Two Educations – Written January 21, 2003

My high school life was unlike most others’. There were so many changes that occurred in my life, it is hard to really differentiate. The first real difficulty I had in high school was not academic, but social. It was not without the social education I received, however, that I would have discovered myself academically.

Kevin Callahan and Lee Griffin were my best friends since I moved to Dallas, Pennsylvania, in my sixth grade year. Both were in the not-so-prestigious “skater” clique. We progressed through Middle School until eighth grade, when we met Adam Eckels and Craig Tupper. Kevin and I instantly befriended Adam because he was funny and older, and Craig was befriended by us simply for the comic value one regards a court jester.

Freshman year came and I was tired of taking people’s taunts because I hung out with guys that skateboarded – at the time both Lee and I did not skate, but Lee was liked by the populous because he was an outstanding wrestler. Not only that, but with high school came more people, which meant more skaters, and I had some real problems with them. Craig had a dislike for me because of Joey Kupstas, a girl who I dated for a while that he eventually “stole” from me. As Craig began to hang out with Kevin more, I began to hang with Lee more. Most of the guys I knew at school were incredibly immature and I honestly hated quite a few of them, mainly because they hated me for being a poseur – a non-skateboarder that is friends with skaters.

Second quarter of ninth grade, I joined the swim team. Though this only lasted a year, I taught me a lot about perception. Kevin and I got in a monstrous fight (instigated by Craig) and would not speak again until the end of our sophomore year. My second quarter of my freshman year of high school can be most accurately described as “Hell.” All the skaters hated me (even more than before) because of my fight with Kevin coupled with the fact that I was not a skateboarder, but everyone else still saw me as “one of those guys.”

So I began to dress differently. I wore Polo shirts and kakis, and I noticed that I had a lot more attention paid to me in all facets of life. My teachers would begin to say hello to me, I began to talk with more people, and I managed to befriend a lot of really cool seniors. I am not sure how I ended up getting cool with Brian Gida, but he saved my social life. Brian was definitely the coolest kid in the school, and for some reason he and I had always gotten along. After some skaters tried to mug me in the hall one day, Brian came to my rescue with half the football team and beat the crap out of the guys that did it. At the end of my freshman year, the seniors were gone, and I had to come back the next year and make new friends.

Sophomore year is defined by many as my absolute worst year in school. I attribute it to my obsession with my social reputation, which is as important to me then as it is today. This is not to say I have ever been cool or even popular, but I have always had things that others want and need. I learned how to flirt and got a girlfriend, and then I learned how to break up with her. After my sophomore year, there was little I worried about in the coming years. Craig moved away, Adam was being aloof, and Kevin, Lee, and I were back like Aramis, Porthos, and Athos.

The three of us grew tired of cliques, so we just separated. Some would say, “Impossible,” because high school is so clique-happy. Somehow, we managed to do it. We all played a lot of music, though the two of them were much better at it than me. Each day, we would meet in a room and hang out. Over time, we noticed that people would seek us out, and would often associate us together, and thus our unintentional clique was born, and so it stayed. Each of us had incredible gifts which made us very valuable assets. I knew a lot of people, and so anyone who had a “social problem” could come to me and I could fix it. Lee and Kevin were both incredible minds, Kevin is a mathematical genius and Lee was great at just about everything, and I mopped up with my skill in history and English. I said a long time ago, “Between the three of us, we were the perfect individual.”

I had many teachers in high school. Mr. Turner, Mr. Pope, Mr. McCarthy, Mrs. Kupstas (Joey’s Mother), Mrs. Wega, Mr. Saba, and Mrs. Whalen were just a few. Overall, my education was handled well, though it took me three years to get into my educational groove. Second semester of my junior year I tore out of the gate like a bull and made nothing below a B. When I was asked about this, I simply said “I started caring.” The reason I started caring was because I was no longer being taught by 25 year olds with associate degrees in secondary education – I had teachers with specializations that could actually teach me something I couldn’t read in a book.

Mrs. Wega and Mrs. Whalen both taught me how to write and talk. Mrs. Wega taught Communications and Speech, which I took back-to-back and aced. According to Mrs. Wega, I was one of the most gifted public speakers she had taught in over 25 years. Mrs. Whalen instructed me in Advanced Communications, which I took very seriously and learned a lot from.

Mr. Saba was the only math teacher I ever understood perfectly. Even though I did not always do the math correctly, I always understood what he was trying to tell me. He lived down the road from me, and he was the kind of teacher who would always be there for advise. I once stopped by his place when he had a date there and he would not let me leave until I figured out what I had to figure out, be it about math or my life.

Mr. McCarthy was the only teacher before my junior year I loved. He was my sophomore literature teacher, and he was amazing. He tied parallels I would have never seen and he made it fun for me to learn – his doing so made me realize that all learning is fun. Mr. Pope was my psychology teacher in my senior year; the class was incredibly difficult but was a great teacher and I learned a lot. He was always there for me as well, always willing to have my back regardless of the situation.

Mrs. Kupstas was a total witch. She had old grievances for problems between Joey, Craig, and me which greatly affected our relationship as teacher and student. I never took any of the garbage she threw at me; luckily I was more intelligent than her and I never really had to work in her class. I took both courses she offered in the school just to aggravate her, which ended up working. Her class was incredibly light in curriculum and almost as light in banter. It was nothing to prepare me for John Turner.

John Turner, who I call Oberstlieutenant Turner because of his after school detention known as “Stalag 17,” can also be known by many as, “Satan.” The man is cruel, vicious, rude, arrogant, boisterous, callous, and just downright mean. He seemed to take pleasure in others’ pain, usually pain caused by him, and his attacks in AP History were usually directed at me. He would make fun of me and would never let me be right, even if the answer was right. For some people, this would be the opposite of teaching, for is teaching not the spreading of knowledge? For Turner to tell me I was wrong when I was right is a breech of conduct. John Turner was smart, however, and he knew what I would do. If I was wrong, I would go out of class and get sources to back up my point that were irrefutable, and then he would go into his files and find something to oppose my findings. He had a collection of documents that was viewed as the school’s own little “Library of Congress.” He could break any argument I had by using documentation that contradicted it no matter what I had to say. Turner never broke me; he taught me to survive in an academically ominous environment, and he did a very good job.

Graduation came and that was it. I look back on it now and think: four years of work for a slip of paper, a few good memories of teachers, and two great friends…I certainly hope college will be better. So far it has been. I will never forget the friends I had, the friends I lost, and the teachers that hated me or loved me or just loved to hate me. My greatest hope is that I will never forget how my high school experience taught me to live and be myself no matter what, because “time is transient and nothing is worth putting your name on if it’s not the absolute best you can do.”1

1 Mrs. Wega’s advice to me in my junior year that entered me into the world of creative writing

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