Recent Posts



Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Truth About HIGH SCHOOL

I had such good comments over my YA Cliché blog I decided to do another about High School. It’s been about a decade since I escaped that mental institution, and I would die happy if I never saw that building again. It’s likely that I would spontaneously combust by simply stepping through the main doors. The trauma of those four years remain fresh, like a soldier with war flashbacks. But I’m not going to bore you with my drawn out past of debauchery or the seedy underworld of guidance counselors. But I will tell you what did not occur in MY typical, suburban, middle class high school; therefore it will never appear in my novels.

• Clean bathrooms/ locker rooms

• 30 minute breaks between 5 minute classes

• One popular person/ group takes over the school

• Popularity based on wealth or possessions ( because one would likely be robbed and stabbed by the end of the day)

• An hour-long lunch break

• Walking the halls after the bell without a hall pass

• The use of electronics in school WHATSOEVER

• fashion runway dress code

What I did have:

• Block scheduling

• Potheads galore (including faculty)

• 7Eleven/Starbucks pit-stop before class

• Attending class in whatever he/ she slept in.

• 3 kids dead before graduation

• 1 out of 5 girls pregnant by graduation

• Lame ass prom with corny DJ

• Clique lunch tables based on activities, not popularity (theater, art, band, school news paper, sports, ect.)

• Alcoholic gym/health teacher

• Lesbian soccer/basketball coach

• Teacher student sex scandal/ drug bust

• Semiannual bomb threat

• Catfight leading to bloodshed and police involvement

Now this was the high school I remember, and it's 100% TRUE. My teenage years weren’t bad, but not much was good about it either. One thing for sure, no one could say it wasn’t interesting.

There are a bunch of YA books that make school look like 90210 and it’s not real. People write about this time because it’s a coming of age experience that most people can relate to. Not every high school is the same, thus the cookie cutter high school becomes a cliché and dishonest. Make your world and everything in it stand out. We all had lockers at some point, but the combination lock is what made it unique and rightfully yours.


  1. I agree with almost all of these (I've taught in public schools for the last few years, still work with high school kids), but I have to say something about the electronics.

    Yes, the kids ARE texting (and sexting -- I picked up a phone once and made the mistake of reading the message; made me gag) during class. Some teachers care enough to take up the phone, others don't. Others care, but don't have the energy to fight that fight yet again, especially when the administration doesn't care anyway.

    We work with high school kids now, and we get text messages all day long from kids in class. Once student called me twice this morning, during school hours, to ask about a form she needed to turn in. They're using their phones, with and without permission.

    Kids do wander the halls without passes, or with stolen passes. Some teachers let their kids go to the bathroom (or wherever) without a pass, some kids just walk out of class, some kids steal the pads of blue hall passes and flash the blue piece of paper when you ask (then there are teachers who give out blue pass without filling it out).

    Or the kid gets a legitimate hall pass, but walks all over creation with it. Half my tardy students would come to class with the period half over and a tardy slip time-stamped twenty minutes ago.

    (Also, some schools are overcrowded and don't have enough lockers to assign one to each student -- the only way you can get a locker is by going to the office, on your own time, and requesting one. So hardly any students have lockers anymore.)

    Re: clothing: pajama pants are against dress code in most schools/districts where I've worked, but kids still wear them. (Some teachers care enough to send the kids to the office to get some real pants, others don't.) I've known several girls to bring curling irons to school, and plug them in IN CLASS. I once had one darling painting her toenails in my class -- she had the whole pedicure set laid out under her lab table.

    (OK, now I'm just ranting about my fond memories of the classroom...)

  2. You have some valid points, and I agree with most of them. And you just proved my point: NOT EVERY HIGH SCHOOL IS THE SAME.

    I went to school in suburbia/no-man’s-land, where everyone had their own locker and rent-a-cops roamed wild and free. Electronic were off limits during school hours, but still used them on the sly. What self-respecting deviant wouldn’t?

    In most YA books, the schools don’t even try to confiscated or reprimand students who have them. Same goes for hall passes. I forged quite a few in my heyday—even ran Xerox copies of it and sold them— but they were still required.

    The point is the lack of disciplinary structure in YA or the lack thereof, and using the same stereotypes to illustrate high school, a template that doesn’t apply to everyone.

    PS: A full pedicure set? Really? That's AWESOME!!

  3. Interesting post. I find it kind of neat to see what others went through, saw in high school. Mine is a tiny bit different though same of the things are the same. Then again, I graduated with 64 people in a small town in Wyoming. So, that might be part of the differences source.

    We did have clean bathrooms, at least the girls'. However, in the business building whoever built it wasn't very bright. They connected the toilets to the hot water system. Yeah, weird.

    I also could walk around during classes in the hall way without a hall pass. I sat in the hall on occasion working on art and reading when I didn't have tests to grade the year I was a teacher's assistant for advanced biology. I also knew the secretary and almost all the teachers were fond of me.

    But many of those didn't occur elements and did occur are similar to my own experience.

    I don't write too much involving high school but the ones I have don't involve the use of the high school template/stereotypes.

    Great post.

  4. Very true, every high school is different.

    Back in my day, we had lockers; at the schools where I taught the lockers were there, just unused. (Most kids didn't even know they could request to have one.)

    I taught in a low-income, mostly-minority area, where, unfortunately, you have many teachers who are underqualified and/or burned out. So they don't bother enforcing rules most of the time... but there are some (the new teachers, young and idealistic :P ) who at least TRY...

    Then there's the schools I work with now, which have metal detectors when you walk in. That was a shock, the first time I saw one of those... VERY different from my high school experience.

  5. I fall outside the "typical high school experience" because I went to an all-girls private school. I also went to school in southern California. Not 90210, but 91105, which is Pasadena, an affluent upper-middle class city-burb of LA. :)

    As I said to Kathleen (in reaction to your post):

    1. I went to school in an Italian-style villa, complete with wrought-iron gates.

    2. We had uniforms, and the cliche kind (red plaid skirt, knee high socks, etc.)

    3. Said uniform had no rules about the length of skirt, but had VERY STRICT rules about the length of your SOCKS.

    4. Because we all know it's okay to show the lower half of our ass-checks but ANKLE OH MY GOD ANKLE! SO OBSCENE!

    5. In case you didn't figure--no tennis socks. Socks had to be ABOVE the ankle.

    6. We had lockers, no one bothered to lock them.

    7. ...I was involved in the most fucked up triangle with two teachers. I was 16. It was chaste. But still FUCKED UP.

    8. One was an enigmatic, charismatic, sexy-in-an-unconventional-way English teacher.

    9. The other was a creepy studied-to-be-a-priest religion teacher.

    10. Seriously, you can't make shit like this up.

    11. Or if you do, you write bad erotica.

    12. We had no cafeteria. We bought our lunches from the local roach coach or the healthy vegetarian coach, or brought them. We usually ate out in the sunshine, sitting on lawns, terraces, and balconies. Our lunch periods were 40 to 45 minutes, depending on the block schedule for the day.

    13. Our lunch circles were surprisingly very inclusive and had nothing to do with clique, activity, or otherwise. You could lunch-circle hop and it was all fine.

    14. We had groups, but no real "cliques". No one was valued for "popularity" because that concept kind of doesn't exist in an all-girls' environment.

    15. I was on the fencing team.

    16. Our school is noted for its conservatory programme, which are classes you take after school that can be applied for college credit. They are all in the arts. You had to audition to get in. I did visual arts, creative writing, and vocal.

    17. There were 67 girls in my graduating class. We all graduated in identical white dresses (that we had a designer design for us), wearing identical white elbow length gloves, carrying identical bouquets of red roses (over the LEFT arm, the LEFT!), wearing identical jewelry. It was the school crest strung on a white ribbon. The only individuality we were allowed was makeup, hair, and shoes, which had to be white. My mother said it was like watching 67 BRIDES FOR 67 BROTHERS.

    18. For a graduating class of 67, we rehearsed graduation for THREE DAYS. Because we all had to stand up and sit down on the right piano cues, you see. Because we had no caps or gowns, afterwards, we broke off the heads of our roses and threw the petals in the air.


    19. We are all surprisingly still very close. I flew all the way from New York to LA just to attend our 5 year reunion. Two exchange student girls (one from Luxembourg, the other from Romania) flew ALL THE WAY FROM EUROPE for the reunion. Vroni (Luxembourg girl) was there for less than a semester. Georgia was there for a full year.

    20. 100% of us got accepted into 4-year universities. (But not all chose to attend.)

    Yep. I still go visit my high school every chance I get. I graduated in 2003. They still remember me.

  6. My high-school was pretty small & we still had pretty much everything on your list :) So glad it's way far back in my past!

  7. A lot of your high school experience mirrors mine (not all, but the majority). At my school, there definitely wasn't a popular group that takes over the school: It was way too big for that. There were students in my class I never met because we didn't have any class together, or have the same lunch block.

  8. Now that's High School.
    3000 students in a school built for 900.
    Doesn't matter who you are, you will get robbed. Why? Because the lockers are crap and they don't work, (and you can't even put a lock on them because they still open!) and the gym teachers don't lock the locker rooms.
    Everyone does things they're not supposed to do.
    So many druggies. So many fights. The white boys just kind of have slap fights. We've got a lot of stereotypical Mexican's where we live, so they're not afraid to duke it out. We've had bloodshed when a security guard got punched in the face. I swear our school has the police on speed dial... they're there everyday. And we've also had the bomb threats.
    Our fair share of pregnancies.
    We did have a teacher/student sex scandal! That was when my sister was in High School. But recently, my band director was asked to leave (fired) for having porn on his computer!
    Our school has a cockroach problem, thanks to many senior pranks gone bad, and we have a problem with senior pranks going bad. Our school gets vandalized by the seniors every other year. During Color Wars, many seniors actually injure (break arms) of Freshman. (But try and cancel it and the entire student body does it anyway.)
    Oh, and lets not forget the idiot who decided he was going to throw 1000 dollars (later 1000 pennies) into the air in center court and create a mob in the middle of the school.

    I'm just so sick of High School Cliche's. I'm so sick of the idea that the whole school revolves around a Queen Bee. The idea of cliques in annoying. We have groups, but a lot of them mingle together. I'm a band geek, but I hang out with braniacs and even a few jocks. Unfortunately, there is a "popular crowd" shown when our superlatives went with incredibly shallow people winning Best Personality.

    Ugh! Sorry for the rant. I just can't wait to get out of that place. 44 days of school left!

  9. I think we went to the same high school ...

  10. Ugh, thanks for taking me back to place I blocked out years ago, without therapy, but very much needed it!
    I wanna go to JJ's school! Is that why YA High school's are so perfect so we can escape our horrifying memories?!!

  11. Okay, holy crap, your high school and my high school were on opposite ends of the universe. 1 dead girl, 2 pregnant girls (in four years), and fights? Come now. If I wrote about my actual high school, people wouldn't buy it, I gather. But I would love to read a collection of short stories about yours!




Featured Post

The Cambion Chronicles ( Book 4)

Hey guys! Have you ever had a story in your head that you just had to get out? The characters you created are so lively and outg...



Now Available



Popular Posts




On My Emo Days...

On My Emo Days...
Some days are blacker than others


The Apocalypsies!!