A principal that greeted you every morning as you walked through the double doors, into a brightly lit space, lined with large windows capturing the morning light. The windows were decorated with stained glass, the result of several years of grade 12 art projects, a tribute from the students to the school. Down the main hallway, designed to be extra wide, there were bean bag chairs, brightly colored, lining the wall. Here, over the lunch hour, students and teachers would sit and talk and visit. For those who wanted something a bit more comfortable, they were invited to sit in the coffee lounge just off of the counselor’s office, who made themselves available as required.
The cafeteria was a large room, situated on the second floor of the school, over looking the track and field area out back of the school, with a beautiful view of the mountains behind. On the walls at either end of the cafeteria were large TV screens, tuned into MTV, back when MTV began, only playing the newest music videos.
There were state of the art computer labs, filled with Apple computers. The entire school was wired with TVs in every classroom, satellite signal (this was before the internet), and trophy cases celebrating every achievement of every student current and in the past. The gym was an amazing multi-purpose room that transformed to the need in the moment and just off of the gym was a fully equipped weight training room, open to the students and the staff – even outside of school hours.
This was high-school in this mountain top village. A state of the art, modern high-school, better equipped then most private schools I had heard of or even dreamed of going, filled with young enthusiastic teachers being mentored by older, incredibly gifted teachers – all of whom were excited to be there each and every day.
By contrast you entered this other high-school by entering a compound, reminiscent of a penitentiary, finding your way to the office, hidden behind sliding glass windows and high counter-tops. The brick walls were colored off-grey and were stark, empty, and cold. The lockers, although having random and few colored doors, looked warn and out of place among the many hallways lined with mesh encased narrow windows that allowed you to peer into tiny classrooms.
In order to save on costs this school purchased left over metal desks from world war II – you know – the one pieces that in order to get into them you had to contort your body and slide in sideways. The TV shows from the 50’s made it look easy but in reality you would snag your clothing or pinch your thigh each and every time.
The track and field was just a field, with the hope of cutting any lawn given up one overly hot summer ago, leaving only yellowing patches of ground covering compact dirt. The gym came with warnings, certain sections of seats we were not to use and certain pieces of equipment were best left packed up. There was no computer lab and no pretense to try and fake it either.
Each class was staffed by a teacher who did not want to be there. As it turned out this school is where teachers went to retire. Every year, a bunch of teachers would exit with a brief mention in a school handout and the next year there would be another batch of teachers who didn’t quite make the cut somewhere else so they were sent here to live out their remaining days.
Two high-schools, two different philosophies. Two different stories. The first one would be my home until sometime late into my tenth grade when my family suddenly uprooted and headed into the interior of this western province to a valley filled with dust, sagebrush, and mills. I would be in this second high-school until I got my driver’s license, purchased my first car, and then moved back to the first high-school for my grad year on my own.
Then, part way through my grad year, back in the first high-school, circumstances would dictate that I would have to leave and go back to the new community where my family was, and that second high-school. The principal and teachers at the first high-school were trying to come up with a housing and employment solution for me,which would allow me to stay. The second high-school couldn’t give a shit whether I succeeded or not so eventually I told them to fuck off and quit all together.
“Everything about me is a contradiction, and so is everything about everybody else. We are made out of oppositions; we live between two poles. There’s a philistine and an aesthete in all of us, and a murderer and a saint. You don’t reconcile the poles. You just recognize them.”