Going Back to High School

When I was growing up, the movies always made high school seem like the golden years, the happiest years a young person could have. Carefree, discovering love and making lasting friendships, all American Graffiti.

These days, high school is usually portrayed as a cesspool of the worst kind of human behaviour, where all that is evil thrives and is amplified, and you are either a bully or bullied. My son and husband have been watching the second season of 13 Reasons Why on Netflix, and don’t get me wrong – it is interesting and engrossing and has led to lots of interesting discussion around here. But between that, and Riverdale, and even things like Glee, the whole picture of high school life is pretty grim. The heroes are constantly getting stomped on, and the elites seem like all they know how to do is exploit power and take advantage of people. Where are the average people who are just trying to figure it all out? Where are my modern day Napoleon Dynamites and Freaks and Geeks?

Anyway, that is not the point of this post. My point here is that although I do not look back at high school with some kind of rosy glow, it was a pretty good time for me. I was on the outside of most of the usual drama and I was super active in clubs and activities, so I had a lot of fun and made some good friends and learned some great stuff. It was overall pretty positive, I’d say.

So now that my two older kids are in high school, I find myself getting wistful – not for the social stuff or the activities, but for the learning.

I remember a lot of memorization of facts kind of stuff, but the stuff they are doing now? It’s so cool!

(They might not quite feel the same way.)

Some of their teachers are really creative and smart and engaging. For example, in history class, my son had an assignment to take a real life, Canadian WWII soldier, read his file (available in the Canadian archives), and then “become” that guy for a week – know everything about him, write his diary entries, present a talk as if he were that soldier. So cool, am I right?

And in English class, he’s reading Lord of the Flies (ugh), but at least his teacher has tried to liven things up by grouping his class into “islands” where they will have to complete a variety of survival challenges as a group. They even got to name their island and then design a flag for it – FLAG DESIGN, I am swooning.

In Gal Smiley’s English class, they are reading Romeo and Juliet. They are reading the old English in parallel with the graphic novel, and then once they are done both they will be making a Spotify playlist to parallel every scene in the play. Which, seriously, SO COOL.

In Geography, she went on a nature hike to examine local rocks; in gym class they are taking self-defense and getting CPR training. In drama, the Captain had a day-long fake fighting seminar and in computer science he’s writing a video game for kids in grade 3 at a nearby school, incorporating their own artwork.

I mean, I liked high school, and I don’t remember it being anywhere near as fun and interesting as all this. Makes me want to throw a party for all their teachers, who are rocking it.

(Also perhaps said party will buy me the ability to sit in and audit all their classes because – SO COOL.)

7 thoughts on “Going Back to High School

  1. I am feeling encouraged reading this as currently, as a parent of an 8th grader who has to select his school and make plans, the entire thing seems a little daunting. And, I don’t remember high school fondly at all myself, I was so glad to put that chapter behind me and get on with MY life away from all the crap.

    But I live next to two high schools and a college and Lynn, I tell you, it scares me what I see. The drugs are so much more present in ways I don’t remember it being that way back then. The kids stand around huddles in groups in the middle of public parks where dog walkers and people pushing baby strollers walk around, and you not only smell, but see the clouds of smoke from all the illicit drugs. Has it gotten that much worse in recent years? What is going on? One school is public, the other catholic, and I can’t tell the difference which is worse. I just avoid those parks at lunch time these days…

    THAT’s the part that scares me for my kids.

    1. Agreed – that’s a constant worry in the back of my head. I feel like it’s impossible to protect your kids from that kind of thing – you have to trust that they have learned enough to make smart decisions. Grade 8 is a real eye-opener – you suddenly realize just how short the time is that you have to mold them into someone who is ready to make hard decisions in tough situations. I feel like I kind of just have to keep my fingers crossed all the time, combined with talking a lot about what they do with their spare time, who their friends are, etc.

      I always look on parents of kids who have fallen into drugs with such sympathy. I really feel like there’s no guarantees when it comes to parenting, no easy answers that will keep your kid away from that stuff, and it could happen to any one of us.

      1. We have to support and be non-judgemental. It’s going to be tough…but it sounds like you have a great start with your two oldest. I love how their teachers are unique and creative in their academic matters! 🙂

  2. Zhu

    Sometimes, I wish I could go back in high school to actually enjoy some of the classes without the pressure of exams. It’s brutal in France, the “bac de français” at 17 and the final “bac” at 18.

  3. I really think it’s hugely important to get into schools / spend time with kids. If all you did was listen to the radio / read things on the internet, you’d be convinced that all kids are drinking and doing drugs and that they never look up from their screens, and can’t hold a conversation with a real human being. It’s like everything – people fear what they don’t understand.

    By volunteering in the schools (including high school) I meet kids who are engaged, polite, and empathetic. They’re friendly. They like to talk. Many are introverts. Many don’t want to go to parties and drink / smoke / do drugs. I have never had a teenager interrupt a conversation with me to answer his or her phone, but adults do it all the time.

    Here’s the thing – we’re all people. On any given day we have things that are going well in our lives and things that are pre-occupying / worrying us. Some days that balance is more out of whack than others. I’ve learned that, far from being embarrassed by adults, and wishing they weren’t around, most teenagers are happy to talk if you listen. How good does it feel when somebody asks you about something you’re interested in, and then listens? Teenagers like it just as much as we do.

    And this loops back to your comment about teachers, Lynn. I think the teachers who pick up on that, and allow students to learn the curriculum by relating it to things that interest them, are the ones engaging and motivating their classes.

    High schools are not perfect, but in many ways they’re pretty good 🙂

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