High School Halls: Moving the Tassel, Throwing the Hat

We’re coming to the end of the year and the end of my High School Halls series, in which I’ve looked at how high school was when I was growing up (in the 1980’s) and how the experience is today.

So welcome to Deep-Fried Friday. Next week, we’ll celebrate a little, but first we have to cross the stage and get our diploma.

That Was Then

I graduated in May 1986 with 212 fellow seniors from Calallen High School in Corpus Christi, Texas. There were several necessary components to the graduation experience. I’ll cover them in turn.

Senior Pictures. For grades 9 through 11, the yearbook published a black-and-white photo for each student. But for senior year, photographs looked far more professional and were printed in color. Those who didn’t like the picture from the school photographer, or those who wanted something different, had their own senior pictures taken. Here’s mine.

senior pic
Good gravy, I look so young!

Class Ring. Many seniors chose to get a ring with Class of 1986. The ring company came to school, made the pitch, and presented options. Rings were customized, money was spent, and students showed off their new jewelry with pride. Practical gal that I was, I passed. Never got a class ring–in high school or college.

grad announcementGraduation Announcement. The graduation announcements were all the same, with the same stilted language and the same fancy script. What we seniors each got to do was to add the little card with our name on it and then tuck the announcements into envelopes and mail them to people who cared. Or at least people we thought might give us something for finishing school.

Cap and Gown. To this day, I do not understand the fashion choice of paper-thin gowns and flat cardboard caps. Who looks good in that hat? I remember paying attention to what dress I would wear underneath, but that didn’t really matter. I was dressed like everyone else–in a maroon gown with a square plate on my head.

Pomp and Circumstance. That song goes on forever. At least it did at my graduation. Sir Edward Elgar, an English composer, wrote a series of Pomp and Circumstance marches, the first of which is used as the traditional graduation song. Its slow cadence and steady snare drum rhythm make it an appropriate song for the long ceremony that will follow.

Speeches. Traditionally, the valedictorian and salutatorian of the senior class are given the opportunity to speak to their fellow students. I did not say a word. I also have no idea what our female valedictorian or male salutatorian said, although I was friends with both of them from Honors English classes. I’m sure it was uplifting, forward-thinking, and profound.

Diploma. It’s just a certificate, but somehow having that diploma in hand is a wonderful feeling. However, at the graduation ceremony, all you get is a piece of parchment paper rolled up and secured with a ribbon. It’s a fake, and your real one won’t arrive until later.

Proud Family. Whether your parents were unsure if you’d ever get through school or whether you breezed through your four years, you hopefully had a proud parent or two hanging out to hear your name called. Some families were rather obnoxious, quite frankly, when their loved one was announced and they erupted into cheers like their child had won the Heisman or an Oscar. Others shed tears before, during, or after the ceremony. Still others got a pat on the back or a punch in the arm. It all counts as pride.

Celebration with Friends. Hopefully, you had a friend or two or twenty to share the excitement of finally finishing your thirteen years of primary and secondary schooling. I remember gathering with my friends–all of us wearing big smiles and 80’s hair. We didn’t break out into a chorus of We Go Together, but it was a fun moment nonetheless.

Grad w friends

One more thought on my graduation: Looking through my mementos, I saw that I led the school song with another student. I have no recall of that. It was nice to see my name on the program, though!

This Is Now

I did a little online research and interviewed a good friend who is approaching graduation with her teenager. According to my friend, graduation preparation now happens earlier and bigger. It’s the same as our graduation, “but on steroids.” Indeed, she estimated that the total cost of all of the graduation activities and swag for her daughter would likely land somewhere around $2,000. Ouch.

Senior Pictures. This is big industry now. Not only are teens getting head shots, photographers now have graduation-themed props, several scenes and wardrobe changes, and packages easily ranging in the hundreds. The cheapest photo package at my friend’s school was $229…and that is from the school-scheduled photographer. Unless you can also use your photos to get a modeling gig, this seems like a lot of money to me.

Class Ring. We ordered class rings maybe between junior and senior year, but now senior rings are offered in the junior year. It makes sense to wear them longer, but it also means that you start paying for graduation long before you ever finish classes.

Graduation Announcement. There is the standard school announcement but you can add to that design, with photos or other flair. Unfortunately, you will still have to load and lick your own envelopes.

Cap and Gown. I’m advocating right now that we stop the madness and not require future teens to wear the flat hat. How about no hat? So far, however, the cap and gown remain a part of the graduation experience. Yet the fabric has improved. The material seems to be sturdier–although I don’t know why. You’ll only wear that gown once.

Pomp and Circumstance. No dubstep version yet. Stay tuned.

Speeches. Love to Know Teens gives sample topics for graduation speeches. Their suggestions? “How We’ll Measure These Years,” “The Future Is in Our Hands,” and “A Debt of Gratitude.” But really, once the administrator passes over the microphone, they’ve lost say in what happens next. It’s a fascinating high school tradition that the teachers turn over the mic to students and let them say (or sing) whatever.

Diploma. Whether your class has 30 people or 300, commencement still includes the calling of each name and the student crossing the stage to shake an administrator’s hand and grab a diploma. But be careful, your real diploma can be denied if you misbehave at the commencement ceremony. Check out some of the headlines I found while researching:

Oklahoma High School Valedictorian Denied Diploma for Using “Hell” in Speech

Cheering at Graduation Leads to Arrest, Diplomas Denied

Teen Denied Diploma after Tebow-ing

Denial for misbehavior is usually temporary, contingent on an apology or penance of some sort. But still, don’t you want to grab that certificate and go when you’re done?

Proud Family. Some things don’t change. In fact, for those families who are spending up to $2k or beyond to graduate their kids, seeing the senior walk across the stage should evoke a thrill or at least a huge sigh of relief. If you are graduating, just get ready for your parents and family members to smile or cry a lot. It goes with the territory.

Celebration with Friends. Going with the bigger theme these days, some teenagers really invest in the big night. They may enjoy a night on the town, rent a condo on the beach, or take a vacation with friends to celebrate the end of the high school era. As usual, be responsible, however you choose to entertain yourselves. This time is also the beginning of a new–and hopefully wonderful–era.

What do you remember about high school graduation? What are graduations like now? How have things changed or stayed the same?

High School Halls: The Soundtrack of Our Teens

Welcome to another High School Halls post on Deep-Fried Friday. I’ve been taking an extended look at aspects of the high school years, both then (when I attended in the 80’s) and now.

Today’s topic is a fun one: Music.

Of course, what you experience in any generation of music depends on what you listen to. Are you a country music fan? A punk rocker? A folk follower? Do you turn your radio to pop, rap, or R&B? If I ask two different kids what music characterized their teenage years, their soundtracks would be different.

But certain songs carry weight in the moment and in our memories. Certain music artists connect with what we feel and experience. Certain tunes or lyrics can spark a visceral reaction.

I’ll be covering music from my teens, but I’m a bit lost on the current music scene. Thankfully, Gavin, teenage son of YA author Coleen Patrick, agreed to let me interview him on today’s music scene. First, me . . .

That Was Then

What trends characterized my teen years?

Hard rock/heavy metal became mainstream with bands like: Black Sabbath, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Guns & Roses, Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Metallica, Motley Crue, Pat Benatar, Van Halen, and Whitesnake.

Guns N Roses
Guns N Roses

Rap music took hold with artists like: Beastie Boys, Big Daddy Kane, Ice T, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Queen Latifah, and Run D.M.C.

New wave became the music of nightclubs and videos with the likes of: The B-52’s, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Devo, Duran Duran, Erasure, Eurythmics, Flock of Seagulls, Talking Heads, and Yaz.

Soft rock singers included: Air Supply, Alan Parsons Project, Chris Isaak, Christopher Cross, Peter Cetera (Chicago), Lionel Richie, and Whitney Houston.

Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston

Rock-n-roll in its basic form was brought back by artists like: Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Bryan Adams, Huey Lewis & the News, John Mellencamp, and Steve Winwood.

And then there were general Pop artists like: Cyndi Lauper, Elton John, The Go-Go’s, The Police, Prince, and U2.

Looking at the mainstream pop world, I think three M’s deserve a spotlight: Michael, Madonna, and MTV. They are intertwined, of course, because Madonna and Michael Jackson likely wouldn’t have experienced their vast success and become the King and Queen of 80’s Pop without being able to show their dance moves, their fashion, and their creativity.

Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson

MTV launched in August 1981 and, in my opinion, set the tone for the whole decade. Suddenly, we could see the music artists–not just a photo on an album cover or in a magazine, or those few who attended a concert. The masses saw them perform, in whatever way they wished to present their songs.

The top-selling artists of the decade, however, didn’t all have choreographers. Here are the top 10 by most #1 songs:

Steve Wonder (4)
Prince (4)
Bon Jovi (4)
Lionel Richie (5)
George Michael (5)
Hall & Oates (5)
Whitney Houston (7)
Phil Collins (7)
Madonna (7)
Michael Jackson (9)

Who were my favorites? What was my soundtrack? Well, my music taste ran the gamut (and still does). I liked everything from Janet Jackson to Rick Springfield to Rush (all concerts I attended). I never got into rap music, though. And I spent some of that decade discovering artists like the Beach Boys, the Beatles, David Bowie, Harry Belafonte (saw him in concert too), Fleetwood Mac, Joan Baez, Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, and Led Zeppelin.

Maybe my taste is best seen by which 80’s artists I have music from. In my CD collection, you’ll find Kate Bush, Janet Jackson, John Mellencamp, Journey, Huey Lewis & the News, Peter Gabriel, Steve Winwood, and Yes. However, I really miss the cassettes I once owned of Genesis, ‘Til Tuesday, Robert Palmer, and Rush.

I also attended concerts by the following 80’s artists: Cyndi Lauper, Huey Lewis & the News, Janet Jackson (twice), Rod Stewart, Rush, Tina Turner, and Yes. I know I’m missing a couple, but memory fails.

This Is Now

G sings
Gavin, our teen music expert

Gavin has eclectic taste and a music background. He participates in chorus, an acapella group, and the music production club at school. He also plays the piano.

Welcome, Gavin! What trends do you see in music for teens today? What music styles are popular?

Pop with electro-dance influences, like dubstep which was very popular last year. Indie music with folk influences, like Mumford & Sons.

I had to look up “dubstep.” Good to  know.

How do most teens listen to music? What are their sources for trying out a new artist or listening to their favorites?

I listen to music using my iPod or YouTube. Spotify is another popular app for listening to music. Pandora is good for discovering new music too.

Do teenagers still attend concerts regularly? Why or why not?

Yes. Even though music is very accessible these days, you can’t recreate the live experience.

I agree. Have YouTube and shows like American Idol, The Voice, and The X Factor affected today’s music? Do they seem to matter to teens?

YouTube for sure. In my opinion, TV hasn’t made big impact on teens.

Who are your own favorites? What music or artists would you put in the soundtrack to your teen years?

My favorites right now are Michael Buble and Frank Sinatra. It’s kind of unusual but I’ve been into jazz for the past year and I like to sing that type of music. Some of the artists that I listened to over the last couple of years include Red, Dead Poetic, Chevelle, Bare Noize, The Avett Brothers, Ben Kweller, and Story of the Year.

Thanks so much, Gavin! I enjoy Michael Buble and Frank Sinatra. I didn’t know anyone else! Guess I’ve been living under a rock or listening to my old music too much. (Okay, yeah, today I listened to The Best of Pat Benatar. *shrug*)

Just in case my readers are not aware either, here are a couple of songs from artists Gavin named–Chevelle and Story of the Year.

If you have any idea what this song means, let me know.

Liked everything but the screaming. (Does that make me old?)

Now it’s your turn! What would the soundtrack to your teen years include?

Sources: Billboard, Rolling Stone, Rotten Tomatoes, Rapworld, Like Totally 80s, Yahoo-Top Twenty New Wave Bands-Part 1, Yahoo-Top Twenty New Wave Bands-Part 2, Yahoo-Ultimate 80s Soft Rock Playlist, Nostalgia Cafe

High School Halls: Pranks, or How to TP a House

Welcome back to Deep-Fried Friday and my High School Halls series where today the subject is PRANKS. The temptation to wreak a little mischief is too big for most high schoolers to resist. At some point or other, they will pull a prank.

That Was Then

Toilet papering houses was a definite pastime for me and my friends. I gave as much grief as I got when it came to tissue drooping from tall limbs and covering the lawn. I’d like to give a shout-out to our neighbor who had a handy long tool that allowed me to clean up the trees the next morning and keep my parents from barring my friends’ fun. The trick to cleaning up is to lift the tissue out slowly and gently to keep the squares together. Otherwise, the TP tears and bits are left in those high branches only to find their way to the ground in the next big thunderstorm.

Whoever invented shoe polish just thought they were doing it for shoes. Its best use remains writing messages on friends’ car windows. You can go with the standard “WASH ME” or “HOW’S MY DRIVING? 1-800-CALL-DAD” or get creative with a personal message aimed at the pranked party.

Sleepovers were prime pranking opportunities. Shaving cream and a feather, anyone? A bra or undies in the freezer? Saran wrap across the toilet opening?

Another fun one we did was called Chinese Fire Drill. I have NO IDEA what the Chinese have to do with this, so I apologize if this is wrongly worded. But essentially one person is driving, and when you reach a stoplight, everyone in the car jumps out, runs around the vehicles, trades places, and jumps back in before the light turns green. Why? Because you can, and the cars around you are caught off guard.

Harmless pranks on fun teachers could go over well too. For instance, your teacher is talking, and all of a sudden everyone in the class turns their desk to face the back. If you have a fun teacher, they might laugh at this coordinated prank. And if you’re willing to spend a minute laughing with him/her, and then quickly return your attention to the lesson, you can get away with it! Spitballs in the back of a teacher’s head is not a prank: It’s saliva in someone’s hair, dude! Not cool.

Did pranks ever go too far? In my opinion, yes. Pranking gone too far is hazing or torture. I have to admit that when a friend suggested putting Icy Hot in someone’s underwear, I declined because, well, OW! And I’m not duct taping anyone, ever.

This is Now

So what’s up in the world of pranking these days? Well, toilet papering a house is still on the list of fun teen activities. So here are some basic tips for teens on how to do it well. As my father taught me, “a thing worth doing is worth doing well.”

If you’d rather leave the TP at home, buy a package of plastic forks and “fork” a lawn.

If shoe polish seems too passé, grab several stack of sticky notes and post-it note a car.

If you can gain access to a friend’s room or hallway, you can leave a nice trail of water cups. Dixie, Solo, or Styrofoam cups all work.

Some tips for playing pranks:

  • Play pranks on friends, not as some effort to get revenge. For instance, playing a prank on an ex is really just retaliation.
  • Injury or humiliation of another is not funny. Believe me, those victims will be able to vividly recall the hurt even twenty-five years later.
  • No injury to animals either. Dressing the rivals’ mascot in a tutu can be funny; stealing the mascot and keeping it in a dark, enclosed space is not. That’s just animal cruelty.
  • Be careful where you play your pranks. Google “senior prank suspension,” and you will be surprised how many high school seniors have been suspended or not allowed to walk in their graduation because of a prank they played at school. Some parents and some principals are more lenient than others, so just choose your target with forethought.
  • Be willing to fess up–after a lot of hemming and hawing, of course. At the end of the day, you are responsible for the prank. But sure, go ahead and play the Queen or King of Denial as long as you can. Make your friends suspect everyone but you. However, a good part of the fun is eventually saying, “I totally got you. It was me!” Also, if your friend gets in trouble with their parents, be willing to help clean up.
  • Have a plan, gather your supplies, and designate a good time. There is some strategy involved in a good prank.
  • Take photos! Wouldn’t like to have a record of your handiwork? I have absolutely no photographic evidence that I was a master toilet-paper, and I would kind of like to have that now…if for no other reason than to show my kids. Because yeah, I want my kids to be proud of their mom for her pranking expertise.

Now your turn: What’s the best teen prank you’ve ever been a part of or heard about? What do you like about pranking? What do you dislike about pranking? Do you have any other great ideas for high school pranks? If so, share.

High School Halls: Clubs and Cliques

Welcome back to Deep-Fried Friday and my High School Halls series. This fall as teenagers head back to school, we’re taking a look at high school then and now.

One of the things that has stayed consistent across the years are clubs and cliques. Teens are all about figuring out how they stand out from others and where they belong, and clubs and cliques help to answer that question. While we all claim to hate the parsing of students into groups, just about everyone does it in high school. Those groups can be more inclusive or exclusive depending on the people in them, and groups can be mean to others or simply keep to themselves. But regardless, high schoolers in part identify themselves as people based on who their people are.

That Was Then

The reason my generation adored The Breakfast Club (1985) is that we related to it so well–five stereotypes (jock, beauty, brain, rebel, and recluse) who represent the high school cliques and have difficulty crossing the invisible social barriers. Of course, not every high school had same cliques.

In my high school in Corpus Christi, Texas, we had the jocks, the preppies, the brainiacs, the rednecks, and the surfers. That doesn’t encompass everyone, nor are these strict lines. Some people were braniac rednecks or preppy jocks. But there were clear distinctions in dress, mannerisms, and priorities that distinguished a group.

Headline from My 1986 Yearbook

Jocks of course were in sports clubs. Preppies ran Student Council and were often in choir (we had an amazing choir), yearbook club, and school spirit organizations. Brainiacs were often found in band, although we had our share of surfers there too. Surfers were more likely, however, to be found anywhere but school. The rednecks? Well, let’s just say that my school’s FFA and FHA (Future Farmers/Homemakers of America) clubs were so large that classes let out for three days for students to participate in our local livestock show and rodeo.

Where did I fit in? I got along with everyone, so far as I could tell. However, my friends were typically culled from Honors classes and band. So yeah, call me geek if you wish.

This Is Now

Looking at the high school in my district, there are 38 clubs listed–more options than I recall having in high school. Some clubs I recognized, such as the Drama Club, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), the National Honor Society (NHS), the Spanish Club, and Student Council.

But today’s teens also have the options of Anime Club, Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA), Peer Assistance and Leadership (PALS), Technology Students Association (TSA), and both the Young Democrats and Young Republicans. Moreover, there are clubs for activities such as Books, Creative Writing, Photography, Recycling, Scrapbooking, and Video Games.

As I read through the list, I wondered what kind of students are attracted to these various clubs. What personalities are drawn to these groups? Do these clubs determine cliques in some way?

Or are the cliques pretty much the same in any generation — ranging from the popular to the midpointers to the outcasts? I hope not. I pray that greater options means that teens can find places of belonging and opportunities for friendship.

But I know these distinctions still exist. Cliques still thrive in today’s high school. There are still teen films and shows with cliques, like Mean Girls (2004) and Glee. Teens still identify others based on monikers such as “jocks” and “geeks.” A few others exist, of course. Hunting for a list of current cliques, I came across this example: Beauty Queens and Kings, Flirts, Dramatics, Jocks, Teacher’s Pets (aka suck-ups), Emos, Health Nuts, Nerds, Perfectionists, and Gossips. (For us older folks, “emos” are the emotional types; think modern-bay Beatnik.)

Do clubs and cliques hurt or help the average teen? I suspect the answer lies in how they exist. Quoting a teen, “Cliques arise out of the need or want to be accepted and make friends with people who have similar interests. It is when cliques are exclusive and hurtful that they become a bad thing” (Joan Hedrick, junior at Weaver Academy).

Clubs and cliques can help teens self-identify as long as they are inclusive, not exclusive; promote support not hierarchy in schools; and allow individuality rather than insist on complete conformity. When the bullying starts, of course, it’s no longer a positive thing. And all too often, cliques draw uncrossable lines between themselves and others and prejudge others based on their identification with a group.

One of my favorite classic rock groups, Rush, wrote a song about the dangers of dividing ourselves into cliques. From Subdivisions comes the line, “Conform or be cast out.”

What do you think? Are clubs and cliques good or bad for teens? What clubs or cliques did you belong to in high school? Did they help or hurt you in developing your identity?

Other sources: Centre Daily Times; Teens and Twenties.com