When I tell people I attended a private, Catholic, all-girls school for seven years, their first reaction is either to cringe or ask me about how awful it was. Truthfully, it wasn't awful at all, although there were definitely moments when I was questioning why I was getting in trouble for having logos on my white, ankle-height, crew socks, it was an experience I will be eternally thankful to my parents for providing to me. Attending the high school I did was a privilege most people are not lucky enough to have and something that I will never take for granted.
Sixth grade, 12-year-old me would never be able to believe that I'm making this statement, as I was dragged into the car on my first day of school and came home crying almost every day for a month that I wanted to go back to public school with all of my elementary school friends. At first adjusting to a new school was hard, especially because I came from public elementary school and most of the girls I was meeting already had their group of friends established from their private schools. However, eventually I found my way and I grew to love my school more than I can begin to describe.
It's hard to talk about the experiences and events that my school had to offer because they are so unique to just us and people tend never to really understand. That definitely does not stop me from crediting my school for shaping me into the person that I am today; beyond the classes on social justice, feminism, and how to transform the world through our everyday decisions, here are the smaller things that I didn't even begin to think I would miss about my high school, but I do.
1. The Uniform
There is nothing more convenient than being able to roll out of bed in the morning, throw on a dress over your pajamas (which consisted of a white t-shirt unless you wanted a demerit for a neon shirt showing from under your uniform), zip it up and walk out the door all in five minutes before you need to leave. Brushing your hair? Not necessary. Make-up? Ha. While my uniform was a lot different than other private schools there was nothing I loved more than not having to think about what I had to wear and whether it would be comfortable or not. To this day I can still say that my "true blue" jumper and broken-in saddle shoes are some of the most comfortable things I have owned. Before, I could be ready and on the way to school in five minutes if I had to be, now I need at least ten minutes just to walk to class, let alone the half hour to hour it takes getting ready beforehand.
2. The Environment
I can think of exactly zero places where reenacting scenes from High School Musical is socially acceptable, let alone allowed to continue once teachers were made aware of it, but my school was the exception. One of my favorite memories from senior year is the spontaneous reenactment of "Status Quo" from High School Musical in the Dining Hall. It came completely out of nowhere but people committed to it, from standing on chairs, sporting pigtails, and singing their hearts out (with background music provided of course). Other activities included but were not limited to: printing out 3,000 pictures of Nicholas Cage and hanging them around the school for our senior prank, putting all the freshman name tags in balloons and floating them into the middle of the pool, and riding razor scooters throughout the hallway on the last day of school. It was a truly special environment where no one cared what anyone else thought and I miss goofing around as 150 sisters.
3. The Teachers
Class sizes tended to range from eight to 25 people, with 25 being on the larger size. This made it incredibly easy to develop personal relationships with teachers in terms of being able to go to them whenever we needed extra help. Teachers really took the time to get to know you and were super enthusiastic about what they were teaching, which made learning it easier because it kept you engaged. Teachers were willing to go above and beyond for anything you needed and all you had to do was ask. I believe that it was these relationships in high school that have made it so easy for me to approach my college professors in office hours without a second thought. If you're truly engaging in the material, they'll usually be more than happy to help. My friends and I still make it a point to go visit our old teachers when we come home from college, they've impacted us all so positively with what they taught us it's great to be able to go back and talk about how we're still using what they taught us in high school to go above and beyond in college. They taught us that we can have an impact on the world and we want to be able to come back and show them what we've set our minds on thanks to them.
4. The Values-Based Curriculum
Senior Religion. aka the class where we talked about everything from the Holocaust, to human trafficking, to personality types, to modern-day genocides, to Title IX and rape on college campuses in order to get a grasp on what exactly social justice is and what we can be doing to transform the world into a more loving and just place. Part of our school's mission statement was that it was a place where girls become women, who transform the world; therefore our education was centered around developing us into the type of people who could identify our strengths and then go out, develop them further, and use them in bringing about positive social change in any way that we can. In college, you get the information and you can do with it what you will, but I miss being reminded that the education I'm receiving will be my biggest tool in the future, though it is still true, there isn't the constant connection with how what I'm learning will be invaluable in what I choose to do with it in the future.
5. The Unique Experiences
Explaining the fact that my school had a competition for a Silver Cup between the four classes that consisted of dance, aerobics, march, and song is a lost cause. Even in explaining it no one really "gets" it unless they've experienced it, even parents. We referred to this competition as Gym Meet and it was the biggest event of every year, no one outside of the school really understands it but to us it's what binds us the closest together in terms of being one giant sisterhood. You wouldn't think about it but there are long hours of sweat and tears that go into a competition you partake in while wearing a monogrammed tunic and starched bloomers, but they are most definitely there. In addition to experiences like Gym Meet, there were service opportunities, retreats, and school-wide Christmas Liturgies that I couldn't imagine my high school experience without.