Remembering High School

My youngest son started high school this fall (gosh, I am old!). It got me thinking about my old high school days (very different from my kids – public high school versus religious yeshiva, America versus Israel).

You know how your kids always complain about learning (fill in the blank), and they say that they will not remember it years from now and it is a waste of time? Well I tried to think back to what I learned in high school – and I couldn’t come up with much! I remember learning the word “ethnocentric” (oh, those liberal 70’s social studies teachers!) and how that was bad. I remember a discussion in my biology class about evolution, and my teacher saying that those who did not believe in it were exhibiting hubris. (I remember thinking to myself, “lady, I am not a descendent of an ape”, and this was before I became an observant Jew.)

Although the content of what I learned all those years ago is fuzzy at best, I do remember quite well the idiosyncrasies of my teachers.

My chemistry teacher had a wonderfully cultured English accent, until she got angry. Then her southern roots showed up plainly. The boys in the class would act up on purpose just to hear it (and I don’t think she ever caught on to this…) I had an American Indian woman for a social studies teacher. She was physically tiny but commanded so much respect that she had the football players shaking in their boots. She insisted on treating us with respect, though, and used “Mr.” or “Miss” when addressing us. She said that it wasn’t fair that students had to use a title when speaking to teachers but teachers could use students’ first names – so she didn’t.

My most unpleasant teacher was my French teacher in 12th grade. I had started to be observant, so I told him in advance that I would be missing school for the Jewish holidays. He was fine with Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, but he hit the roof when I told him about Sukkot. He called me a liar when I insisted that there really was a holiday, and when I insisted he told me to bring him a letter from my Rabbi. I did, and I made sure to make up the work and study very hard for the first test. When he saw my good grade on the exam he didn’t bother me again for the rest of the year.

My favorite was my English teacher. She had very high expectations for us and we came through for her. One morning she stormed into the classroom, yelling and screaming and announcing a lot of very strange rules for behavior in the class. She shouted down a few of the braver students who objected, and then in an instant completely changed her mood and said that the rules she just announced were cancelled.  She used this excercise as a way to introduce Mutiny on the Bounty. I don’t remember much about the book, but I remember that morning very well! I took a class with her called Individualized Reading. She would assign books to you, and you would read in class, and periodically she would take students out into the hall to sit down and discuss what you read. She had me reading Thomas Mann and James Joyce (in 11th grade, mind you). This was probably my most enjoyable class in high school.

What do you remember from this time of your life?


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jack
    Oct 05, 2010 @ 15:28:28

    I remember quite a bit, but I may have to plead the fifth so as not to incriminate myself.

  2. Ben David
    Oct 06, 2010 @ 22:23:39

    I don’t remember much – back then I was still an ape…

  3. keren
    Oct 17, 2010 @ 09:52:59

    re yom tov,

    My parents always tell the story that there were mnay jewsih students, but not so many religious ones.

    My mother would take off 2 days for rosh hashanna, while the others would only take the first day.
    Then the teacher would ask her how come they only took one day off while she took 2

    Our children may not know how lucky they are growing up here.

    My father told of starting high school, in the first year, when Yom tov was on thursday and Friday, so in the first few weeks of term he missed those days 3 times over

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