hoo!) for this semester and will get to choose Lacrosse for the spring, which will help him out with his tryouts for the team at the same time. Other choices include swimming, bowling (they are bussed to a nearby alley for one game and bussed back to school: EVERY DAY for 4.5 weeks!), walking, football, blah blah blah (others I can’t remember), and the ones I would have chosen: DANCE and AEROBICS! How fun is that????

Period 7 (Honors Algebra 2/Trig): Seriously. The layout of this school is ridiculous. His math class is on the 3rd floor, but this school has two areas of 3rd floor that are not connected. Have you heard of a BRIDGE, people? We went from P.E. on the first floor all the way up to the 3rd floor and discovered that we were on the wrong 3rd floor. This is what getting around this school is like:
Our high school (FHS in Tennessee) was awesome in its simplicity. There were four classroom wings that extended out from a central hub. Upstairs, the English wing was painted red, the Social Studies wing was painted yellow, the Math wing (I think) was painted green, and Science was in the blue wing. Anyway, it was easy to find classes. This school? Everything is painted the same. The lockers are ALL the same. When we stopped a teacher who was directing traffic to ask her how to get to room 352, she clucked at us and shook her head: “Oh, you poor, poor people. You have to go to stairway X and go all the way down. Look for stairway Y and then go all the way up. Hurry! The bell is getting ready to ring!” She was definitely a Wiseguy.

Where was I? Oh yes, Math. We arrived with only a couple of minutes to spare, and got to see one of the coolest teacher tools ever, the Smart Board. With this interactive white board, the teacher can pull up a visual of the graphing calculator and press the buttons on the Board, showing the entire class how she does a calculation. The Smart Board shows all three of the calculator’s screens simultaneously, even though the students would have to individually toggle between screens on their own calculator. You have to check this out:

I was totally dazzled. Makes me wish that my Algebra 2 high school teacher had it; maybe I wouldn’t have passed the class only by the skin of my teeth and then I wouldn’t have had to repeat the class the following year!

Period 8 (Computer Graphics 1): This class is actually part of the art department, and my son was surprised at that and, frankly, sort of annoyed. (I still don’t know what he’s got against taking an “art” class.) The class is learning about Illustrator and Photoshop, and the projects that were hanging all over the wall from Computer Graphics 1 and 2 were Advertisement Quality. I couldn’t get over it. Still can’t. I never took an art class in high school because I was too busy loading up on foreign languages, but I know that my artsy friends had to show their talent in many other ways that had nothing to do with computer technology. This was amazing. Again, where do I sign up?

No, seriously…where?



  • Michelle

    I can’t wait for those days. I’m with you in that I LOVED high school and would go back if I could. And I hope that the wee ones enjoy it just as much.

    We have a back to school night coming up in a couple weeks, but not nearly as complete and cool as that.

    Oh, and the Smart Boards. I LOVE them. Our district has been installing them for the last year and goal is to have them in every classroom (K-12) within two years, and they may do it before then. My husband uses them for his math classes all the time this year, and it’s way cool. Even better? He saves what he’s created on the Smart Board and then posts a .pdf of it online so any kid who has a question about what was taught can go look at it as a refresher.

    Oh, and I was newspaper, and I remember cutting out the stories from the printer and gluing them on and using the blue pencils, etc etc. *sigh*

  • Melissa

    I believe I know what school district you guys are in and I also know it’s one of the best.

    We considered moving there but the prices were out of our range. I’m totally jealous of the education your kids are getting.

    That said, you couldn’t pay me to go back to high school. I also met my first husband in high school…the one I’m divorced from. 🙂

    Though I do have to say, when I was 17 was the last time I truly thought I knew everything…I wouldn’t mind being that sure of myself at this age!!

    I love that you go to the 16 year old’s open house. I don’t remember my parents ever doing anything like that…you really are AWESOME parents!

  • Melisa

    Michelle: Thanks for being a fan of high school also; I normally feel like I’m a total freak when I talk about it. 🙂 Gotta love those Smart Boards! I love the idea of a student looking at a PDF from class!

    Melissa: I read your first sentence and laughed because it was a little scary for a second. ha ha
    We were totally lucky that we found a house we could afford here. We are definitely on the low end, price-wise, of this town and feel very lucky that we are in this school district, and I think you know which one it is… hee hee
    I don’t remember our high school even HAVING nights like this, so I’m not sure if my parents went to the school either.

  • Movie Maven

    You couldn’t pay me to go back to high school. There were good times, but I think it’s even more stressful for kids now.

    I saw my first Smartboard in my 2nd grader’s classroom at curriculum night at the elementary school. It is amazing!! Getting one in every classroom is one of our goals for the school dinner dance Liz and I are heading in the spring.

  • Sue

    We had middle school open house tonight. Not quite as exciting as your high school open house, but good nonetheless.
    That smart board looks really cool!

  • Sarah Clapp

    I loved High School too, but I also liked the part of being at home, having someone feed me,do my laundry, pay my bills etc.. Very care free and fun.

    Going back to my class reunion this summer, just confirmed how lucky I was to go to a school with such great people.

    You’re son is taking some tough classes! You go GUY!

  • Sarah Clapp

    P.S. You can get arrested for stealing your daughter’s identy so you can join the Pom Pom squad? Huh? Good to know, and also good I have a boy.

  • nukedad

    Tom Cruise had a pretty cool smart board in “Minority Report”. I’d like to have one in my house! That was awesome.

  • abritdifferent

    I’d rather go back to Primary school. I love taking Ian to pre-school, opening the doors and smelling THAT SMELL. Funny, cos it was the same smell in Scotland.

  • Melisa

    Jennifer: I’ve been promoted! I’ve been promoted! Yipppeeeeee! Sort of like how I stalked my husband in high school for a while and then promoted him to Boyfriend. hee hee

  • Anonymous

    OMG – I want to go back too! I want to take computer graphics!!! When did high schools start offering Psychology?? Man, things have changed… I really enjoyed this blog, thanks Melissa! (speakingn of stalking husbands… I stalked my fiance on… I did the first winking… we’re getting married next summer!)

    xoxo weather kim in dc

  • devilish southern belle

    Wow, you couldn’t pay me to go back to high school – at least not for longer than I am required to be there for my sons. But then again, I was the basket case, and school was generally not a good experience for me.

  • Anonymous

    Sounds like a fun and interesting night! Our hs doesn’t have curriculum night. We do go in to meet the teachers when we pick up report cards, though.

    I had fun in high school, but you couldn’t pay me to go back. 🙂

    As far as smartboards go, we have them in our elementaries too and they are very cool. We also have Elmos, which are like overheads, but you just put what you want to project onto the screen underneath them (without using a transparency) and off you go. Very cool.

    From Dawn