Friday, October 25, 2013
Boone in Zizzer Land
by Pa Rock
There were times when I knew and understood the unique cultures of high schools. My own high school was housed in the same building as our elementary and junior high schools, and movement from grade to grade was hardly noticeable. We had around one hundred students who were classified as being in high school – grades nine through twelve.
My graduating class consisted of twenty-two tight friends, several of whom are no longer with us. Courses were prescribed by the state and the local school board, and, with few exceptions, everyone studied the same subjects. School days were long. We had seven classes a day, including a study hall, and an hour-long lunch in which students were free to walk several blocks to town or to roam the countryside adjacent to the school. Students who wanted to smoke during lunch could do so in a designated location on the school’s campus.
A few years later I was a teacher and then principal of a large rural high school with several hundred students and a young, progressive, and under-paid staff of teachers. By then the curriculum had expanded to the point where students had some significant choices to make as they pursued a degree. They could head toward college, or a career in agriculture, auto mechanics, or nursing and a few other vocational fields. By then smoking had moved indoors to the restrooms, and tobacco wasn’t the only smoke being inhaled. High schools of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s had more choices, more rules and restrictions, more noise, more discontent, and more opportunities.
My time with high schools ended in 1983. That was followed by a few years of administering junior highs and elementary schools, and then two decades of wandering down other rabbit holes. During the years since I left secondary school administration, my contact with high schools has been limited to brief, job-related visits as a social worker. My once-formidable understanding of what made secondary schools work has grown out-of-date and exceedingly dusty.
Last night I was re-connected to high school culture when my 14-year-old grandson called and talked for nearly an hour. Boone started high school this August after completing all of his previous schooling in a fairly small country school. Now he is a West Plains “Zizzer” attending a variety of classes with hundreds and hundreds of other young people.
And Boone is excited about school! His teachers are young, bright, clever, and know how to motivate students. My grandson told me about his science teacher who took the class outside to launch rockets, and his drama teacher and the unusual things she does in order to help students learn. He discussed his government class and all that they are learning there – and the research paper that he is writing about Joe Petrosino (look him up). He mentioned school motivators, such as the Gold Card he received for his grades – a card that allows him to go outside during lunch – and other benefits that he receives from the school for being such a good student. Old Pa Rock understands the strength of positive reinforcements, and appreciates the fact that Boone’s high school understands them as well.
Most of our long conversation focused on the adventure of high school, but we also talked about the weather and the climate differences between Arizona and Missouri – and we inevitably discussed some of the things we would do when I get moved back there in the spring.
My grandson is turning into such a fine young man, and I certainly credit his teachers, past and present, for helping to guide him along in such a positive manner.