High Times in Junior High

'The Ugliness of a Quad' by Mitch Teemley, age 12My 7th Grade essay on The Quad, the asphalt-covered area between our school buildings.

My Real Memoir

Junior High Schools have pretty much gone the way of the mastodon (my kids attended middle school). But Los Coyotes Junior High was designed to be just what its name implies: high school lite, a taste of teenagerdom — “Now with half the acne!”

We had core rooms where we’d study multiple subjects grammar-school-style: Social Studies—about which I was ambivalent. Reading—which I loved; except I hated “speed-reading,” considered important back then due to the efforts of a crazy lady named Evelyn Wood whose “Reading Dynamics” system is now considered the educational equivalent of Monopoly money. I could have told them back then that books, like food, are meant to be chewed and savored! So, RISP (rest in speedy peace), Evelyn. Language Arts—this was my favorite subject because it meant that I, future bestselling author Jules Paris Casino (my sophisticated pen name), got to write!

Core room was also about Citizenship, considered so important it was broken into ten categories! My core teacher, Mr. Dickson, a retired Marine Corps drill instructor, was responsible for all ten, including #9 Self Control. Little-known fact: It was Mr. Dickson, spock-vulcan-death-gripnot Mr. Spock, who invented the Vulcan Death Grip. He would step up behind some blithely jabbering boy like, say, me, and squeeze their shoulder so hard that his thumb and forefinger would actually kiss beneath the clavicle (I learned that word in Science class). Discipline, thy name was Dickson. Still, like my 6th Grade teacher, Mr. Dickson did it all with a gleeful glint. Plus, he drove a cool car (a Corvette Stingray!) and he loved my writing, especially when I waxed sarcastic (see essay above). So, shoulder pain notwithstanding, Mr. D was my guy!

After core room, we’d shuffle off to high-school-style single-subject classrooms: Math, as taught by so-skinny-you-could-blow-him-over Mr. Peters, was boooooring. Except when he tried Mr. D’s famous death grip on me and I made the entire class roar by pounding my desk and squirming in mock agony. Science was pretty cool, especially when we made conical paper “phalanges” to illustrate finger bones during Mr. Poljack’s anatomy lecture and made him laugh so hard he cried. Practical Arts—wood and metal shop for boys, homemaking for girls (sorry, it was the 60s) was groovy. And Elective Period, the crown gem of my school day, Drama, was life-changing. But for that…

You’ll have to wait till next week, kids!

My Real Memoir is a series. To read the next one, click here.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Humor, Memoir and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to High Times in Junior High

  1. I liked your essay. Almost poetic. I like the way you spelled grey. And the way you remember all your junior-high-nesses.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Pingback: Follow That Dream | Mitch Teemley

  3. Sounds like your junior high experience was a heck of a lot more entertaining than mine, which was not groovy at all, a drag, in fact.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. I was among the last generation to attend “junior high school.” I went to Riviera Jr. High in Miami, Florida (actually, in the suburbs, but you get my drift) from August 1977 to June of 1980. I don’t know when Dade County Public Schools (as it was known then) switched to the newer “middle school” system and moved sixth grade from the elementary schools into it and kicked ninth grade back to the high school level. (Back when I attended DCPS, elementary encompassed grades K-6, junior high grades 7-9, and senior high grades 10-12.)

    I do remember that Riviera Jr. High School was renamed by the mid-1990s, almost 30 years ago, but I’ll always think of it being “junior high.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • mitchteemley says:

      Yep. School districts are continuing to mess with the formula. There are a few jr. highs left (ours was just 7th and 8th, btw) and plenty of middle schools (usually 6th through 8th). But some districts are going with just two campuses now, primary and secondary, with each one broken into seperate wings.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Our elementary-junior high schools (Tropical/Riviera) were built adjacent to each other in the late 1950s, which was convenient because when you left sixth grade and went into seventh, you were literally in the school “next door.” Riviera had two “feeder schools” at the time: Village Green Elementary and Tropical. So when I got kicked upstairs to junior high, I knew most, but not all of the seventh graders at school.

        We didn’t have CORE like you did, though. We had home room (for attendance purposes), then had individual classes for the six class periods that made up the bulk of the school day. (It was like high school but without as much angst about drugs or drinking booze, Acne and preoccupation with dating, romance, etc. were a thing, though.)

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Nancy Ruegg says:

    Far, far away from your world in SoCal, I went to Franklin Junior High in Wheaton, Illinois. We too had CORE classes, but they included reading, language arts, and social studies. Instead of one period, CORE was allocated three: two in the morning and another in the afternoon. So thankful math and science were just one period apiece. Otherwise I may not have survived!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thanks for posting your essay in its original form, Mitch. Reading it made me feel like I’d stepped out of retirement for a few moments. Now I’m curious about the ten categories of citizenship, if #9 is “self-control,” which also happens to be Fruit of the Spirit #9 (!)

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I too was from the Jr High area. I catch myself still referring to those years by that term. Usually, it’s midsentence or word coming out more like a bizarre stutter as I correct myself. Great post, Mitch, you know how to keep us coming back for more.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Thanks Mitch: Memories hove into view. The wastebasket I made in the wood shop is STILL in use in the master bedroom. The Only improvement was replacing the totally worthless decorative base fasteners of the upright slates with wood screws. The slats looked like fence uprights and the top was held together with a leather string. Stained wood of course. Got a B on it. Only practical things left from those days (1959) except science class where I taught a short version of the relativity theory. Been there, got the shirt. Norm

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Nice handwriting, Mitch. The essay is good too, especially for a twelve-year-old. We had those core classes in 7th grade too, but I (Kellye) learned absolutely nothing. I think they wanted us to teach ourselves geometry, math, etc. At least we all knew how to write in cursive – many kids today don’t, and I wonder if they can read it.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The cursive writing in your essay would be illegible to my boys, they aren’t taught cursive handwriting anymore in schools. We were, we learnt printing first and then cursive – hours of copy book handwriting that went home as homework as well. But why would they learn it I guess everything is mostly digital now. There is always that cool teacher who was our inspiration and motivation due to the fact they actually seemed to think we had some potential- mine was Mr Watkins and I kept his report card comments. They meant a lot to me. Great post Mitch

    Liked by 2 people

  11. murisopsis says:

    Hahaha! The Vulcan Nerve Pinch! Oh my – I guess you started honing your acting ability quite young!!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. ruthsoaper says:

    OK Dad – waiting for next week’s post. 😜

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Maria Ott Tatham says:

    Mitch, this is wonderful!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I had to look up your grade system, as we do it differently Down Under, and learned 7th Grade is basically the same as what we today call Year 7 of High School i.e. the year most turn 13. For a moment there, I thought you were writing that quality aged 7. LOL. Great handwriting by the way.

    Your memoir, entertaining and amusing, also called up my long repressed residual resentment that as a girl I was not allowed to do woodwork. Some boys, however, were allowed to join Home Science – or was it only the cooking component? – I guess on the basis that one day they would become a chef, while the rest of us anatomically deficient beings would only ever be cooks.

    Liked by 2 people

    • mitchteemley says:

      Ouch, Gwen! So even “crossover” class attendance implied a certain glass ceiling reasoning. I think a few girls might have taken wood/metal shop, but I’m not sure.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I would have done well in woodwork. My uncle built his own home. That was common postwar and subject to material availability, so there is some interesting patchwork in homes of that era. Two of his three sons became carpenters, and one of those makes fine furniture from reclaimed timbers.

        When my husband and I were first married, and living in the extremely modest home in which I was raised, someone offered us their kitchen which was being upgraded. I only had a dresser and table in my kitchen. I measured up my kitchen, and each piece of the cabinetry on offer, cut it out to scale on post it notes, and played around to see how I would fit it on the floorplan. One piece wouldn’t quite fit. My husband took the post it note, turned it upside down, and said – that’s where it goes.
        LOL, if I done that with the physical cabinetry, the counter top would have been on the lino, with the legs sticking up in the air.
        All hail the superior intelligence of the patriarchy. Not that I don’t love my husband dearly – but he has other strengths than carpentry.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. TamrahJo says:

    Sigh …..one quarter in 1984 of “Speed Reading’ …um….skills? In one of 4 years of English that had to be taken in order to graduate – sped read through, passed the tests and BSd my way through end of quarter ‘final’ – To this day! I haven’t re-read that book, to see if I missed a lot along the way – too traumatic to repeat that ‘memory’ and, well – I STILL believe, if even one line had really captured me/pulled me deeper into the story?
    Sure, I would’ve done the homework, but I would have also, gone back and read slow/savored the lines just done, for the assignment (with Failing grade assured IF you broke the rules by ‘re-reading, the daily assignment before Friday’s test for the week, or reading ahead – cuz you were lost in the story –

    On the other hand? Taught me discipline regarding “playing by Da Rules” get what I needed out of it, but in my heart of hearts? Fine! But I have my own standards and well – I played by your rules – and well – not certain what I’m missing out on, by not re-reading, at my own pace, but I’ll be dippy-dooed if I will – just because – ‘no one can make me’ now – via any force on earth – LOL

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Wow, Mitch! I wish my students had handwriting that good!

    Liked by 2 people

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