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.