High School

Today’s post come from Steve Grooms

I was listening recently to the funny, evocative song “High School” by Pat Donohue. Readers probably know it. The song played often on the Late Great Morning Show.  Here are a few lines:

Full of wise guys and zeros and basketball heroes

Who taunt me

That was my school

Full of cheerleader cuties and homecoming beauties

Who haunt me

With tough guys who fright me and girls who don’t like me

Just that I’m not their sort

Back in high school

I’m glad I’m not there any more

 

sg on high school date

 

The song was a reminder of how high school was nightmarish for me. I was shy. In my eyes, I didn’t fit in with my classmates. I loved outdoor recreation partly because it didn’t involve the social interactions I found so troubling at school.

I have worked out a story to describe my high school years, a story that I share with friends and family members. In short form, my story has been that only two kinds of kids at school scared me: the boys and the girls. I feared the boys because I wasn’t an athlete and some of the kids were pretty scary. I feared the girls because I was so unsure of myself with them. Given the choice of trying to talk to a girl or going fishing, I strongly preferred fishing. My story goes on to say I was too shy to date anyone. My experience of high school was a lot like the story Pat Donohue told in his song.

Recently, however, I’ve experienced an uncomfortable clash between my story and evidence that I wasn’t such a misfit after all. When I attended the 50th reunion of my class, a lot of people remembered me and acted as if they had liked me. Before I lost my box of old family photos, several of them showed me dressed up for dates. I must not have been as shy as I have been claiming, for I was photographed dating on several different occasions.

Now I struggle to resolve these clashing images. I considered my high school years a botch, a time when I hid from other kids and lived almost entirely inside my head. Evidence now says I was actually fairly popular and could have been more so if I hadn’t spent so much time fishing. Now I feel about high school the way I feel about most of my life: it sure could have been better, and I’d like a second chance at it to do it better, but on the whole it wasn’t so bad.

How do you remember your experience of high school?

45 thoughts on “High School”

  1. I was extremely shy from elementary to high school. I didn’t really emerge from my cocoon of shyness until college when I got involved in Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. This ministry God used to bless me to metamorphosis into the butterfly He meant me to be. From that moment on I ventured out more both spiritually and socially. I made memories and friendships that I would never have experienced if I didn’t dare to do things different. I thank God for using Intervasity to transform my life. Today, I’m a teacher, pastor, speaker, singer, poet, writer, and a up and coming author striving to make a difference in the world.

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  2. Nice piece Steve. I had a good time in high school although I remember being aware at the time how transient it was and being a little impatient for it to be over. Unlike many I have no interest, really no interest in keeping tabs with high school. I am not in contact with anyone I knew in high school and have not been to any reunions. So I guess that means while I enjoyed it I just want to move on.

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  3. Rise and Shine Baboons!

    Uffda. High School was painful. I don’t even like to think about it. I do have a lot of contact with my friends from that time–they were/are great people. When I see these folks I realize others did not see me the way I saw myself. But my family was in shambles with dad’s illness and Mom’s instability. I had so much responsibility, which was a heavy thing for a teen. A carefree experience it was not.

    So I try not to think about it much, but a few things shine through–band, my band teacher, Joe Brice, and my friends. That was good.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I believe your experience is fairly typical, Jacque. Kids in high school often feel isolated by some perceived problem. They are sure they don’t fit in, and they envy the kids they believe are living happier lives. One of the common discoveries is that the kids we envied in high school were just as lost and isolated as we were.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Your date in the picture was Gretchen Whittman? She was quite popular as I recall, so the fact that she was on a date with you means that you were far from a loser, Steve!

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        1. Gretchen Wildman. Yes, she was popular. She was my date because no other guy in high school would call her, and that was because she had a serious relationship with a college guy. He was musically gifted and almost too good looking. That relationship made Gretchen the safest girl in the class for me to call, since obviously she wasn’t going to be interested in me.

          She was popular and active in high school groups. The yearbook had nine photos of her, and in eight her eyes are closed!

          A few years ago Gretchen and I have reconnected and we now exchange good letters. During our three-day 50th reunion she was my date. We get along better now than when we were kids.

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  4. HVS, two things. 1) you and I are such images of each other. I always wanted to stop in when you were in Highland Park, but never worked out. Studies indicate long-tern chronic pain can affect the social center of the brain. I know it has me, part of why stopping in to see you was hard to do. A few seconds after I post this, I will dislike myself for doing so.
    I think it must also affect memory. All I can seem to remember are social awkwardness and loneliness in high school and other years, but it takes little effort to know I had many friends and was involved in football, theater, yearbook, speech. But maybe a lot of people mis-remember those years. As the song says there were many jerks in HS to give a person negative images of a your social self.
    2) My post tomorrow is tied to this. It is about the pre-school years and social contacts.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. A codicil to the above: watched the movie of A Man Called Ove last night on Amazon movies (prime). For the first 40 minutes Sandy sat there all straight-backed and grim-lipped. By minute 60 she got it about Ove’s sociall defensiveness and fell in live with the movie.

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  6. High School is not one of my fondest memories and I would never in a million years want to relive it. My class had a large “popular” clique. I was part of it in junior high but was cruelly kicked out by high school. Luckily I fell in with a much nicer group of friends, which made school tolerable. I have kept in touch with only a few of my classmate – one is my best friend. I skipped every reunion (we seemed to have one every 5 years) until the 45th and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I spent most of my time chatting with classmates I did not associate with in school. There were still a couple of the “popular” ones who mostly ignored me but at this point, I don’t care.

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  7. Something I’d like to hear about from other Baboons is what groups existed in their high schools. When I was in school the divisions were between these groups: the Brains, the Jocks and the Hoods. Ames was a college town, and some of the kids in my school were conspicuously intelligent. (I didn’t feel I was one.) I think most high schools have a group of athletes that are respected and popular. Then in our class there was a group of slightly tough guys, social rebels who smoked and wore their collars turned up. They terrified me. If you want a sense of that group, watch the movie American Graffiti. The lead character, Curt, falls in with a group of tough guys who involve him in a scheme to prank a local police officer. When I saw that movie I instantly remembered the sense of dread I used to feel around the Hoods in my school.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You left out the gearheads and the boys and girls who are true loners. But those are key ones in every class. Intelligence is burden for some kids in every class. They put up defenses in various ways.

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      1. Last comment and then I clean: when I taught, myself, the upper levels math teacher, the bio/chem/physics teachers, the French teacher, one social studies teacher–we all made our classes a haven for intelligence and thought and expression of ideas. All of us built strong bonds with many of the kids we taught. We made a point of tying together what we were doing. We all talked about what they were learning or to learn beyond the subject matter. We all worked hard on recommendations and support for applications. We made our classrooms places of humor, an outlet for intelligence.When I do rarely hear from these former students, they always tie all of us together as a group in their memories and praise.

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      2. I left out several sub-groups. I was too self-centered and shy to see the full array of types. One of the smaller groups in my school was a subset of The Brains. These were painfully shy boys who played chess and ran the movie projectors or tape recorders for teachers. I don’t remember if they were labeled Geeks, but that’s what they were.

        What we did not have was a group of sharp dressers. Later generations had a group of kids who wore nothing but cool clothes. That wasn’t part of my school. In some schools in the mid-60s there were “Preppies” who wore great clothes.

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  8. Every class I ever taught had the mean girls and the bully boys. As the yearbook adviser–and sometimes forced into directing plays–I spent most of my time with the opposite end of the social spectrum. My room was many times the haven for the students who felt outcast. I think one of the issue is that by senior high those who hung out in my room were craving adult contact, adult friendship. I was sometimes a counselor, sometimes a friend, sometimes a demanding teacher.. Now and then I, or Sandy and I, became a parent to these kids. Three lived much of their live at our house including sleeping there, three I rescued (saying no more), a few I was instrumental in getting into an academy or a prestigious college. I am saying this as I remind myself I was not as bad at teaching as I thought.
    OT: as you can see, my hands are recovering. Today will be a challenge to them and my whole body and broken rib. I have not done a thorough housecleaning in seven weeks. Our CA grandson and son will be with us the last ten days of the month. Saturday we go to Easter and then to take care of our two MN grandkids for all of next week. So it’s clean today or tomorrow.

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  9. High school – ugh.

    However, I did end up with two friends there (miracle of miracles, wonder of wonders) and to this day I keep in touch with them. Lost touch for many years, then reconnected a while back.

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  10. High school was an interesting experience for me. I was blessed to be able to attend a very special school called JFK Preparatory HS in St. Nazianz, WI. My 4 older sisters all attended the Catholic grade school and high school, but I lucked out. JFK Prep was a co-ed, diverse, open boarding school based on the theories of Abraham Maslow. Even though I was painfully shy, awkward, bad stutter, thick glasses, etc., I found ways to shine and make friends there.

    Luckily, I was athletic and also found theater, so I was fairly involved. It was a small school — about 130-160 students, tops. The campus was an old Salvatorian Seminary inhabited by a small population of Salvatorian brothers who lived and worked on the school grounds in different capacities. We never knew their names — the students called them Brother Bread (he made the homemade bread in cafeteria), Brother Bus, Brother Flowers, etc., according to the tasks they performed. Students lived on campus with the teachers serving as dorm counselors, librarian, coaches, etc., but we went home every weekend A very close-knit community stuck in the middle of a very small town.

    We certainly had our cliques — jocks, nerds, hippies, etc. I was so envious of the girls who could flirt, talk with the boys, have boyfriends and have dates for dances and stuff. Many former students have stated how much attending Prep changed the direction of their lives and how much we appreciated such a nurturing environment for high school. It wasn’t perfect by any means — it was the 70’s after all. But it was amazing compared to many high schools.

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    1. By a strange coincidence, we drove through St. Nanzianz just last weekend on a little road trip to a woolen mill near Valders and an overnight stopover in Sheboygan. St. Nanzianz gives off kind of an odd vibe as you drive through, enough so that we wondered about its history.
      Googling St. Nanzianz, by the way, yields some peculiar stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh yes. The whole Father Oschwald story, the crypt on campus, ghost stories, the odd brothers who lived on campus, the old nuns were housed in a different building in town. Oddly enough, my dad attended the exact same school when it as a Salvatorian Seminary for 2 years. I think he found a picture of himself helping behind the scenes of the annual Passion Play, and I was in the Passion Play when it was ‘resurrected’. Definitely a peculiar history.

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  11. My high school years are kind of a fog, so unremarkable that I don’t remember much in detail. I was shy, at least to the extent of not dating at that point. I wasn’t involved in sports, even as a spectator, so although I knew about the jocks and the cheerleaders (there weren’t many girls teams and they were less prominent in the high school culture), that whole sports thing with its putative triumphs and heroes happened on a different planet.
    I’m sure there was a cadre of tough guys but I didn’t have enough contact with them or their cartoonish menace to give them any thought one way or another.
    There were the student leaders who sought positions in the student council; the same element tended to surface as presidents of their various clubs. I joined none of them.
    Band was a subgroup of its own. I was part of it briefly, but quit when we were compelled to march.
    Somehow, I must have been widely enough known that I was elected “Best Male Artist” in my graduating class of over 800. It wasn’t for the quality of my work, so it must have been for lack of competition. Many of the people I was drawn to were in the theater crowd, artsy in a different way, though I myself never participated, even as crew.
    I find it interesting to read the inscriptions from classmates in my high school yearbook. Apparently I made some sort of impression with my sartorial choices, as several of the inscriptions mention it, especially my yellow socks, which must have been some sort of signature look of mine, though I don’t remember them.
    In high school, as throughout my life, many of my closest and most memorable friends were women.

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    1. <<<<Pointing at himself<<<< St. Louis Park HS, class of 1973. Well over 800 students. Second in the state only to Richfield HS at the time, I believe. I feel your indifferent pain, bill. 😉 And I had a "posse" of four female friends my senior year in HS. They were four of my best friends at the time. I ended up marrying one of them. 🙂

      Not so much fog, but I was a band geek first and foremost, and existed on the fringes of the jocks and brains, but definitely NOT one of the cool kids.

      Chris

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  12. A work of life-based short fiction. How challenging it is to teach students rorm all the groups and backgrounds. And today teachers also have to address language an cultural differences as well.

    Slouching towards Bedlam

    They sat in student desks next to each other, at opposite ends of a continuum—by random chance of Mr. Kunst’s assignment of seats before the first day of school.

    She, Arabella Tews-Moreno, was given the second seat in the row by the windows. By the end of the third day Mr. Kunst decided her face was brighter than the sunlight angling in from the old drafty eight-foot-high windows. She sat as tall as she could sit, edged forward in her seat, following his every move, absorbing his every word, always turning to face students he called on for answers. He hoped his lessons were worthy of her intellectual hunger.

    He, Gordon Cussins, was given the second seat in the second row from the windows. He slouched. Most ninth grade boys slouched to some degree. Student desks were prison for most of the boys and some of the girls. Clair knew this from his own trials as a ants-in-his-pants boy with restless leg syndrome. More that one teacher tried to make Clair’s chair solitary confinement. His second grade teacher, Miss Goodman, oddly by name, placed him squarely in the middle of the front row in a desk, like all desks of the era, squarely lag-bolted to the floor. Miss Goodman, no doubt, thought she was doing him good by saying to him several times a day, “For heaven’s sake, sit up!” “For heaven’s sake, sit still!” “For heaven’s sake, keep your feet under your desk!”

    In sympathy to all who bore the anti-school curse of uncontrolled restlessness, Mr. Kunst structured his lesson plans for students to move once or twice a period, often having them pull their desks into groups. If he could not find a pedagogical purpose to move students, he had them stand and stretch. These, after all, were ninth graders, still overflowing with hormones. Gordon slouched through it all, immovable and unresponsive. Mr. Kunst wanted to say to Gordon as a private joke for his Clair self, “For heaven’s sake, sit up!”

    Gordon’s slouch was a statement but a statement of what?

    His was not the easy slouch of a relaxed gangling teen-age boy. Not the defiant slouch of a rebel. Nor the indifferent slouch of the disengaged student. It was a well-practiced slouch, deep into the chair until he achieved his angle of repose.

    Arabella Tews-Moreno earned grades beyond A’s because she was not capable of anything else.

    Gordon Cussins, as if by design, but surely more from instinct, found the middle point of every curve. It was a mathematical summary of his slouch.

    That school year Mr. Kunst was overwhelmed by his heavy teaching load; Clair was overwhelmed by his own emotional slouch. He held his chin above the flood by focusing on the center and ignoring the periphery. In the right order of things, Mr. Kunst would have had time to offer Arabella more challenge and Clair would have had time to pull Gordon aside and find the words to say “I, too, have seen the darkness in my soul. I, too, have wanted to slide silently into the abyss.”

    Over the next three years he saw Arabella in the challenging classes he taught. Gordon he saw most days because Gordon’s locker was not far from his classroom door. Mr. Kunst spoke to him now and then when other students were not too near. Gordon responded with naked politeness.

    One day in the spring of Gordon’s junior year, Mr.Kunst, while working in his classroom during prep period, heard a curious noise. It was not the long low sound of the old building settling back from the annual winter frost, as if it could not bear up for a year longer the weight of public education. Rather, it was a high-pitched arhythmic series of inhalations. He rushed to the empty hall to see Gordon standing with head lowered into his locker to muffle his sobs. Clair led Gordon into his room and seated him at his desk chair with a box of tissues before him. He helped Gordon take several slow deep breaths. Time, however, was not in their favor; the bell would ring in six and one-half minutes. Time was ever in short supply in education.

    Clair offered to call Gordon’s parents to come take him home. Gordon stiffened. “No. I’m all right. Not my father.” Gordon saw Mr. Kunst’s glance at the clock and stood up.

    “Gordon, I’m going to take you down to the counselor’s office.” Gordon stepped away. “I must insist on this, Gordon.”

    Gordon followed to the counselor’s outer office, where he crossed to a chair and slouched in his angle of repose. Leaving Gordon in the care of the secretary, Mr. Kunst returned to teach the intricacies of the semicolon.

    Gordon shunned his locker for the few remaining weeks of his and Arabella’s junior year and found a different locker for his senior year.

    Arabella graduated first in the class and charged off with relish into higher and even higher education. In later years she wrote Clair well-crafted and interesting letters, always including warm gratitude for his teaching, as if an Arabella Tews-Moreno needed teachers.

    It was a letter from Gordon Cussins he wished to receive but knew he would not.

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    1. Nice, Clyde. A friend of mine (actually a guy who had been one of my daughter’s favorite teachers) had to quit the profession because there were so many kids who had so many needs. He helped them as long as he could, then gave it all up.

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  13. One of the strangest days in my life was when everyone in my class got their senior yearbook. On the last day of school we ran around signing each other’s yearbooks. These were people that I’d known most of my life, some of them from when I was five. There was a real prospect that I wouldn’t see these ever again. A lot of people wrote notes with forced cleverness or dumb humor. Some people wrote nice notes. I was too embarrassed by the situation to read what people had written until I got home.

    I was eager to read what a kid named Conrad had written. Conrad was a nice guy but someone I had never had the nerve to approach. He and I never shared a project or anything that would bring us together. But when I saw him at a distance I always kicked myself for not getting to know him. He was someone I looked up to. Conrad seemed a lot like me. He even looked like me.

    I wrote something bland in his yearbook. Then, back home, I read what he had written in mine.

    Conrad had poured his heart out. He said he was unhappy with himself for not getting to know me. He had always looked up to me. He thought we could have been friends, maybe even best friends, but he’d been shy about meeting me.

    When I read that I just had to groan.

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  14. I was miserable throughout high school. My self esteem was non-existent even though I was on the edges of the popular group. I sometimes think even that was due to my mother’s eagerness to let me have the best sleepovers in town. I carried a strong belief that, if I could just be a cheerleader, I’d be popular. Three years in a row, I tried out. Three years in a row, I failed to even be chosen as a substitute and was crushed.

    Starting in 9th grade, I “went steady” with a jock two years older than myself. “Going steady” in today’s terms is called “Liking” somebody. Funny how words change?

    “Ronnie” became my everything. We couldn’t spend enough time together and were attached like velcro. I was terribly dependent on him for attention and affection throughout those two years. When my parents moved me from Ames to Wayzata, it ripped my heart out to leave Ronnie behind. It also took away my entire childhood of friends and familiarity.

    Moving here as a junior didn’t allow enough time to really bond with new people, so I didn’t fit in. As I had in Ames, the girls here had with each other: years of bonding. I never got over leaving Ames but, oddly, never went back until the 20th. reunion.

    After graduating, I commuted to the U of M every day. Because of the sheer size of the student body and still living at home, I didn’t make friends there either. Only one year later, I got pregnant and married a young man whom I’d divorce after 10 years and 3 babies. Sometimes I think that subconsciously this was my only way out of living at home.

    Something good has evolved in later years, though. About a dozen of my classmates from high school began to meet for brunch once a month. We rotated between homes. This started maybe 13 years ago, and although I felt little in common with them, they eventually grew on me. I think I’ve finally grown on them as well as I feel an acceptance now which I never did then. Now, it’s the highlight of each month!

    Had I stayed in my hometown, I’d probably be married to Ronnie. All I know is that moving midway through high school set my life on a different and painful trajectory than had we not left Ames.

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  15. Nice, Steve. Love the photo at the top of the post. Is that from your class? And if so, are you in it? About the photo of you dressed for a date, surely you didn’t get that dressed up for just any date? A prom, maybe?

    In some respect, my “high school” experience was vastly different from most baboons’; in others, very much alike.

    We were only fifteen students in my graduating class, eleven boys, and four girls. I had skipped a grade, so I was a year younger than my class mates, something that made a big difference at that age (I had just turned sixteen when I graduated).

    I was a late bloomer, and something of a tomboy, not really interested in boys. Had a terrible case of acne from I was thirteen to seventeen, and although I never felt like I was excluded from any activities, I sometimes chose not to participate. I suppose because our class was so small, we all knew each other reasonably well. Some of us did homework together, and on weekends or days off from school, would ride our bicycles to the indoor swimming pool in Copenhagen. A lot of the American high school experience simply does not translate to my “high school” experience. We had no sports teams of any kind, and cheer leading was an unknown phenomenon. We did have a school choir, and I was in it, but it really wasn’t any big deal. My senior year I had the lead in a play my class performed in front of a whole school assembly. Again, not a big deal, although I did get a rather left handed compliment from one of our teachers. The play was about an unruly high school class; I played the teacher’s pet and a paragon of virtue. The teacher’s comment was that I apparently was the only one in the class who was called upon to do any acting. I stood out as an athlete, and was always included in the group of students from different grades who represented our school at local athletic meets.

    I’m still in contact with two of the females from my class, and see them whenever I visit Denmark. Through them, I’m also keeping up with what’s going on with several of the “boys” in our class. I would love to attend a class reunion, but we’ve never had a formal one, although an impromptu one was arranged on the occasion of my first visit to Denmark after having spent ten years in the US, and sixteen years after we graduated. Somehow, they managed to arrange a private party at the home of one my classmates, and half of the class attended. It was really fun to see the adults this ragtag bunch of kids had become.

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  16. I was a group surfer. I flitted between the well mannered farm girls (since my best friend was a farm girl), the music people, the drama people, and the Lutheran people. I was not trusted by other students to keep quiet about their misdeeds since my mom was a teacher and they worried I would be a snitch. I was anxious and felt socially awkward.

    I keep in touch with high school classmates pretty casually on Facebook. It is cordial, and we are supportive.

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  17. My high school years were not that memorable. Mostly it seems to me that it’s a time when you don’t have much control over your life, and there are few options to choose from. Who really likes to live like that? Like VS and Chris, I was just waiting to get to the good part, adulthood.

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