The High School Environment: Mistaken Identities, Student Restrooms, and Short Shorts (And Wondering Why They Are So Short)

Have you seen the movie Never Been Kissed?  An adult Drew Barrymore pretends to be a high school student for a newspaper article she’s writing, when a domino effect of awkwardness, hilarity and an inevitable love story ensues?  I feel like my reentry into the high school environment went along those lines–except the awkwardness is being mistaken for a high school student trying to sneak off campus, hilarity is me getting lost in a sea of linebackers during passing period (seriously, when did high school students get so BIG?) and the love is what I have developed for ample visitor parking and a student to walk me where I’m going.

If I’ve learned anything from being back in the high school environment, it’s that very little has changed from when I was in high school.  If you change the clothing and take away the cell phones, you find kids are talking about the same things and working through the same obstacles you were back in the day.  I recall my first day of high school and not knowing where anything was. I felt eerily similar 10 years later for my first high school visit as an admission counselor.  What has changed and makes me feel very old is my reaction to everything that goes on in high schools.

First, when did girls’ shorts get so short!?  They are so short!  I also see high school couples walking around and whenever I see them display some sort of affection I feel like I should call their parents.  I quickly learned that if you can get to where you are going while students are in class, you should.  I don’t know when, but passing periods have become a gauntlet. Even if I generally know where I’m going, being herded with the crowd of students is consistently stressful.  The only thing I can equate it to is a Trader Joes parking lot–there are no rules and it is every man or woman him or her self.  The only thing worse than passing period traffic is after school traffic!


Cinco Ranch High School in Katy, TX.

I always wear a suit to school visits, which helps differentiate me from the students ; but I have been stopped when trying to leave campus before.  This may have been due to the fact that I couldn’t find the front of the school and parked in the student lot.  I have since learned to look for the flagpole, which will be where visitor parking and the main offices are.  Students also tend to assume that any adult they see is a school employee, so I get asked where to buy homecoming tickets, where to get a tardy pass and were certain offices are.

When is the last time you used a high school restroom?  I know faculty restrooms are usually available, but they are sometimes locked or in offices–which typically means I just find the student one.  Whenever I run into a student, they look very alarmed–as though “real adults” aren’t supposed to be there.  I also love when I catch girls gossiping and they’re not sure if I’m a teacher about to get them in trouble or if they should ignore me completely.

The best part of recruitment is meeting students, so it is always interesting to have the perspective of each high school you visit.  Although high school is a universal experience in many ways, there is also nuance to each school (similar to the nuance you find between many colleges and universities).  Spending the fall ‘back in high school’ definitely helps me identify a bit with the students I meet and experiences they share both in person and through their applications.  At a high school in Austin, I asked a couple students in the hallway where the college counseling office was.  After still going the wrong direction, I turned around to find the students had bounded up the stairs after me to give more clear directions.  As long as there are students like that out there, I will happily brave the hallways of high schools every Fall!