BRISTOL, Connecticut, U.S.A. — Congratulations, graduate!
You have survived junior high school without being completely traumatized.
Now you can kick back, relax, and enjoy life.
That’s what you think. Don’t start making that refreshing lemonade just yet — your life hasn’t finished handing you the lemons.
That’s right, high school is a totally new experience — which means totally new
problems for you to deal with. And lot’s of ‘em.
But don’t despair: Tackling your first year of high school isn’t that hard, once you get the hang of it. And getting the hang of it will be much easier for you, if you have a few pointers to start you off.
During the last few weeks of vacation, chances are you will have to leave your comfy seat on the sofa to go out and buy some school supplies. This should be simple, especially since the school has probably already mailed you a little checklist. I do have a few recommendations of my own, though.
You’re probably used to carrying one big binder from class to class with everything you need tucked neatly – or, if you’re like me, jammed carelessly – inside it. Forget it.
Since you can carry your backpack with you in high school, a binder is just a useless hassle. Take it from me, life is much simpler when you have one separate binder — of the small and cheap variety — for each class.
When your binders start to fall apart, as they inevitably will, they can be easily repaired. Duct tape will do for minor tears, but the more papers you stuff into them the more likely you’ll need some staples and some elbow grease.
Or you could just clean them out once in a while. But who has time for that?
You’re in high school now – make sure you take advantage of what little free time you have.
Regardless of what you choose to do with your binders, take this warning: You must make sure your backpack is sturdy enough to last. I’ve seen many a student lugging home a backpack with one strap or a zipper that won’t zip. And I’ve done it myself – as it turns out, duct tape and staples don’t work so well on backpack repairs.
You’re probably also used to having a locker, conveniently located near your classes. The high schools also provide lockers, but they’re smaller and yours will most likely be located at the farthest possible point from your first class.
You can try to beat the clock if you can’t manage without stowing a book or two in your own completely secure locked container.
But it’s easier just to get used to life without a locker. After all, lugging around heavy books is probably the only exercise you get in the school day. Why not make the most of it?
Everyone always tells you, “Everybody gets lost on the first day of school!” Guess what: it’s not true. Most people actually find their way around quite well (although I wasn’t one of those people).
The very best thing to do is get a map of the school — there’s probably one in your school handbook. You might even want to highlight the rooms you’ll have to find so they’ll pop right out at you. But you don’t need to go so far as to mark out your best route to each class and memorize it or anything like that. With a map, you’ll know what general direction to go, and then you can just follow the room numbers.
If you do get lost, don’t be afraid to ask someone for directions. Most upperclassmen probably would help you out, but if you want to make sure not to get told the wrong direction, ask the nearest person in a suit. Teachers expect freshmen to need help on their first day.
And if you can’t find a teacher to ask, here’s a tip: find out ahead of time how many floors your new school has, and if another student tells you to go to the third floor, when you know it doesn’t exist, just smile, say “Thanks!” and move on to ask somebody else.
The first question pre-freshmen always ask is, “Will the work be harder?”
I can’t speak for everybody, but I don’t really think the work in high school is harder — just more plentiful. You’ll be able to handle it, especially if you do all your assignments. The more work you do, the better you’ll get at doing it, and it’ll help you later on.
The only real difference between classes in junior high and high school is that now you’ll have fewer classes each day, but they’ll all be twice as long. It’s not as bad as it sounds, though: a good teacher can make a class interesting for an hour and a half. As long as it’s not math – have a little patience with math teachers. They try.
When it comes to electives, please be careful what you choose. You can add and drop classes during the first few weeks, but it’s a hassle you don’t want to deal with.
Here’s the number one rule for picking an elective: Don’t take a class in something you have no interest in just because your friend is taking it. The class will bore you, you’ll goof off with your friend, and the teacher will get sick of you. Besides, if you pick an elective you really enjoy, you may make some new friends who actually share your interests — what a crazy idea!
Study hall is something new for you as well. You may have had a “flex” period before, but high school study hall is different.
It’s as long as a regular class, but more dull. Depending on what teacher you get, talking may be forbidden. Most teachers don’t care if you write notes to your friends, as long as you’re silent. And if you have no friends, it’s a great place to do the homework due next period.
High school lunches are pretty much the same as you’re used to, right down to the French fries. Speaking of French fries, here’s a tip: don’t toss them on the cafeteria floor. I know that not tossing food on the floor seems like it should go without saying, but apparently it doesn’t, so I’m warning you now. Not only is it annoying to step on French fries, but it also might prompt the principal to remove them from the menu for a day. Horrifying, but true.
Most of the other cafeteria rules are similarly obvious, things like not stealing from the lunch line or break dancing on the tables. Occasionally new, seemingly bizarre, rules will be added, like the no-sweatshirts-in-the-lunch-line rule or the you-must-have-fruit-and-milk-with-your-lunch-even-if-you-don’t-plan-to-eat-it rule.
But most of those policies wither and die after a while due to lack of enforcement.
The only problem you might have in the cafeteria is actually finding a table. This will be tough for the first few days, before you’ve settled in and made friends.
My friends and I sat at the same table almost every day of our freshman year — a table we refer to affectionately as the “loser table.”
We still sit together when we can, often at a different table. Mostly people just leave us alone, although sometimes they come and take our extra chairs. But if you can’t find a place to sit, you’re always welcome with us – if there’s still an extra chair left.
Katie Jordan is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.