School Daze

                 Most Memorable Courses … and the Clunkers
                                                     
By Jeff Salter 

            In recognition of the millions of ‘kids’ returning to school at various times this month, this week’s overall theme is about our own fond recollections of terrific classes we had … or the unforgettable nightmares of totally wasted hours studying useless detritus that we’d never need to know for the rest of our lives.
            Yeah, high school days were times of extremes:  you either hated things/people or loved them.  Not too much existed in gray tones. 

Classes I enjoyed … or found interesting … or knew I needed
            Those are important distinctions.  There were classes like English (which had focused extensively on grammar at lower levels but was almost exclusively literature in H.S.) which I found interesting and knew I needed … but it would be a stretch to say I ENJOYED them.  I mean who could possibly enjoy writing ‘paragraphs’ or ‘themes’ or … < shudder > ‘research papers’?  Who could enjoy reading dreary stories, poems, plays, or novels and having to ‘learn’ something about them?
            Yet, even though perhaps 70-80% of those readings I endured were NOT ‘enjoyable’ … there was enough attraction in the remaining 20-30% that I was hooked on literature.  Of course, the simple underlying truth is that I had known from an early age that WRITING was what I had to do for the rest of my life … so the study of writing made perfect sense to me.  Even if much of it was dreary and agonizing to struggle through.  I guess you could say I learned what I did NOT want to write.  Ha.

Classes in the PLUS column
            And, now, merely a (short) list of the other subjects that rate a POSITIVE assessment as I look back on high school years:
            History (especially American), math (including algebra and geometry), typing (which I’ve used extensively for the 46 years since), and civics (which I found interesting … and actually useful). 

Courses that ‘ate my lunch’
            I can’t be certain if my earned grades fell in directly correlation to the classes I ‘disliked’ — but I’m pretty sure I struggled in all the classes on this NEGATIVE side of the ledger.
            I don’t recall whether I hated the content, the presentation (i.e., teacher), the classroom, the time of day (after-lunch periods were usually yawners) — or if I had already decided those instructional hours were a total waste of my time and energy and I would never – positively NEVER – make use of, or reference to, anything remotely related to those subjects.
            This group of stinkers includes:
            Sciences (including chemistry and biology), three years of French (with three different teachers), Phys Ed (which was disagreeable because you had to get sweaty and then go back to class … and none of my classrooms (in the deep South) had air-conditioning), Driver’s Ed (which was a joke because I already had my license … but it got my parents a minor discount on insurance). 

Other class notes:
            ‘Health’ — which, only years later, was actually called ‘sex education’ (though, truthfully, this included a lot more than ‘sex’).  For example, we learned how to breast feed a baby.  Had that film featured someone prettier than a 70-year-old granny, the boys may have expressed more interest.
            Study Hall.  I should do an entire blog on the hours I wasted in study hall.  I could hardly ever study because students around me were always up to something … or I was.  And having a teacher prowl around the classroom – ostensibly to keep ‘order’ – just tickled my funny bone somehow … so my major effort was trying not to laugh out loud … as the teacher(s) crept past my row of desks.  What made this so funny in 10th grade was that our two study hall ‘teachers’ had been nicknamed … Batman and Robin.

What I remember most
            I was very shy as a child – and, actually, still am – so it may be surprising to learn that I tackled voluntary activities related to ‘speech’ and ‘theater’.  [Back in 7th and 8th grade, I’d had an energetic speech teacher who required us to perform all kinds of public speaking endeavors … and I was always as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.  But I survived.  And each of those small victories made me slightly more confident].
            So when I reached 11th grade and a teacher solicited volunteers to be in a one-act play, I reluctantly agreed … and had one of the leading roles!  Completely un-memorable play and my performance was only adequate, but I was hooked.
            In my senior year, I was in three productions: a one-act play we performed at a community venue for competition, the dual roles of beast and prince in “Beauty and the Beast”, and a leading role in the MUSICAL … “The Boyfriend”.  Yeah … imagine shy ole Jeff SINGING in public!  Plus, I was talked into taking an ‘oral interpretation’ to a regional speech convention.  And I voluntarily (though unofficially) ‘audited’ a speech class for an entire semester.
            All that is merely to explain why, when I think of my high school years — the images which seem to encapsulate the most exciting (and beneficial) experiences … were those centered on public speaking and theater.
            Do I still get butterflies when I have to speak in front of others?  Absolutely.  And I’ve occasionally had to address as many as 400 people.  Even taught a grad school course for one semester.  But always butterflies.

Questions
 
          What were YOUR favorite classes?
            Which courses did you HATE?
            Do YOU get butterflies when you have to speak ‘in public’?

About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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34 Responses to School Daze

  1. Tonya Kappes says:

    I loved school. I loved school so much that I was a teacher and continued with my masters. THEN as I got older in my thirties, I went back to get my Developmental Therapist license. It’s been fun. I value education and I was the geek that got excited when I got new school supplies. I really am that Staples commercial! LOL!!

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Tonya, I know that your energy and enthusiasm is also terrific at helping your students … as well as your boys still in school..
      That speech teacher I mentioned in 7th & 8th grade had your kind of ‘immersion’ in the material and the students and it made me enjoy those classes … despite the butterflies about public speaking.

      Like

  2. jbrayweber says:

    The Love – History, Drill Team, English, Science
    The Hate – Math of ANY kind (even disguised as geometry)
    The indifferent – Spanish, Government, FFA, Social Studies, Typing

    Butterflies? Depends on who I’m speaking in front of and how many there are of them. For the most part, I’m generally okay. Not saying I’m relaxed while public speaking. It’s just I face the anxiety head on.

    Great post, Jeff!

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Thanks, Jenn. Funny — I’d never thought of geometry as masquerading as math. LOL.
      Also unusual (to me) is seeing “drill team” and “FFA” in the same resume.
      I’ve never completely understood what ‘social studies’ was. I thought it was basically ‘humanities’ like history, geography, government, etc. Yet you loved history but disliked soc. studies.
      In lower levels of school, I enjoyed geography. But later, I found it boring. Not sure why.

      Like

      • jbrayweber says:

        Yep, Jeff. I was in drill team AND FFA at the same time. High kicks and raisin’ rabbits. 🙂
        I didn’t dislike social studies, I just didn’t care one way or the other. I loved school and the classes/teachers for the most part. I just despised math – all kinds. Still do. I look like such a tool trying to do math in the ‘real world’. LOL!

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      • jeff7salter says:

        wascally wabbits!
        not sure why I’ve always loved math — maybe it came easy to me for some reason. I can certainly sympathize with fellow classmates who struggled with the the same concepts that seemes perfectly natural to me.
        I truly do use math (incl. geometry and algebra) on a fairly regular basis.
        Ordinary math every time I go to a store.

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  3. I always wanted PE at the end of the day so I could go home with my sweaty self! In High School, I was in color guard (twirled a rifle during 1/2 time)-and after 9th grade, the band director made sure we all had the end of the day PE/marching time so after school we just segued into band practice on the field- that was nice-

    Like

    • Oh, and no butterflies ever- LOL! I was a dance performer from the time I was six and being on stage was always natural- speaking was easy- Now, Never, Never, Never ask me to sing though!

      Like

      • jeff7salter says:

        It’s funny how I could be so terribly shy most of the time, but also end up doing some pretty brazen things … which (most people, probably) would have considered as me “showing off”.
        I still have trouble believing I actually sang two duets in that play.

        Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      My wife was in the honor guard also. She still has her white rifle with a gold-painted wooden cartridge inside the chamber.

      Like

  4. Lois Grant says:

    I really enjoyed school although there were some classes that I barely scrapped by in. I was good in the classes that required memory – spelling, English, literature, HISTORY (my favorite) and some of the sciences. I was terrible in one that required reasoning – any of the maths and chemistry. The only time my oldest brother, who I idolized and whose pet I was, fussed at me was when he came to visit and reports cards arrived. I had a D in chemistry. Broke my heart!

    When I was taking Algebra, my friend Norma Brady and I would look at each others’ papers on test day and Mr. Heitman knew it and never said anything. I guess he figured that it was going to take the both of us to get out of that class with a passing grade.

    I loved all my teachers, even the ones whose classes I was struggling. Mr. Thigpen, who taught me freshman English and who was the basketball coach and the school librarian, was one of my tiptop favorites. He and his wife rented an apartment in my aunt and uncle’s house for many years. I think that he came down a little harder on me as I knew him so well, plus he probably wanted me to achieve.

    My freshman year in study hall was quite interesting as I was the only girl amongst 9 boys. They guys would sneak over to the little store off campus and get candy (jaw breakers) and give me one. Mr. Thigpen always caught me eating it. The boys all pulled stunts on me. I had a tack put in my chair; I was hung out the window as they wanted me “to talk” to Richard during a week girls were not suppose to speak to boys or you paid them a penny. This was to determine who was Mr. Irresistible. Mr. Thigpen put me in solitary confinement in his office for talking. I think that I spent a whole six weeks there. The guys would who I had classes with would slide their homework under the door for me to do.

    My grades were much better in college than they were in high school, but I finally learned how to study, plus I applied myself. Math was still a buggerboo even then, though.

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Gosh, Sug — what a bundle of trouble you were!
      Hanging out the window! ? !
      Solitary confinement ? ! ?
      the guys flirting with you endlessly and plying you with candy.
      Wow you could write a terrific YA novel with all that personal experience.
      Illicit homework slid under the door of the confinement ‘cell’. LOL

      Like

  5. Loved school then, love education now. I take Continuing Education courses to keep a couple certificates updated — or just because a class seems interesting or I need it for a book (learned to throw pots for an artist character).

    Loved: English, literature, sciences (particularly biology,zoology–wanted to blow up chemistry but passed), lauguages (5yrs French, 3 yrs German), History–general and specific, Civics, Government, Computer Sciences (I am so old, the computer took up an entire room; equations were worked on paper then formulas transferred to pin boards via hundreds of tiny steel pins dropped into holes, then topped with plexiglass sheet and entire unit plugged into mainframe.) Football games and hockey–with hockey I went for the fights. Arts as Communication–theater, set building, theatrical make-up, stage lighting, etc. Astrology–actually used that course in a career field as pertains to Celestial Navigation for offshore vessel operation. Whoda thunk it?

    Hated: Home Ec. Teacher made us keep a food log, and called me out in class saying NO ONE could eat that much! I sure do miss that metabolism. (Home Ec. was mandatory, as was one semester of ‘male’ oriented courses–chose auto mechanics over shop. My father insisted his daughters learn to change tires, jump-start a battery, use a screwdriver to jump a bad electrical unit to turn the starter over, and dry spark plug wires and rotors with WD-40 so we’d never be at the mercy of a stranger on a deserted highway. (He was blissfully unaware any of the three of us would wield a tire iron with efficiency and relish; we allowed him the illusion.) Pantyhose as a temporary fan belt was my own invention of desperation. Older male cousins owned vehicles from hell, and I held the flashlight or passed tools often enough I knew I could pass ithe course blind-folded! lol)

    Hated that phys. ed had us swimming in the winter, miserable in Michigan. The pool might be indoors, but if you had it last period and walked home, about ten minutes into the walk you had frozen rat-tails of hair thumping you in the back. Several of us should have died of pneumonia, but it must have made us tough.

    College was wonderful because there were so many classes to choose from, the catalogue made me euphoric.

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Runere, I’m out of breath just reading about all your adventures in the frozen north. Did I ever tell you that (as a toddler) I fell into Lake Michigan? 1953.
      They could make a reality TV show out of you and your work on automobiles.
      I want to hear more about how you and your sisters invoked the tire irons!

      Like

    • Oh, public speaking! If I’m comfortable with the subject, no problems. Well, except for talking too fast! Have to make a conscious effort to slow down! lol

      Like

      • jeff7salter says:

        Hmm. Maybe I misinterpreted the ‘tire iron’ reference. I’d pictured you and two sisters beating up BAD GUYS who ran the roads picking on people.
        When speaking in public, I think I speak a tad FAST also.

        Like

  6. crbwrites says:

    P.E. was the worst–a never-ending struggle between convincing the teacher you were participating while never breaking a sweat.

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Ha. Well-phrased, Chris!
      Although, since my son is a P.E. teacher, I can assure you — the teacher can always tell. LOL

      Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Speaking of teachers, folks, Chris will be my Guest Fox right here in TWO weeks. So be sure to come back on Sept. 1 for her column about her favorite teacher in H.S.

      Like

  7. Micki Gibson says:

    Fantastic post Jeff! And I’m thoroughly convinced that some of you folks a bit older than me had it better. I mean, just consider the variety of classes you all had! In this day and age of high stakes testing and budget cuts (because they have to pay for all that high stakes testing, you know), kids are deprived of classes like Home Ec, Auto shop, speech…I could go on. Study hall! I could have used study hall, even if half the time kids would goof off in there. Funny how many of you mention PE. I waited until I was a senior to take PE because seniors could decide their own schedule (much like college). I didn’t want to be that sophomore stuck with first period PE. Hello! Cute guys in 2nd period! But the classic was when my guidance counselor suggested that I take it before then, “In case you don’t pass.” Excuse me? Fail PE? My understanding is that if you dressed out and participated everyday, you’d automatically pass, often getting an A. And I’m also convinced some of you had a much more interesting high school career than I did. Thanks for the tour down memoriy lane, Jeff!

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      I don’t recall whether we had ‘grades’ in P.E. or not. I think it was basically pass or fail. But I know we had to take it ALL FOUR YEARS of H.S. And, in every year prior to that … back to 4th grade. For some reason I don’t recall P.E. in 1st – 3rd, however.
      Yes, after seeing what my own kids went through and now the grandkids, I’m also glad that I ‘came up through school’ in the days when teachers taught CONTENT and CONCEPT and were not as focused on some specific test at the end. Oh, yeah, we had to take the college boards and I did very well with those. But it was not four yrs of drilling a specific outline into our heads.
      My good teachers inspired me and helped me apply myself …and the not-so-good teachers demonstrated what I never wanted to inflict on anyone else. Ha.

      Like

  8. Laurie Ryan says:

    Yep. Still get butterflies about being in front of an audience…or around a prospective agent or editor. Sigh. As for classes, I’ll talk about one I, um, disliked. Picture this-early 70’s, all girl private school, senior year, and a new class now required to graduate. It was called “Christian Womanhood and Marriage”. Now, I didn’t object to the materials covered. Some of it was important. It was the “no argument” rule. There was one opinion and one opinion only. We couldn’t argue or discuss, only accept. Toughest class of my entire 4 years of high school to get through. 🙂

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      I would not have done well in that class, Laurie. I’ve always liked to ask questions. Not just questions of clarification or deeper context … but sometimes questions like, “Why didn’t they do this?” or “Who made the decision to do that?” Expecially in history.
      I’ve never done well with dogmatic teachers who insisted there was only one interpretation. My most inspiring teachers valued diverse opinions and insights.

      Like

  9. Great post! Took me back a bit. ;c) I was a straight-A student and graduated high school with a 4.06 (back in the days when that was rare, pre-AP classes) and really enjoyed everything but British Literature. I loved math and physics, which amuses me now as a writer. Going on to college, I majored in biology and biochemistry. I enjoyed chemistry in high school but hate-hate-hated organic chemistry in college. One of my favorite college courses was Russian for the sheer novelty of it, but again, I totally dug the sciences. I actually finished all of my English/Lit college course requirements for bio/biochem during my senior year of high school through dual enrollment (started my freshman year of college while still in high school). It amuses me how, as a writer, I have not taken a single literature, grammar, or writing class since 1995!

    Now, homeschooling my kids, I’m reliving it. And my eight grade daughter is in — what else — British Lit this year. *GROAN*

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Wow, Sarah, I don’t think I’ve ever known anybody so steeped in the sciences who turned out to be a writer / author. Except maybe Arthur Conan Doyle — Ha.
      Well, I can see you have a broad background upon which to draw for teaching a variety of courses at home.

      Like

  10. I think a lot depends on the teachers…I loved the sciences, unless the teacher was a bore. I gave up on history because the teachers were bores or so terribly opinionated and taught only THEIR slant on history..( then I married a Social Studies teacher; he doesn’t bore me).
    As for speaking in public…shudders! It took me a long time , well into adulthood,(and I can relate to Runere…shut me up!) What was harder for me to face was WRITING in/ for the public.It really took a great deal of strength for me to put myself out there so bodly. I have no idea why.
    Gee, Jeff, you mean you did not have the humilation of showering at school? Lucky you. I took ‘puddle-duck’ washes whenever I could get away with it…and nearly didn’t.They were supposed to be only for ‘certain times of the month’ , but I squeaked them out a lot.

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    • jeff7salter says:

      Tonette, oh, yes, indeed I had a full school year of showering after PE (and after Track, BTW). In my hometown of Covington LA, none of our P.E. class showered … nor were we encouraged to, nor were towels provided for, etc. I know we ‘dressed-out’ (switched from school clothes to gym shorts, t-shirt, and sneakers) and evidently stowed our clothing somewhere, but nobody showered. I can’t even swear the locker room HAD showers, but it would be logical that it did, since that was the room used by the football and basketball players.
      But in 10th grade, I lived in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, and THOSE guys showered after every P.E. session. The very first session of P.E. in that new school, when everybody started stripping nekkid and dashed into the group shower room, I just discreetly started putting on my clothes. I had no interest in rubbing bodies with all those guys. A very observant 11th grader pointed directly at me and shouted some school ‘rule’ that anybody who skips his shower gets TOSSED into the shower.
      Before he (or anyone) could get past the ‘bluster’ stage, a kind senior intervened and announced that I was new to the school (and the town, and the state). That defused the situation and I was eternally grateful to the senior.
      Next P.E. class, you can be SURE I jumped into the mass of wet bodies with everybody else.
      School days. wow, what a rush.

      Like

  11. Loved drama, choir, art, English, Biology, Chemistry, Genetics, PE and Adv. Algebra. HATED Geography. Still do.

    I’m good with speaking in public but with acting and my college degree (Speech Communication/Broadcast) I got a lot of practice. That said, I still get butterflies but I thrive on that feeling. 🙂

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Glad you could visit today, Wendy. Hope you’ll come back every Thursday for a bit of ‘Hound-sense’ … or on any of the other weekdays for our Resident Foxes.
      Gosh, Genetics. When I went to school, that hadn’t been invented yet. LOL
      Funny thing about geography. I liked learning things about different countries and rivers, mountains, ocenas, etc. But it seemed like they tossed in a bunch of other stuff that seemed BORING and unnecessarily confusing. I also usually wanted to know more about things like the Mayan’s and Incas … but we got maybe a paragraph on each. Well, not literally, but you get my point: the truly interesting stuff was buried among a bunch of things which seemed totally irrelevent.

      Like

  12. Louisa Bacio says:

    Always enjoyed school, especially yearbook and English classes. Mythology … oh, year. Bad class = math first thing in the morning. And — like you — chemistry!

    Thanks for the memories …

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Mythology! I’m jealous. I was always fascinated by Mythology, but we never had a class on it. I think it showed up only in Eng. class when we studied certain poems or stories … or in history class when it came up in some context.

      Like

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