January 2005

School is better the second time around

By Suzanne Strazza

It’s the last day of classes before Christmas Break. Finals are over, grades are in and we’re having a little celebration for having made it through the semester. There’s music on the stereo, delectable treats to indulge in and good cheer is everywhere. It’s just how I’ve always wanted a day in high school to be.

Only, I’m the teacher and not a student. Daily, I show up at school with a smile on my face, loving the environment. The kids are great, the teachers are great and I’m having the time of my life. I’m living the dream – I get to do-over the high school years. And I get to do it without the misery of puberty!

As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, high school was not a high point in my life. I spent four years at an all-girls prep school – makes me shudder. At the time, it seemed like a good idea – I wasn’t exactly flourishing in eighth grade and I was a bit distracted by boys. So, after listening to a strong suggestion from my parents, I switched. It seemed pretty cool at first and I was psyched – until The First Day.

I wore all the wrong clothes and taped a picture of Robbie Benson to the inside of my locker. One bad move followed by another – I was doomed. No amount of wearing Levis, smoking and listening to the Grateful Dead could redeem me after the initial faux pas.

I tried everything. Field Hockey was the sport of choice at KPS (school initials), so I went out for the team. I made it, but so did every single other girl who tried out. I got my green-and-gold uniform (those colors still make me vomit), French-braided my hair and taped my shins like the real goalscoring gals. I then sat on the bench. Balls + sticks + me = total disaster – I am spastic.

Needless to say, not only did I never score a goal, I never scored any popularity points either.

The next thing that I tried was to get myself a boyfriend – not an easy feat at an all-girls school. After a few evenings of being bused like cattle in a truck, to an all-boys school and being inspected like those very same cattle on the auction block, I decided to explore other options. I ended up dating a boy who was a friend of the family, but I didn’t realize that he was the property of the “it” girls at school. After a few weeks of mean notes and gross food being stuffed into my locker, I decided to go it alone and I ditched the guy.

My last-ditch effort was to party a lot. I thought “At least it might not matter then if the popular girls don’t like me.” What did matter was that I almost failed out of school and my parents grounded me for the majority of my senior year. At least then, I didn’t have to worry about not getting invited anywhere – I couldn’t have gone. – I did have one friend, Lucy, who is still my friend. She fared better overall at KPS – Lucy got along with everyone. But, she was my saving grace; thanks to her, I had a sense of belonging. We were and still are, a bit different than our classmates to say the least.

Together, Lucy and I endured bad hair, zits, awful nicknames, and general teenage gawkiness.

So, thanks to Lucy, I survived high school. I even went on to make it through college without too many social mishaps. Now, having worked my way through quite a few careers, I find myself back in High School. Talk about second chances.

I realize that I am still pretty un-hip. I was told today that I have bad taste in boys and I am still a spaz. My clothes are shamefully uncool (ghetto, to be exact); I clearly don’t wear enough black. I don’t ride a skate or snowboard, I don’t text-message and I take it that my hair is all wrong. I still listen to the Grateful Dead, amongst other bands, such as KC and the Sunshine Band (“I’m gonna put on, my my my my my boogie shoes”). I don’t like hip-hop or death metal. Actually, it’s not that I don’t like it, it’s that I don’t get it which makes me even more of a geek.

I still use words like geek.

But this time around, I don’t care. I’m actually reveling in my nerdiness. Not caring about being popular is so freeing. For the first time in my life, I’m going to miss a bunch of teenagers over Christmas Break. Who’d have ever guessed?

For all of my major and extremely apparent flaws, these kids have accepted me and I finally fit in. Although, if any of my students are reading this, you’re probably cringing right about now. Sorry – I won’t tell anyone who you are and you don’t have to admit to knowing me.

We should all be allowed to attend high school when we’re 40.

Suzanne Strazza works at Southwest Open High.