School, Or A Fictional Retelling Of Events Loosely Based on Fact As Witnessed By The Author
Foreword: This is a work of fiction. Any and all similarities to real persons is intentional and masked to protect their identities.
You know how just about everybody says one of two things about their first day of high school? They either remember it like it was yesterday, or it was all a big blur. I'm of the former, I remember that day so clearly it could as well have been yesterday. There I was, another small freshman, surrounded by all manner of people that always looked angry at me. I was some intruder to their world, and I needed to be removed at all costs. I'll go ahead and tell the truth: I was scared. Scared that the whole silent student routine wouldn't work in that school the way it had in my previous one.
You always hear of the different groups in school. Like prison, or so I hear, people band together with others of common interest. The belief that there's strength in numbers. Thing is, I didn't exactly belong to any one particular group. I was a quiet student, above average in grades, taking all manner of high end courses. I didn't socialize enough to be part of the cheery advanced kids and not smart enough to hang out with the geniuses. I was too smart for the normals, and too naive to be with any of the 'cool' kids. I was at the bottom of the totem pole, and everyone was sure to remind me of this fact. Now, don't go and roll your eyes expecting me to ask for your pity. I neither want it nor need it. I figured out how to survive.
My first class for that year was to be Biology. Advanced Biology, a class filled with other aspiring freshmen and a few above average sophomores hoping to boost their GPAs with an advanced class. As far as first impressions go, the teacher seemed nice enough. She greeted everyone with a smile, a couple of jokes not related at all to Biology, and an overall sense of welcome I hadn't experienced ever in my school life. I was even picked by her to be the delivery boy of the attendance roster to the office at the end of every class! After a start like that, my spirits were higher than ever.
The bell rang, the classes emptied back out into the hallways, and the hustle started for the transition. Five minutes, perhaps a little less, to go from one class to another. This isn't too bad, considering you know where the class is, but for a newbie to the school and fighting against four thousand other students trying to accomplish the same thing, it was hectic to say the least. I ended up being slightly late for my second class: English One. I wasn't the only one, luckily, and naturally being the first day the teacher excused us all. I took my seat this time in the back of the classroom, having lost my chance to sit as close to the door as possible due to my tardiness. In the end it was beneficial; the teacher's desk was right next to the door, and she would later show her true colors, making all who sat close fear her watchful gaze.
It was only after the general orientation that I noticed who was to be my classmate and shield from the teacher's view. Her name was Tina, and no, this wasn't love at first sight. We had know each other for three years by then, having met under similar circumstances in a previous grade. Now, I will admit that at the time, I had no romantic feelings for her. That of course changed, but we'll tackle that obstacle when the time comes. For the purposes of that class, we would form a unique partnership that allowed us to excel in the class with minimal effort. In layman terms, we helped each other to cheat our way through English One.
My third class was Art, located on the second floor of the school. This was a constant pain my entire freshman year, as my previous class was located in a separate building on the outskirts of the school grounds. Needless to say hiking it all the way back to the main building, climbing a flight of stairs and dashing for the room got me into quite a bit of trouble, almost on a daily basis. Fortunately, I sucked up to the teacher a bit and saw to it that I was never marked as tardy, granted I always make it in before a full minute after the final bell. This class was packed with higher grade students, I guess just fulfilling their art requirements, and not caring at all about the things being taught in the class itself. I shared a station with a sophomore who loved cracking jokes about anything that he deemed funny -appropriate or not- and a freshman who had failed the year before. Being the new guy, I was the target of more than a fair share of jokes, but as time went by I earned some respect from them, mainly because my grades were far above theirs.
Lunch followed, and it was at this time that I grew used to waiting in line for most of the measly half hour they gave us to eat. Being on the second floor, heading downstairs to reach the cafeteria took at least two minutes, and that was more than enough time for over a thousand other students to beat me there. After those first few weeks, I learned of a shortcut downstairs by using a stairwell tucked away in a corner of the second floor, and from that point on I was among the first students to get inside the cafeteria. I felt like an explorer in an ancient ruin riddled with traps and pitfalls.
My fourth class was my favorite of the year, Creative Writing. This should come as no surprise, seeing as how you're currently reading this tale, but I was shocked to find that the class was not filled with the kinds of students I was hoping to see. Out of a class of about thirty, I was the only freshman, the rest were seniors taking a useless class to earn an easy grade. At first it was a bit intimidating, being relatively isolated from the rest of the class by virtue of age difference. But with time I got to know some of the students, one in particular, a girl who went by the name Leah. When we first met, I assumed she was in the same grade as myself, maybe one above, as she had a most adorable face and rather small stature. My surprise when I learned a couple days later she was a senior, as was the rest of the class. Fortunately, that didn't happen on day one, so it turned out to be the highlight of the day, and of many more for the rest of the year.
Next on the chopping block was World History, another advanced class. Fortunately, this class was packed with only freshmen, though as was expected they were of the cheery variety. This time, I was sandwiched between two people I couldn't really relate to: one would eventually become the class valedictorian, the other was a serene girl that never spoke a word unless spoken directly to. Future V-man went by Anthony, a social but weird guy that seemingly did nothing but study, and the girl by Eliza, whom by my observations knew almost half the class population but somehow always remained so silent I only heard her speak thrice in class all year. The teacher here was a nice woman from my mother's home country, and as such I could understand a number of the oddball rants she threw out from time to time, especially if they were in a different language.
My final class everyday was Algebra. For better or worse, this class was not an advanced course, since the previous year I chose to be a lazy individual and not strive for perfection, which was well within my power. I don't mean to brag, but I was a math whiz, and still am. You throw me one explanation on how to complete a new subject of math, and I pick it up on the spot and fly. However, I just didn't care enough to show it off, so I was stuck in a class with a teacher who couldn't care less about her students and threw bookwork at us everyday. This was both good and bad; good for me, as the lack of lectures allowed me to complete the work in record time and then get started on assignments from my other classes. Bad for the rest of the class that ended up nearly failing.
So, that was my routine for the first year of high school. Everyday, after completing my classes, I was picked up by my mother at school and taken home, where I would dump all my junk on the floor of my room and get right to my one true love, video games. I probably spent more time playing games than actually doing schoolwork; it was the world to me. Study? Never believed in it. I was a student whose mind absorbed lectures like a sponge, and it stuck. Once lectured on something I had no need to actually review the material. This helped my gaming addiction, or hurt me socially and habitually; whichever way you want to look at it. As for friendships, the internet was in full swing at the time, so I chatted with my one good friend online every night, usually about the crap that happened in class. It was a simple nerd's life.
During the first month of school that year, my English One class got to know our instructor, whom we called Miss Drew. She was married, actually, but it was a habit no student ever could break, so all our teachers were called 'miss'. Anyway, Miss Drew loved to pile on the assignments, pages upon pages of reading, questions, and grammar lessons, typically all at once every day. Now, each class was only an hour long, so time was short, and yet she always expected all of this work done by the end of that hour. I don't know if she decided after that first month to ease the workload or finally accept the fact we couldn't do it all, but it was reduced to one assignment a day. It was at around this time that Tina and I came up with a method of cheating on every assignment.
Miss Drew, in her infinite wisdom, had us grade our own assignments under her supervision. Somewhat. We were to take out red ink pens and check a partner's paper. Any other color would net us an automatic failure. Well, I came up with the idea of switching out the ink in the pens, so that a red pen would actually write in black, and handed one to Tina as well. Miss Drew was never the wiser to this ploy, and for the rest of the year, our average and worst grades became outstanding. I was actually amazed no one else had come up with this! In our own class, that is. Or maybe they did, and I never noticed. Not that I cared, anyway.
The following month saw the loss of a good friend. We had been in similar classes for three years, and one day he just disappeared. No one knew why or where he went. No, it wasn't my friend mentioned earlier, his name is Andrew. This other friend, whom out of respect I will not name, was reported dead to me a few days after his sudden disappearance. Granted, there was no official word of this on either the news or in the community, but I grew to believe the rumors because quite frankly, he wasn't there to refute them. If he is alive, I hope he is doing well.
The winter month rolled in, and another happenstance was giving birth to rumors like rabbits. That year, the school had decided to ban students from going outside the school grounds to find lunch, supposedly because of a fatal crash involving students trying to make it back to class in time. Well, that winter, a couple idiots decided to violate that ban, and went out to get some burgers at a local place, no more than a few minutes from the school. Naturally, the entire student body found out, and though people were talking about ratting them out, these two decided to start a business, taking money to buy food for them at the same time they went. If the faculty had found out just a day sooner, those two poor fools would still be alive. Word is they crashed into a tree because they were packed to the brim with bags of food, and couldn't see where they were driving. This is absurd in the most possible way, but for some reason it became the accepted reason for their deaths. What a way to end the first half of the year.
Upon my return after the holidays, word got around that my Biology teacher, that nice and lovable woman, was expecting. Joyous an occasion though it was, my teacher changed almost overnight. Bad pregnancy, no doubt, but Bio just went from manageable to unbearable, and I found myself near failure more times than fingers on my hands. Thanks to substitute teachers, however, I saw myself passing the class, thanks to half-assed bookwork for those sudden sick days she took. Quite often I might add.
It was around this time that I got to know another senior in my Creative Writing class, one by the name of Lauren. She had joined the class a few months into the school year, and became a sort of outcast, despite being social like the rest of them. With time, she ended up at my table, and we became good friends, often sharing stories about the rest of the students in the school. We put ourselves above everyone else there, and we laughed about the stupidest things. When the school year came to a close, I was actually sad that it was the end of our friendship. I never had the courage to ask her for her e-mail or anything like that to keep in touch after, so I never heard from her again. As a parting gift, however, she let me take over her candy selling business for the last month of school, which earned me a small amount of spending money that quickly disappeared on games.
The last few days of school that year also allowed me to gain insight on how other students around me saw the past. In art, the teacher decided to buy herself some slack time by having us sit back and enjoy the classic movie Grease. This was also my first time watching it, to be honest, but I was more focused on my classmates' perceptions. See, I'm more of a spectator to life -still am- and so I found it entertaining to see how others reacted to all manner of situations. The two that I sat with were special. The flunk-out actually enjoyed the film, going so far as to call it a masterpiece for the era. The other constantly made fun of the film as it went along, so much so that the teacher even had him removed from the class. I got to know the former student a bit better in those last few days, starting with his name, which to this day eludes me.
Very little more I have to say about World History, the focus of it being the classmate whom sat in front of me, Eliza. Despite hardly ever hearing her talk, I had honestly grown infatuated with her. Sadly, being the socially inept person I was, I failed to ever vocalize this infatuation, for better or worse. The next time I would interact with her in my High School life would be in senior year, and by then that little crush had disappeared and my mind was elsewhere. I hope she's happy and silent wherever time's tides have carried her.
Skipping over the summer months, as this tale isn't about what I did in my time off, I returned for my sophomore year with higher hopes for a more productive school life. My failures with Eliza the year before had renewed my desire to seek friendships, so immediately I sought out new social links in every class I had. The first that year was English Two, ruled over with an iron fist by a teacher named Miss Rose. Contrary to her namesake, Miss Rose was a fiendishly clever and cunning teacher, backflipping through loopholes in the curriculum to teach us what she wanted to, not what the school demanded. This had some benefit in the end, since I learned about a few books I never would've heard about through the normal curriculum. So I guess I could be described as thankful to her.
Health was my second class of the day that year, and it turned out to be a class more about government conspiracies than actual human health. The teacher was an old man from a school where... Let's just say without sharp wits you were bound to be found dead during lunch. He never told us how many years he had been working there, but given his age it was safe to assume he had seen the school's peak and downfall, and with it his sanity. From day one we all realized he was a loon, claiming that the principal had hired him as part of a massive conspiracy to take away his paid sick days. It was funny to see someone openly mock him every day, and I admit even I took a few jabs at him every now and then. The final exam for the class was still going to be about Health though, so I ended up lecturing myself the entire year to pass.
Chemistry was my third class that year -advanced course- once again a mingling of grades with sophomores and juniors, and the occasional freshman even! My instructor was a short woman who was friendly, but strict when it came to matters of the classroom, a Miss Marlene. She had to be, considering there was always a rift amongst the students of different grade levels. I don't recall much else about the class, aside from a veritable storm of paperwork and complete lack of actual hands-on lab projects.
Fourth on the roster that year was Spanish Language. Run by the ever sassy and sarcastic Miss Eileen D., this was a class I took in order to net a scholarship, but it turned out to be one of the most fun experiences in my high school life. Sure we had a mess of paperwork to complete, but all the while we listened to the teacher's witty commentary about the inner workings of the school, life on the outside, and the occasional feast of latino foods with a movie. Being descended from a Latin-American family, these foods weren't the least bit strange to me, so the class turned into a 'home-away-from-home' almost, minus all the hassle of actual family.
After lunch everyday, I went to European History, a college level course chosen as an elective. A social studies course wasn't required that year, but the forced alternative was a class vaguely referred to as Humanities, which I had no interest in learning about. Being a college level course, the method of learning was considerably different, focusing more on lectures and puzzlingly difficult 'DBQ's, or document based questions. The teacher was a young man straight out of college himself, though rather than being uptight like most new teachers, he was quite possibly the laziest one in the entire school. Sure he did what he was supposed to, but I often found myself wondering how he managed to limbo underneath the bar of requirements. Regardless, he was a great instructor all the same, and managed to pummel centuries' worth of history into our minds in the short span of a school year to prepare us for the exam at the end.
The final class was math, this time Geometry. Now, L, my teacher from the previous class, was lazy. But the guy in charge of Geometry and the rest of the Math department in the school was far worse. I'm sure you've heard of those perverted teachers or members of the administration that almost sound like something out of a sitcom, but I kid you not this man fit the description almost perfectly. Granted, he knew better than to touch, but it wasn't hard to notice how every male student was harshly graded and judged for a wrong answer, even in the middle of a lecture, while the girls were getting the demure and even rosy explanations. You're probably wondering how he's lazier than L, but that came later in the year, and I'll be sure to address that when it comes. It was in the class, too, that I met a young lady named Anne, whom I got close to as the school year dragged on.
Lunch that year was to be like every other year in my school life: I eat and sit quietly until it was time to return to my class. The first few weeks I spent at my old creative writing class, listening in on what was now an English Four course, and learning things way ahead of my time. That all changed, however, when I ran into my good friend Tina at lunch one day. She hadn't seen me since the last day of school the year before, and invited me to join her for lunch. We shared the same lunch time, and from that day forward I spent it every day with her and a couple of her closest friends at the time. One was a rather large girl; she was in the debate club, and always practicing her shoddy techniques on us. The other would come to be one of my closest friends, a weird dude by the name... well, let's just call him Flunky, a nickname I threw on him the following year. Flunky was always a vocal character, but every time I joined the table he would go silent, as Tina's attention would shift to myself. So one day, a couple weeks after, he finally confronts me about it in the time Tina got up to get a snack. Apparently, he was looking to put the moves on her, and thought I had swooped in from the blue to take her away from him. He even went so far as to claim he had known Tina for over a year. After laughing a bit, I told him our history together, to which he was left dumbfounded, to say the least. Tina's return to the table, and her questioning about what we had just been talking about, led to a moment in my life I wish I had on tape.
As the season shifted to winter, my school life was put on hold for two weeks for a planned vacation to the other side of the country for an aunt's wedding. This has nothing to do with school life, but it was necessary to mention as it had a direct effect on the next point, my near failure of Chemistry. Miss Marlene had assigned a project worth a whopping ten grades, easily capable of sinking any student who chose not to complete it. I did not complete it. As luck would have it, she assigned it on the same week I was to leave, and I seriously didn't feel like carrying anything school-related with me, so I ignored the work and took the punishment. As it would turn out, it was not the smartest move, and for the rest of the semester I was scrounging for perfect scores to bring my grade back to passing. I managed it, for your information, by a hundredth of a point.
Unlike my freshman year, classes were really starting to pile on the work, but this wasn't without its benefits, one of which was a small outing to a local esteemed college for a research session. This rare joy fell under my English class, and to be honest I don't exactly remember what it was we were supposed to be researching while there, though my friend Andrew claims it was for an assignment I'll be discussing in the next part. The highlight of the trip, at least in my eyes, was actually getting to know a number of my classmates a bit better. As you already know, I wasn't exactly the most sociable fellow in the school. But I guess being outside the school setting, though ironically enough still within an institution of learning, I was able to open up a bit to these other kids. The details escape me, but it was that moment that earned me a place in everyone's mind as the hermit, not the loner.
The last big occurrence that semester was also in English, related to what we were researching in that outing. In an effort to improve our eloquence and presence when addressing people, Miss Rose had us research our choice of topic and prepare a speech that would either support or combat the issue. As a safety measure she denied anyone from taking up the annoying abortion issue, so that automatically elicited hate from most of the class. Well, among the many yawn-inducing speeches on safe sex, I was unique in that my topic was homework, and I was against it. Like any good argument, I brought to the class's attention the history of homework, and then presented my argument against it. I earned my grade, but it was what happened after that stuck with me. Miss Rose had secretly invited the principal to the class, and he had effectively snuck into the class during my speech. The following few minutes are a blur to this day, but after bouncing some points back and forth with him, I was given a small round of applause for my presentation. I was also the last one to present, possibly for the same reason the principal was invited. A confidence booster, no doubt.
After the holidays, my return to school was all with a new outlook. Inspired by my success in English, I shifted my focus to Geometry, a class that had gone neglected for the most part in special happenings. With that perverted teacher taking a backseat, I was able to pursue a potential relationship with the girl who sat next to me, Anne. To clarify, the teacher agreed to intern a pair of newbie teachers, allowing him to take a nap in the back during my class at the end of the day while these two up-and-coming failures attempted to teach a class of already underachieving delinquents... and me. Anne wasn't exactly the most talkative person, but that was okay for me at the time; I needed someone more befitting the role of a test dummy to practice my approach with the ladies. I'm not going to waste anymore of your time than is necessary, I didn't get to rope her in as my girl, but we did keep a close friendship up until the end of the year. I never heard from her after that, or even see her in the school in the next two years.
My new outlook also opened my eyes to a fellow classmate in European History. Unlike the rest of the class, he was a senior, and had felt isolated up until that point because he was in a class packed with sophomores. After a friendly chat one day, we became good friends, sharing gaming and life stories, amazed with each other on how similar our likes and dislikes were. We shared potential ideas for future projects, joked over the student population, and helped each other out with the ever-increasing difficulty of the work in the class. It was thanks to that mutual trust that I was able to pass that class, because L was really starting to crackdown on us in preparation for the exam at the end of the school year.
As the months dragged on, there began a general shift in the style of instruction in English. Miss Rose wanted to cram in an entire year's worth of grammar lessons into the remaining year, which simply spelled extra work and homework for us. Naturally, we all started to complain, but it was all for nothing since her word was law. That is, until I came along. Not to gloat, but it seemed that whenever I raised a complaint, not only did Miss Rose take notice, but the entire class rallied behind me, leaving her powerless. Once again, this was all just wishful thinking, as it wasn't like we could stage a coup and overthrow her. Yet somehow with my complaints in place we saw the majority of those grammar lessons disappear, to the point where they became a once-a-month nuisance, at best. That also helped to boost my recognition amongst the higher end of my student body.
In regards to Health, not much else I have to say. The class was funny, but not memorable enough to warrant more than this part. In this class I got to know only one other person, a larger fellow by the name of Yee. How exactly we became friends to some degree is lost to time. Actual health was mingled with government conspiracies, but hardly enough to help anyone hoping to get an introduction to the medical field. As for Spanish class, the year ended with little notice. I had become good friends with the teacher, so as the year went on the assignments became easier and easier. Having a friend in power really was the best thing in school. One last thing I felt I had to mention -though it didn't last more than a few weeks- I was being considered for membership for some gang from the area. No, it's not a joke, I really was being considered because of my smarts by a classmate. Nothing happened because he stopped coming to school shortly thereafter. Never learned what happened, though I can guess he was a casualty of war in the supposed battle he had been recruiting for.
As the third grading period ended, the time to choose our classes for the following year was upon the student body. As was custom, we were required to obtain recommendations for certain classes from our teachers, and this was routine for me in all but two classes: Math and Chemistry. For Math, I was forced into an advanced Algebra 2 course, but I decided not to argue, as I learned that my current teacher was also the standard level instructor for that subject as well. Best to stay away from that lazy, perverted failure. As for Chemistry, despite my near failure and blatant disregard for the subject's importance, Miss Marlene was about to recommend me for Chemistry 2, a college level course. I quickly objected, not wishing to take any other science courses for the remainder of my high school career. Three years of science were required by all students, but I had gone the extra mile in middle school and taken Earth & Space. Not because I was looking to shave a class off high school, but because I was truly interested in learning about the cosmos. Long story short, that class was a waste, more emphasis on Earth than Space anyway. Going back to the recommendation, I denied Miss Marlene, which made me sound like a lazy slob, but I honestly didn't care. One more elective for me the following year was all I saw.
The year drew to a close, and that meant final exams. This was standard, so I wasn't too worried, but I was worried about European History. Being a college level course, the exam had far greater significance, even requiring us to be moved to a different location entirely for testing. L wasn't allowed to accompany us as well, so there went all our cheer. I'm not going to bore you with the details, but I didn't pass the exam. That didn't mean I failed the course, just that while the class would count towards completion of high school, it wouldn't count towards college when the time came. Regardless, I wasn't alone: no one else in the class passed, or so I heard. For a nice try anyway, L passed everyone in the class, and we spent the next month sitting back and watching movies. The exam was a month earlier than all other exams, just to clarify.
As for the rest of the finals and the last bit of the year, it was all a blur. Exams, last minute homework assignments that were just too much, and teachers trying to cover their own asses with subjects that were supposed to have been covered during the year. Lunchtime was the highlight of everyday that last month, as it would be the last time we all saw each other until the following year. Andrew and myself kept in touch with computers, but I never asked Tina or Flunky for their contact info, so I wasn't able to keep in touch with them. And with that, the 10th grade ended, and I moved on. The next year would top the last.
Summer came and went, and back I was in school. It had morphed from a prison to a daily part of my life in the past two years, and honestly I couldn't imagine life without it at that point. I reunited with Tina and Flunky for lunch, like before, and our usual antics resumed that year as if nothing had happened. Being a junior now opened many doors as well, especially since I was now viewed more commonly as an upperclassmen than lower class, and respect was more frequent now.
My first class that junior year was Algebra 2, advanced. Situated on the third floor, a rarity for a math class, it was taught by a nice woman in her late forties, Miss Sanchez. Nice though she was, many of my classmates had an issue with her because of her heavy accent, which I admit screwed me over on more than one occasion, but aside from that the class was as ideal as could be expected considering the subject matter. Her class was one of the few instances in my high school life where she assigned our seats personally, though it was for better in the long run. In front of me sat a knowledgeable but quiet girl by the name of Allie, to my right a sarcastic prick named Enrique, and behind me a sociable girl named Marie. With myself as the stoic topping it off, our little corner of the classroom would prove entertaining for the entire year.
American History, a college level class, was next. This was one of three times in my high school life where I shared a class with my good friend Andrew. Not only was American history one of my least favorite subjects, it was packed to the brim with the same group of annoying advanced kids I had spent the majority of my school life trying to avoid. The teacher, Miss Silva, also added insult to injury by assigning us seats as well, landing me in the center of four very talkative and chirpy students. Andrew, the lucky bastard, got a seat at the end of a row, relatively free from annoyances. As for workloads, it was considerably more than my previous history classes, but never piled up to become a hassle. Copying much of the homework from others helped, too.
Third that year was Physical Education. After spending the last two years skillfully avoiding that dreadful class, I was finally forced to endure that adolescent torture chamber. Aside from being the only junior in a class of freshmen, I was also stuck with the strictest coach at the school, Coach Nichols. This woman had been doing the coaching thing for no less than twenty years or something, and she was at that stage where she didn't take any excuses from anyone. She made it clear on day one: don't participate in a single activity one day, and she would bring you half way to failure. In middle school I had managed to half-ass my way through another forced physical education class, but I quickly learned I wouldn't be able to do the same that year. Everyday that year would have a surefire downside, the stench of the boys' locker room. Good god.
Spanish 2 was my fourth class that year. Once again joining Miss Eileen D., I was able to cool off everyday after P.E. in a breeze of a class. Sure, the workload was twice as much as all my other subjects, but it was mainly busywork designed for a group of students barely learning the spanish language, whereas my class was an advanced course for native speakers. The teacher was also more lenient that year, we saw twice as many movies as before, many of them having nothing to do with spanish.
After lunch with Tina and Flunky everyday, it was a brisk hike to the portable classrooms in the back of the school for Psychology, my fifth class. A class populated by seniors, I was once again the odd one out, but that didn't faze me one bit. I had specifically chosen the class because of its rarity, and I was eager to learn, a first for me in high school. The teacher was a young woman named Alyssa, whom insisted we all call her by her first name. That year was her first as an instructor, and it showed, and not in a good way. After the first few weeks it became glaringly apparent that learning in that class would be completely up to me, as Alyssa's ability to teach was craptastic. Seriously, the lady quoted from the text 95% of the time, leaving us all looking at each other with confused expressions. I commend her for trying, but perhaps another year as an assistant would have helped us all.
My last class that year was English 3. The teacher was Miss Ruby. Shortly put, the class rocked. English was my favorite subject despite the previous teachers and workloads, but that year I learned next to nothing regarding the subject. Miss Ruby was the head of the English Department in the school, and as such was constantly preoccupied with more important matters than her own class. Oftentimes we would be left sitting there for the first few minutes of class waiting for her to come dashing into the room, other times she wouldn't show up at all until the end of the class! Fortunately for me, Andrew was also sharing the same class, so we often used those idle periods to discuss all manner of funnies. The rest of the class was a nice mix of nerdy students and some from the lower end that somehow earned an advanced class, so the variety led to some interesting conversations and pairings in the few assignments we had. With that last class, even with P.E. everyday, I knew it was going to be a fulfilling year.
So, at the start of the year I quickly got to know a few of the seniors in my Psychology class. With Alyssa being ineffective as a teacher, we tended to band together to instruct ourselves. In all honesty I cannot recall a single name from the few students I got to know in that class, so I'll just use the names Jack and Jill and to refer to the two others in my group. Far as I could gather, Jack was trying to make Jill his girlfriend, but she just wasn't interested in him, and since I was the third wheel, I became the go between for their little back-and-forth the entire year. A nuisance, to be sure, but it allowed me to practically ace the class while ripping off their assignments. Alyssa was never wise to the arrangement either.
Early on in the year, Miss Silva started a little daily assignment in which we would watch a segment of the daily news, and follow it up with a five question quiz to see if we had been paying attention. To date, I have no idea why she did that every morning, though my guesses include it was just to fulfill a weekly grade requirement or jump start our minds every day. For better or worse, it did get most of us wary of current events in the world, though one has to wonder what good that does a high school student merely trying to complete his or her required four years. After that, every day got straight into lectures and note taking. I don't know if this was how every other school worked, but in all my years of middle and high school, when it came to history classes, everyday was about copying down notes from a projection or board while the teacher elaborated on it in a lecture. Rarely would the teachers check to see if these notes had indeed been copied down, so one has to figure they did it solely to waste our ink and paper. I, for one, never reviewed these notes anyway; I always stuck to the lecture.
Many say Monday is the worst day of the week, being the first day after a relaxing weekend. But that year, the worst for me was Tuesday. In P.E., Coach Nichols dedicated every Tuesday to running, be it laps or a mile. It's not that I was so physically out of shape that I couldn't run the distance, but it was a tedious and tiring activity, to say the least. I mean, sure it has its benefits, and I'd certainly rather run instead of doing, say, push-ups, but as the year went on the requirements for getting a high grade during those runs became increasingly more arduous. From completing the mile in under half an hour to under fifteen minutes, from five laps around the field to a dozen. I hated that lady, but I did lose a bit of weight under that murderous sun, so perhaps it wasn't too bad.
Though we were technically supposed to be learning, the first couple weeks of English 3 were spent being Miss Ruby's free labor. The school was a mess, as is typical of public education, with more students than should be allowed in, and as such storage of the supplies, such as textbooks and an abundance of paperwork, is a problem with no easy solution, maybe none at all. When the school is locked up over the summer, for some reason unbeknownst to me, they decide to shift around almost all the supplies to different rooms. Apparently, they like to know that out of a few hundred classrooms, only a few dozen are packed to the brim with textbooks, while the others remain empty and ready to accommodate in the fall. I have no issue with this, but with the manner in which everything is stored. Different subjects mixed into the same rooms, a collection of textbooks from one class distributed to five different rooms simply because it was the last to be put away, and forced into already packed storage. My ranting aside, somehow Miss Ruby was teaching us something, though I do not remember what, while we lugged textbooks from one floor to another. Guess it proves you can't multitask when teaching is one of the tasks.
Because my school was in a part of the country where we were prone to hurricanes, it was not uncommon for us to have a few days off in the fall because of these dangerous storms. As it so happened, a big one hit early on in the year, and though it was technically classified as the lowest tier, it managed to screw over the city enough to keep us out of school for a whole two weeks. Word was nothing happened to our school in particular, but if just one school in the county couldn't open regularly, none would. Aside from being without power for a week, it was a fun break overall. It would come back to bite us all in the ass upon our return. Since the college level classes all had their exams on a fixed date, it didn't matter if we were out of class for two weeks, we still had to be prepared. As such, both my history and psychology classes went into overdrive for a few weeks to catch up. Entire pages of notes had to be copied in a couple minutes, and the teachers were rushing through events and topics like the world was going to end. The homework became heavy too, so we paid for that break in the end.
Days in math became routine. We got in, copied each others' homework assignments, handed them in, listened to a hard-to-understand lecture for about ten minutes, and then spend the rest of the class completing tens of problems, maybe even pushing into the homework assignment if we were quick enough. The monotony was broken up occasionally by one of the three people around me, and that too became almost monotonous in its happening. Every monday would be Enrique's day, he'd bring some cards and we'd let Allie complete the assignment while we enjoyed a few rounds of poker. Other times the work load would fall on me or Marie, but generally speaking it was Allie who completed everything, mainly because she would complete it fastest and always net a perfect score. Every Thursday would be gossip day. Being close to the end of the week, Marie would already have all the latest gossip from around the school, so we'd listen in while completing our assignments. Lastly, Friday was Allie's day, where she'd take a breather from math and focus on her other classes, while the rest of us completed the work for her. The rest of the week was quiet, typically.
Whereas most of my classes were somehow linked through the students in them, I was painfully alone when it came to Spanish 2. Sure, it was an easy course, and there were always laughs to be had from both the students and the teacher, it was the one time a day where I didn't really have anyone to talk with. Even in P.E. I could converse a bit with a girl I met there, but in Spanish it was all work and laughs. Without any other means of entertainment, I started to bring my gaming devices to the class.
After the winter break came study time in the school. I didn't bother mentioning it before because I was never one to have trouble with it, but the fact of the matter was that all sophomores had to take a state exam to determine if they would graduate high school. Yes, it didn't matter if you passed by collecting all the necessary credits and passing all your courses, the state still required all students to pass this other exam. This exam was in no way difficult; on the contrary, it was quite simple, even insultingly so. Yet year after year students both smart and not constantly fail it. Why? Because of the pressure. From day one of class we are reminded that come the spring, we have to take this exam and pass, because the school's funding and status is also dependent on the results. Flawed, but I gave up complaining about it long ago. My voice wasn't going to make a difference to the suits. By the way, that same exam is what gave Flunky his nickname. He failed it.
Now, this same atmosphere impacted the rest of my class. We had completed our exams the year before, but now there was something greater on the line for the advanced kids, and that was the college exams for their courses. I was taking two college courses that year, but I knew of people who were taking four or more, constantly complaining in class about not getting enough sleep because of study. All I have to say to them now, and then, is 'sucks for you'. Preparing for the future is one thing, but those poor bastards were working themselves to the bone, and sometimes I even pitied them for not enjoying their youth. Naturally, they'd instantly claim they still led active social lives, and from what I heard in class I would believe them. But I don't know, guess it's just because I was more of a loner than them. I sometimes almost regret not striving more for my own future, but I quickly erase those thoughts.
In English, we learned next to nothing. We read classics like Of Mice and Men and the abridged version of Moby Dick, and had some lectures on the works as well as analysis, but in all honesty it hardly stuck. Let's face it, we spent more time slacking in the class and acting as Miss Ruby's cheap labor than actual bookwork. However, during spring was the time of the school's Renaissance Festival. Put simply, students set up shop in the field and dressed the part, hawking their wares to other students and visitors alike, while sharing the history of the time period. This was generally reserved for the seniors, but seeing as how Miss Ruby was the head of the department, and unable to keep watch on her classes because of it, she roped us all in and forced us to participate.
We were put into groups, and given topics to research and display at the festival. I don't remember my assigned topic, and I didn't bother to research it either for the festival. Even with the hopes that the festival could be as nice as a professional one, it was a mess, and more than half the staff wasn't dressed for the event when the day came. I at least went in with a black cloak, claiming to be a traveler or something to guarantee my grade for the project. Aside from the obvious educational value, if any, we could also sell trinkets or food; the money earned would then go to some charity. I made twenty in cash from canned sodas, and never donated a penny of it. Far as the teacher knew, I didn't sell anything. I believe in giving, but I spent the entire day there under the scorching sun in a black get-up, I wasn't about to throw away a sweet earning.
March came, and with it the state exams I previously mentioned. Being juniors, we were exempt from the testing, but the alternative was probably far worse. Living in a part of the country where the only true season was summer, by March the heat was already unbearable, and that was our only comfort that entire day. Rather than allow the possibility of the testing to be disturbed by loud students, they threw us all out into the field, with nothing but a handful of footballs and soccer balls to entertain ourselves for the next five hours. Being the lazy person I was, I just picked a spot near the fence and tried to stay under as much shade as possible, cursing the whole time why I didn't bring some papers or something to fashion myself a fan. Though Andrew was right there next to me the whole time, we complained more about the heat than anything else.
With the school year closing off, Miss Ruby used us once more as free labor, this time prepping the classrooms to be used as storage for the summer. She had apparently been called out by a higher-up about so many students wandering the halls during classes, despite being under supervision, so she started taking groups of five to seven for her chores at a time, leaving the rest of us either in the lobby of the second floor, supposedly studying for something. It goes without saying that we did no such thing, and instead wasted the hour talking or playing games in the hall. The final exam would end up being a twenty question deal, and was passed with flying colors by everyone.
Since the schedule of the college level exams was decided by the college board, students with more than one class ran the chance of having both their exams on the same day. Fortunately for me, this was not the case, but I did know of a number of poor fools who were stuck with that set up. One girl even had two straight days of testing, two exams each day! I believe first for me was Psychology, which went terribly. Despite having read the textbook cover to cover a few times over the course of the year, I ended up with the second lowest possible score; a two out of five, as the grading scale went. A couple days after I had the American History exam, and also failed that one with a two of five. As consolation, I heard from some that failing the exam could actually prove to be better, as colleges would see that I had the determination, but still had to pay them for the class again when I entered. Money-grubbing bastards.
As for the other classes, Algebra 2 was an easy ace, as was Spanish 2. P.E. wasn't as easy, considering the exam had both a written (aced) and physical (not so aced) portion. I passed, which is what counts. Around this time there were also a multitude of complaints floating around the school as to the scheduling for the next year. Instead of six courses, the county had changed to eight in the year, to be split into alternating days of four classes each. This policy change brought about many concerns over the requirements for graduation, which until that point meant the successful completion of twenty-four courses over the four years, with differing requirements on the classes themselves depending on the student's future path. Those that had already started their high school careers would only require an additional two, four, or six classes, depending, while incoming freshmen would be slapped with the thirty-two course requirement. How I pitied those fools.
The year drew to a close, fun but mostly uneventful, at least that's how I'm remembering it at this particular moment. They say senior year is usually the most fun, but before I share that part I will admit that junior year was best for me. The classes, the events, the interactions; it was all the perfect blend of work and fun. I said farewell to my friends once more for the summer months, and departed that last day of school. I think it was the only time I ever went on the absolute last day, and it was for a good reason, after all.
The final year was upon me. I went back to the school with my head held high, and a tune from a video game based around school life revolving around my mind. My final adventure was about to begin. First that year was Government and Economics, my only college level course that year. I had been planning on playing it cool that year, but Miss Silva had convinced us all that stepping down from that level would be a step backward into harder work, and she wouldn't be lying either. I had heard stories of the difference between Coach Sizzle's normal classes and college courses, so I wasn't looking at the choice as bad. This teacher's defining gimmick was his countdown clock, displaying the days remaining until the end of the school year, and his own retirement at last. Already a good sign, I remember thinking to myself.
Classes were set up in an odd/even routine, so classes one/three/five/seven would be held on one day, and the rest on the next day. My next class on that first day of school was English Four, but was actually class three, so try and keep that in mind. Whereas last year I had a jokingly easy English course, this year was to be far tougher, but still rewarding in the long run. Instructed by Miss Mary, my old Creative Writing teacher, I was already on favorable standing in the class, though unlike C.W. she wouldn't be as lenient with the assignments. This was of no consequence to me, as I was also lucky enough to share a class once more with Tina, sitting behind her again. After orientation that morning, my day ended. Rather than suffer through four classes I did not truly need to complete my required courses, I bundled them all up into a single stone with another class. More on that in a moment.
The next day started with Introduction to Computer Literacy, or something to that effect. My last true required class, aside from Government and English, saving it for my final year guaranteed that the class would count as both the computer requirement and the practical art requirement, eliminating my need to take some form of shop class. A well played gambit, if I do say so. The teacher was a new guy to the school, and I honestly don't remember his name, not that he did much in the way of instruction. The class was filled primarily with freshmen and sophomores, I was the only senior, though that little bit of knowledge was left out for the majority of the year.
Next those days was D.C.T, short for something... Anyway, the purpose of that class was general and pointless instruction on the ways of the working world, and how to get a hold of jobs and keep them. Before then I didn't know that required instruction, but the teacher, a Miss Lady, was kind enough to keep us motivated. In other words, she constantly bribed us with food and promises of food so long as we continued to show up for school each and every day. This class was more of an anchor for the real treat: at the end of every day, we were supposed to leave school early and attend a job for work experience. Some left after three classes daily. Others, including myself, left after only two. Though I was technically supposed to be looking for work if I didn't have any, that of course never happened.
A couple weeks into school that year, Coach Sizzle didn't show up for class one day. What's more, the classroom was left barren, devoid of any items that may have been his. There wasn't even any assignments left behind to instruct us in his absence. Naturally, the classroom was abound with rumors, including one that Sizzle had quit because of issues with the principal. This actually turned out to be somewhat true, as we would later learn from our new instructor. Sizzle had gotten into some form of argument with the principal, and somehow managed to quit after using up all his remaining sick days, which after a lifetime on the job without using a single one, meant he could effectively take the rest of the school year off and still get paychecks until the end of the year. Everyone assumed after that he probably moved to a tropical paradise somewhere for retirement. Our new teacher was Miss Silva; not my old American History teacher, but her cousin whom was forced into her first teaching year because of Sizzle's retirement.
Under Miss Silva, the class was actually considerably easier than before. Where Sizzle pounded us with packets and packets of notes and work, Miss Silva went a slower, more traditional route. Granted, this did little to prepare us for the exam at the end of the year, but it wasn't like I was planning or even hoping to pass it, so I was relieved that in the end I still got to take it easy that year.
As for English 4, the year got off to a rocky start. Every year beforehand, I was technically supposed to be reading some books during the summer, with tests on them once the new year began. None of my teachers before had done this, but Miss Mary sure did. Fortunately, I was not the only one who hadn't bothered to read those books, including such titles as Catch-22 and Anthem, and Miss Mary was far too nice to flunk over half the class, so she ended up altering her lesson plan to allow us all to read one of these books in class. Honestly, looking back, and even at the time, I'd rather have taken a few 'F's than read those books.
After that horrible forced reading, we started with greek literature. More accurately, Jason and the Argonauts, one of the few remaining greek legends we hadn't been forced to read while in high school, at least where I was. Now, I have nothing against the story, but in all honesty I couldn't care less about his journey to fetch the golden fleece or anything else he did, so it was all a big blur to me. I do remember an assignment, however, one where as a group we had to write, and enact, our own epic to the class. While most others saw this as a painful group assignment, I was actually looking forward to working on it, being one of the few instances in school where I was allowed to be creative. After teaming with Tina and a couple other leftover students in the classroom, I quickly got to work on the epic. Rather than help with the writing, the others chose to enact the poem, leaving me to complete it in solitude... until Tina offered to assist. I had never worked on something as creative as a story with a fellow classmate before, so it was a bit perplexing as to how we would get it done. That is, until Tina offered to come over to my house to work on it one weekend.
Yes, I know, this is starting to stray from the focus of the tale, but I assure you this is a one time thing. For those wondering, I will not go into explicit detail as to what happened in my room as we worked on the story, I won't even offer anymore detail than what has already been stated. We worked on it for a few hours, came up with some names, and then ended the day with some lunch. I will offer that it was that day that solidified the fact that we would never get together romantically. Anyhow, back at school, our epic was awarded a high mark, but was slightly weakened by a hammed up performance.
In Govt., Miss Silva took a more hands-on approach to learning the material, which included such activities as a mock election and mock trial. The first, the election, had two students run for office with the rest of the class acting as the people. The running candidates for president included myself. No, I am not making this up to be the center of the story. Why would I? I was chosen at random, as my luck would have it. Granted, I wasn't about to be bombarded with a million and a half questions, so I passed on the job to my running mate, and became Vice President instead, which suited me better. Sam, the new up-and-coming president, was more of a people person than I could ever dream to be, so playing the stoic card by his side was sure to win the election. Until the questions started: our stance on abortion, the major factor on which the election was riding on. Sam, the smart bastard, passed the question to me, and of course, being the quiet guy, everyone was eager to hear what I had to say on the issue. I present to you the only line of dialogue in this entire retelling of school life:
"I follow the law. The law says that life begins once a person first draws breath, and I stand by that. Until the law changes, this is what I will defend and represent."
This drew applause from the class, and horrible backlash from the person asking the question. Apparently, she had prepared herself for a great debate on the issue, and was stunned to see that I chose not to state outright whether I was for or against it. Miss Silva later praised me for my excellent mimicry of a politician. I don't remember who won the election, but it didn't matter to me, I had earned my grade for the assignment.
In English, we started reading another classic, Dante's Inferno. This was a book I had been looking forward to reading since I was a freshman, simply to know how the inner workings of hell looked like and operated. Miss Mary, always one to ease the classics as well as make the assignments creative, separated the poem into individual parts, one canto per student. I asked for the final canto, allowing me to not only go last, but also give the presentation on Satan himself. No, I am not a satanic follower, and no, I am not into devil worship. I just made sure to give that impression in school to instill a bit of fear in my classmates!
After that, we moved on to the Canterbury Tales. This work honestly inspired a number of my own stories, but after hearing the premise, I was saddened to find out the book wasn't as engaging. I felt the same way after cracking open The Arabian Nights; what a load of boring fail that was (no disrespect to anyone, I just didn't like it). Miss Mary also had this book split into separate assignments per student, though I honestly don't remember what part I was assigned, nor what our assignment was. The book didn't really stick with me, so I'll just move the story along.
After the holidays, we returned to school to a great treat. Over the break, someone had managed to take an old sign for a local amusement park, and hung it over the school's name on the front of the main building. Now, I will inform you that the majority of the student population was African-American, and let me assure you I have nothing against the people, and this is all true. The park was called 'Monkey Jungle', and the sign displayed over the school's name even had the picture of a monkey on it. It was a day filled with laughter for all students. Naturally, it was taken down during the school day, but the memory is still fresh in my mind. Though the staff found it offensive for the most part, it was still a great joke. Why, you ask? Because the park's slogan was: where humans are caged and monkeys run wild!
While on the subject of apes, there was one great part of D.C.T that I have yet to mention: the rewards. Miss Lady rewarded those that attended class every day of the grading period with a free large pizza at the end of the period, so naturally a free meal once every two months was more than enough motivation to keep me in school. Now, her classroom was located in the back of the school, and leaving everyday was quite a walk through the crowds at lunchtime. Now, that sign claiming the students were apes may not have been totally wrong, as I learned that first day carrying a box of pizza through the halls at lunchtime. I was quickly swarmed by every student in the area, all begging for a slice of pizza. Naturally, I refused, hoping to devour my prize myself at home over the course of the evening. This caused most of the hungry students to regress into primal apes; after furiously beating their chests, they started after me on all fours. I felt like a character in a movie trying to make it to the safety of the car.
Okay, so that didn't exactly happen, but it's how I remember it, having to run down those halls with a box of pizza. Back in English class, our next reading assignment, and one of the last, was Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Going in, I knew next to nothing about the story, other than what's constantly parodied on TV and such. I was surprised to learn that for once, a classic really was a classic, and loved the book. Sure, there were numerous written assignments on every other chapter of the book that hampered the experience, but it was one of the few times where I truly enjoyed reading something in school.
As the year drew to an end, exams were popping up all over. I know, I went from winter to summer in three paragraphs, but honestly the rest of the school year, like the first half, was uneventful for the most part. Days of computers and D.C.T. were repetitive and pointless to mention, and I've hit all but one of the highlights in my other two classes that year. With the year ending, I was back in the testing room for my Government exam. I'm not going to beat around the bush, I failed it, miserably. But, like all the other college level courses, it didn't matter, I still passed the class with flying colors simply for trying. Man, if only all my other classes had been the same.
With that worry finally eliminated, we were able to relax for the remaining month of school and take part in a more enjoyable diversion, a mock trial. The position of judge was taken by Miss Silva, sadly; I was hoping I'd be able to play the judge. Instead, I was a member of the jury, meaning my work was limited to passing judgement and sentencing on whichever poor saps failed to win me over. The case was about a drunk driving accident that resulted in the loss of a fetus several months in development. My class was disgustingly fond of the whole abortion issue, as you can see. Well, as to not bog the story down with the particulars, the jury found the guys driving the car to be responsible of Assault with a Deadly Weapon. My favorite part of all this was the fact that I was bribed by the defendants to deadlock the jury and force a mistrial. I took the bribe, naturally, but instead turned right around and convinced my peers to give him the highest possible sentence for the crime. I made sure to detail it all in my report to the teacher afterwards, which once again earned me some praise.
The last day of school was upon us. The following day we were to walk down that aisle in the auditorium and receive a phony diploma and pose for a picture with the principal. Luckily, the last day turned out to be an odd numbered day, meaning I would get to spend it with my good friends Andrew and Tina. We said our goodbyes, shed tears of both joy and sorrow at our departure, and welcomed the next stage of our lives. Touching and fitting end, no? Well, not in this tale. I spent that last day with Andrew in English playing games while the remaining six students watched a version of Frankenstein that does the written work no justice at all. Tina had missed class that day to get ready for the graduation, so we didn't get to have that last day chat that's so often portrayed in movies about high school. But then again, was any part of my tale like a movie you've seen with a similar subject?
Now, to answer that one question that's been lingering in your mind since this tale started: why was this written? I didn't do it to illicit emotion or thought, just to share what a normal school life is like. I know that what's portrayed in film is done so to appeal to the audience, but sometimes a good dose of reality is needed to keep everything in perspective. This has been my tale of high school life, that of a lone, video game loving nerd that didn't leave a lasting impression on the school.
And I'm totally fine with that.