Through 8th grade, I went to a “progressive” school on the Upper West Side.
People called it “the TV School” because it looked like a TV, though now that they expanded the building upwards, it looks like a TV with a VCR, TiVo and cable box all stacked dumbly on top of it. Everyone knows you’re not supposed to stack those on top of the TV.
Officially, it wasn’t even called a school.
Too confining. Instead, it was called a “Learning Center.” But I’ll refer to it as the TV School.**
Homerooms were called “Clusters,” homeroom teachers were called “Cluster Advisors,” and classrooms were called “areas” because there were no walls inside to separate them. If there are no walls, you can’t call it a classroom.
The most casual touch?
We called teachers by their first names. Eva, Jim, Suki, George, Jodi, Shelley. As in, This year, I’m in Shelley’s cluster. Or, George yelled at me in Health Ed. He’s a dick!
Kids at the TV School would take liberties they didn’t dream of at my next school, which was a traditional all-girls’ deal. There, you started French in 4th Grade and Latin in 6th, wore uniforms through 8th, couldn’t talk in the elevator if there were more than 6 people, and had the same gym teachers my mother had when she went there. They were over 70, and their names started with “Miss.” It was by all means a capital-S “School.”
By the standards of the TV School, it was “really strict.”
The TV school rewarded free expression. For instance, when our Communications teacher announced our assignment at the end of class, the hot girl, Carney* would let her striped boatneck tee slip to show her bra strap as she raised her hand and protested in a breathy voice, “Um, Larry, I don’t think it’s fair that you gave us so much homework.”
Larry would say, “OK” and give us less homework.
I’m just setting the scene to show why I thought it was OK to do this:
Our 7th Grade Social Studies teacher, Sam, gave us regular current events assignments. We had to find a magazine or newspaper article and summarize it. I loathed this exercise. I complained that it was “a pain,” but I wasn’t as effective as Carney. (I had no sexy bra strap to flash.) Though Sam didn’t cancel the assignment as I’d hoped, he did try to make it more palatable, stressing that it could be any magazine or newspaper.
“Any?” I asked.
So naturally, I picked Penthouse Forum. I don’t know how I got my hands on an issue of Penthouse, since the only porn publications my dad kept around the house, to my knowledge, were Jewish Week and the phone book — both of which are hot stuff to a man who gets off on trolling for possible relatives with variations on our last name. In my family, we call this “cousin porn.” Which makes it sound like something way more taboo and sexy.
However I obtained the source material, what I do remember is quoting the phrase “raging hard-on” several times in my report. The man in the story, upon seeing the beautiful woman, gets a “raging hard-on.”…In total, the man in this story has 4 “raging hard-ons.” Gotta say, the assignment taught me how to use quotation marks. It also introduced me to the questionably spelled word “cum” [sic].
I handed it in clipped to the ripped-out magazine pages, as requested.
I got a check-plus (the highest grade you could get was check-plus-plus, though in this relaxed learning environment it wasn’t called a grade) along with a comment that said, “Maybe try the New Yorker next time.”
Of all the schoolwork of mine that my mom kept all these years, that piece is missing. She probably didn’t like Penthouse because it was sexist.
What did you get away with in your school? Or not get away with?
TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS.
*Carney was not the hot girl’s real name, but close enough.
**I don’t name the schools, because I don’t know, could they sue me? I didn’t learn those rules in Current Events class.