Monday, May 17, 2010

First Day of High School (again!)

Jennifer attended high school in Alaska for one semester of ninth grade. She went to San Mateo High for her second semester of ninth grade. She moved to Minnesota and her new high school began with tenth grade. Jennifer was technically a freshman again.

Jennifer felt that having already completed a year of high school gave her an edge. Even though she was beginning a new school, in a new state, at least she didn't have the added stress of being a true freshman. 

The day Jennifer walked into her new, huge high school--she did not know a single soul.

Wayzata High School is one of the largest public high schools in Minnesota. It was, and remains, one of the top public high schools in the nation. Wayzata currently serves approximately 3200 students.


September 3, 1985  Tuesday

Dear Ophelia,
"I'll write about the days I missed tomorrow. Today was the first day of school. I was late for most of my classes. Right now the school is very confusing. I had homework. I'm taking Geometry and I think I'm going to do well this year in math. World History will be a breeze if I keep up, I think. I had it in Alaska and History is pretty easy except memorizing dates. English may be a little tough this year, a lot of writing. Maybe I'll get over my fear. Starting my book really helped. I started it again but I'm stopping until the weekends, I guess. 

I have to write a short paper on what makes me unique from other people. I may write about the way I write in you almost every day or about how I want to become a zoologist. German is really  fun so far. I learned good morning, good evening, goodbye, what does this mean?, Mr., Mrs. and Miss. She seems like a good teacher, Mrs. Melbye. This summer or next, I have a chance to go to Germany for around $850.00 for 3 1/2 weeks and stay with a German family. I hope I can go but I might have to pay for it and I need a job for the summer. 

I met a girl in P.E. named Amy. She seems really nice but that's the only class we have together and we don't have the same lunch. I have first lunch. Well, it seems like I'll never make many friends but in a month or so, I suppose I will. I hope so. Everyone there is really fashion conscious, it's a rich school. 

Anyway, I gotta go, it's 10:30 and I gotta get up at 6:00am. The bus comes at 7:06am. Please help me get through this school year and help me choose and make good friends. Love, Jennifer."

This last sentence sounds a lot like a prayer!

September 5, 1985 Thursday

Dear Ophelia,
"I'll catch you up on other stuff later. It's 10:30pm, I have to get to bed soon. I'm doing this now to ease my mind. I've learned more in German and, so far, I really like it. It's kind of a fast-paced class. Yesterday, we had a quiz and another tomorrow. I got an A on the other one. 

I met this girl named Jennifer who rides my bus. I'm still kind of nervous around her and other people I meet. I just can't be myself. I never know what to say. Well, I'm working on it. I have to learn just to let myself express myself. I keep thinking that my hair looks dumb etc. I have a really hard time talking to pretty girls. I feel so ugly and unworthy. I'll have to work on that. 

Anyway, I wrote an essay on you in English. It was a diagnostic essay. I wrote how it was unique of my to write in you and that you're the closest thing to a god that I believe in. 

In World History, my teacher asked, 'Who has the biggest brain in the world?' I said, 'The sperm whale.' He looked confused. Anyway, today I brought in proof that I was right from my Lilly on Dolphins book. I really faced him. But I was glad to put my knowledge to use. 

The girl in front of me thinks I'm a brain cuz I do so well in World History (so far). But I already had a semester of it in Alaska, so maybe I'm ahead. The class is fast-paced but I'm doing very well in it so far. It's 10:41. I'm not sure about Interior Design class yet but I'm sure I'll get an A. 

I haven't made a whole lot of friends yet but I really hope I do soon. I want to be respected by my friends for getting my work done. You see, I have to keep up in my classes, mostly German and Geometry, so I won't get lost. I'll 'party' on the weekends, but during the week I want to get my homework done. Please try and help me stick to my contract for the whole year. Weekends will be reserved for letter writing etc. My goal this year is straight A's. I don't want anyone to look on me as a geek. I would hate that and I'm not a geek. Anyway, I gotta go, 'Guten abend'. Love, Jennifer."

Funny how even Jennifer seems to know that Ophelia is her placeholder for God.

It's sad when a kid worries about being ridiculed for doing well in school. It's hard to walk the "cool" line.

Jennifer's grades had been good at Bartlett High School in Alaska. Then they dropped at San Mateo High. This was for two reasons. One--the school was in the middle of town. Once she left campus for lunch, Jennifer just didn't come back. The second reason was the lower standard of academics and the slower pace. She wasn't challenged at San Mateo High.

Jennifer loved the fast-paced and challenging classes at Wayzata. She thrived on learning and thinking. She wrote countless essays and was tested and quizzed weekly--she loved it! Wayzata kept her on her toes. Plus, the school was not near restaurants, fast food and 7-11's. There was really nowhere for her to go if she left campus. Also, Minnesota throws a lot of money at it's schools and California doesn't. It makes a difference!

Jennifer saw herself as an insecure girl who didn't express herself. I don't see that. She spoke up when she cared about something. She was a cetacean "expert" and she told the teacher in front of the whole class about the sperm whale brain. She also followed through with proof. That takes some moxy! Jennifer also made a decision to get good grades--in spite of what her future friends might think of her. She wasn't as much of a pushover as she thought she was!


Jennifer was correct about the sperm whale, although it was probably not the answer the teacher was looking for! Sperm whales do have the largest brains on planet earth weighing, on average, 17.2 pounds. Our brains weigh about 3.3 pounds. Some think that a big brain is required to operate a big body. However, a 52 foot long whale shark has a relatively small brain for it's huge body size! Animals our size or bigger generally have much smaller brains than we do. We don't need a 3.3 pound brain to operate our little 165 pound (on average) bodies. I think I know one thing for sure--small-brained animals can be big or small but, either way,  they can't be bright. So what's the big brain for?


What's going on in that head of yours, Moby Dick?


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