Thursday, July 18, 2013

High School Then and Now by Carolyn J. Rose

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of several novels, including Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, No Substitute for Murder, and No Substitute for Money. She penned a young-adult fantasy, Drum Warrior, with her husband, Mike Nettleton.

She grew up in New York's Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She founded the Vancouver Writers' Mixers and is an active supporter of her local bookstore, Cover to Cover. Her interests are reading, gardening, and not cooking.

Welcome back, Carolyn, and congratulations on your new release.


High School Then and Now by  Carolyn J. Rose

The building might look much the way it did when you picked up your high school diploma. But if that ornate piece of paper, like mine, is dated more than 40 years ago, it’s a safe bet that not much inside the walls is the same.

Until I became a substitute teacher in 2001, my last venture inside the walls of a high school was as a student teacher at Tucson High School in 1969. I was prepared for change. I just wasn’t prepared for the extent of it.

When I was in high school, the learning process was TLNT—textbook, lecture, note-taking, test. The texts were long on type and short on pictures. The lectures were without illustrations—unless you count vocabulary words scratched on the blackboard with a brittle piece of chalk. Occasionally a pop quiz broke the routine.

Now there are videos, computers to facilitate research, hands-on activities, and PowerPoint presentations. Note-taking is still going on, but not to the extent I remember. There are still tests, but in a dozen years, I’ve never seen a pop quiz as part of a lesson plan.

Then, we sat at individual desks in rows kept straight by aligning them with the squares of linoleum on the floor. Unless we stood to deliver a report, or take part in a project, we stayed in our assigned seats from bell to bell. Unless we answered a question from the teacher or discussed a project with a work group, we were expected to keep our lips zipped—and often punished if we didn’t.

Now, there are tables pushed into a variety of configurations on carpeted floors. In some classrooms, kids sit wherever they want. There’s often a lot of chatter and movement.

Then, only a few students—seniors all—drove cars to school. Now, the parking lots are packed with student vehicles. Then, no student was allowed to leave the grounds until the final bell rang unless they had permission from a parent. Even then, that permission was generally for one day only.

Now, there’s much more freedom to come and go, especially for upperclassmen.

Then, the food served in the cafeteria came from enormous cans that we only half jokingly claimed were military surplus from WWII. There were plenty of choices, but for me—a kid who craved knowledge of what went into that meatloaf and preferred rye bread and vegetables that were fresh and crisp—all those choices were grim.

Now, there are salad bars and pizza, blended drinks and burgers, and vending machines full of candy bars and crunchy snacks. And there are opportunities to go out to nearby stores and fast-food restaurants.

Then, the dress code ruled out just about everything except clothing that was too long, too loose, or too much like something our parents would wear. And that code was strictly enforced. We even had rules about how guys could wear their hair—no Mohawks, no ducktails, nothing too long.

Now the rules are looser and clothing is tighter and doesn’t cover nearly as much. Kids sport hair in all lengths, styles, and colors. Or they shave it all off.

Then, behavior modification was achieved through threat and punishment—both at school and at home. We had detentions and suspensions and expulsions and it was a well-known “fact” that the principal had a paddle in his office and the right to use it. Most of us knew that if we got into trouble at school there would be more trouble at home. My parents understood that I disliked some of my teachers, but demanded that I respect them. They acknowledged that getting an education could be hard work, but they expected me to do that work, and “do it right the first time.”

Now it’s more about conversations, negotiations, and second chances.

That’s fine with substitute teacher Barbara Reed, the protagonist of No Substitute for Money (sequel to No Substitute for Murder). Barb could use a few second chances of her own.

She’s hoping to complete her graduate work and land a job as a teacher at Captain Meriwether High School in Reckless River, Washington. But a computer hacker has other ideas. On top of that, her funds are running lower than usual, her domineering sister is back in town, her boyfriend thinks she needs an exercise program, a mysterious man is skulking around her condo complex, her incarcerated ex-husband wants her as a character witness at his trial, and a drug sniffing dog keeps alerting on her car. Given all that, the hours she spends subbing seem comparatively relaxing.

What are your memories of high school back then and your impressions of it now?

Share them in a comment and we’ll put your name in the hat for a copy of No Substitute for Money.


Thanks for being here today, Carolyn. I probably wouldn't make it as a substitute teacher in today's world...

You'll have a chance to enter Carolyn's book giveaway through Friday night midnight (Mountain Time). I'll pick the winner on Saturday and post the name here. Make sure we have a way to contact you through you through the profile associated with your comment. U.S and Canadian residents only, please.

To learn more about Carolyn and her books, please visit her website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Barbara has a lot to worry about!
I try not to remember high school. It wasn't horrible, but I was happy to escape the drama.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

After dealing with some teenage foster kids, one difference I noticed was how many days off the kids get. Several half days and whole days every month. They're never in school. No wonder they aren't learning.

Mary Montague Sikes said...

Things are really different now, and that's not all good. Technology is great.

Diane is right about days off. Some months, there are several four-day weeks.

Really interesting blog post. Good luck with the book!

Mary Montague Sikes

Carolyn J. Rose said...

You know, it does seem like we logged more days in the classroom back then. And those days seemed sooooo loooonnnnggg.

Alice Duncan said...

I just went to my 50th high school reunion! And boy, are things different now. For one thing, when I went to high school, we were a naturally integrated school. This was John Muir High in Pasadena, CA, and there were students of all races, colors and creeds attending. I didn't realize it at the time, but it was really kind of a golden age. Then came busing, computers, iPhones, iPods, videos, blah, blah, blah. We had to read and learn. It never even occurred to most of us to misbehave. In the seventies, when my daughter went to the same middle school I went to, I visited her classroom one day, and students were actually throwing DESKS across the room. I hope to heaven things have improved since then, but I don't have much hope for the future of academia. Or our kids. Thank God I'm already old and won't have to see what happens to my great-grandchildren!

Alice Duncan said...


Carolyn J. Rose said...

Alice - so glad you liked the books.
Yeah, it's a huge change. One one hand, it's good that kids feel they're not just bricks in the wall - but on the other hand . . .

pam.stanek said...

It's an enigma to me. Over the last 20 years or so, we've done everything we can think of to make learning more relevant for the kids. I agree with Diane, the kids don't seem to be learning, but to blame that all on the school system doesn't make much sense. Are the kids' lives outside the schools the same? Is their entertainment the same? Are their home-lives and the way they're raised the same? Of course the answer is no, but trying to figure out what to do about that is the hard part. It's the schools that are running themselves ragged trying to find an answer.

Carolyn J. Rose said...

Pam, you're so right. Change has been huge in the past few decades not only in education, but in employment. Trying to keep up with all of this is and make it relevant and interesting and meet requirements set by lawmakers is like trying to skate on a calving glacier.

Elizabeth Lyon--WritersRock said...

In No Substitute for Murder/Money, Barbara seems to have figured out how to glide around the obstacles and not suffer too much administrative collateral damage.

One of the peculiar things I remember from high school then vs what Carolyn knows from high school now is that the teachers were seldom out. I remember subs occasionally in grade school--they were chopped liver, but I don't remember many in high school.

My humanities teacher, Ms. Philips, once told me years later when I visited her that our class, 1968, was the last great class. After that, the social change slammed students and teachers and it was all downhill from there. Course I loved hearing my class was special.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I attended my 50th high school reunion not so long ago too. What impressed me the most was the computer lab, which would have been pretty awesome back in the 50s. The thing that disturbed me was lockers with open doors. Students have deprived themselves of privacy by their misbehavior and are now subject to locker searches and drug dog visits. So sad.

Deadly Duo, Duh Blog said...

Back in high school, I was the kid your parents warned you not to hang out with. Actually I was an under-achieving B-plus student, reasonably-good athlete and pool-hall lizard. My crowning achievement, senior year was learning how to French-inhale Winstons and talk to girls without chewing my fingernails to the quick. All these years later these still may stand as me at the top of my game. Carolyn's book is fast-moving, funny and filled with eccentric characters. Give it a read. (Full disclosure. I share in the meager profits.)

LD Masterson said...

Back in the dark ages when I went to high school, if I got a bad grade the question my parents asked was, "How did you get this bad grade?" My fault. Now the parents ask the teacher,"How could you give my child this bad grade?" Teacher's fault.

Anyone see a problem here?

Carolyn J. Rose said...

And it seemed like my parents were always on the teacher's side or at least leaning a long way in that direction. My parents made it clear that school wasn't supposed to be a process we loved every minute of - in fact, they expected us not to like it but to suck it up and do well in spite of that.

Suedenym said...

Too many people are having kids who are unprepared to be parents. Discipline, respect, compassion are taught at home and should be then carried to the school by the students. I spoke to an 80+ year old relative who had been teaching kindergarten for almost 60 years. I asked her what changes she'd seen in all those years. She paused and said "the kids haven't changed as much as the parents have". I thought that spoke volumes. Speaking of volumes, thoroughly enjoyed No Substitute for Murder and it's sequel!

Carolyn J. Rose said...

I truly admire kindergarten teachers, especially those who stick with it that long. I'd make it about 5 minutes with kids that young.