Log in

25 September 2008 @ 08:15 pm
US high school  

Question type:  U.S. culture/education

How I've researched it: Wikipedia's articles on american eduction, high-school and related ; little_details 's entries about u.s. education; various high schools' websites (including Forks' high school)

My Query:  What exactly happens on the first day of the school year (is there a speech from the director/headmaster/thing, is it at that time that shedules are given, do you have to introduce yourself to the teachers or others students (especially if new)?)
Second question: How do classes works? (it's one thing I never understood). At my high school in France, the same group of students (from 25 to 35 most of the time) stayed together in all classes, just getting dispatched for languages and specific courses. From what I read/saw/gathered, this is not how it works in US high school.
Also, I recall one of my English assistant saying they were singing the national hymn and calling the roll in the first hour of classes - is it done everywhere, and could one be excused from singing? (on the basis he's not US citizen)

Any detail you feel is important is welcome. Thanks a lot everyone!
(Deleted comment)
alexiel_neesan on September 25th, 2008 07:25 pm (UTC)
Oh, wow. Thanks, this helps a lot!

Question though: what exactly is homeroom?

Also, I have seen mention of block scheduling - and either it was not well explained at all, or I'm very dumb, because I didn't understand how it worked. It has something to do with alternate weeks?
hi christopher, i'm nero: riley = awesomeflystella on September 25th, 2008 07:56 pm (UTC)
Homeroom is where students go before all their other classes. They hear the morning announcements, do the Pledge, get important papers etc.

And Block Scheduling is where you have half your classes one day and the next your have the ones you didn't have the day before. At my school, we have even and odd days. Odd days we go to periods one, three, five and seven and evens we go to two, four, six and eight. The classes are most definitely longer than when you have all classes every day.
alexiel_neesan on September 25th, 2008 08:19 pm (UTC)
Thanks - classes longer mean how longer ( er, rather, 'till what hour of the day will classes last?)
DON'T TELL ME WHAT I CAN'T DObodyparts on September 25th, 2008 08:13 pm (UTC)
1. Most of the time, a few days before school starts you talk to a counselor and get your class schedule. Then on the first day of school you just go to your different classes. Usually the teacher checks attendance, reads off the syllabus, and sometimes they start class right away.

2. Students move rooms to go to different classes. Teachers generally stay in the same room.

3. in first period you do the pledge of allegiance and listen to the morning announcements. most schools do this over the school-wide intercom. participation in the pledge of allegiance depends on your teacher and your district. at my school, the teachers' contracts said they had to do the pledge of allegiance, whether they were from the US or not. however, students don't have to do it if they don't want to. refusal to stand for the pledge of allegiance can get you kicked out of class though, depending on how uptight your teacher is.

if you're writing fan fiction and you care about authenticity, forks high does block scheduling and they have a school-wide PA.
alexiel_neesan on September 25th, 2008 08:18 pm (UTC)
Thanks! and many thanks for the forks high bit, I didn't recall this from their site (should go back to it)
DON'T TELL ME WHAT I CAN'T DObodyparts on September 25th, 2008 09:16 pm (UTC)

if there's info on FHS you need but can't find anywhere else, just send me a comment. i grew up in that area and i know a lot of people who went there :)
alexiel_neesan on September 26th, 2008 09:07 am (UTC)
thanks! ^^
silly_bellasilly_bella on September 25th, 2008 08:31 pm (UTC)
As a teacher, I can tell you that legally, no one can be required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Not even an U.S. citizen. Some schools may require it, but they are in violation of a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court if they do. Many U.S. citizens belong to religions like the Jehovah's Witnesses, who do not swear allegiance to anything other than God. (I probably haven't said that well. You'd have to look it up to get those details right.)

And homerooms tend to be a place where paperwork and attendance are done. Most high schools are moving toward just having them done in first period/block instead of having a special homeroom. It saves ten-fifteen minutes that would be used for passing time to move from one class to another.

Not all high schools here have deans for each class level, either. at one school where I taught, we had principals assigned by grade level, an academic dean who dealt with curriculum at all grade levels and a dean of students, who dealt with special discipline issues.
alexiel_neesan on September 25th, 2008 08:35 pm (UTC)

About the pledge, I just wanted to be sure - I seem to recall English Assistant saying something like this (that you didn't had to do it depending on beliefs/religion), but it's better to ask and check.
silly_bellasilly_bella on September 25th, 2008 08:44 pm (UTC)
In one school district where I worked, it was interesting, because I had three kids who were contentious. When I told them that they didn't have to say the pledge, but they did have to be quiet, they threatened to sue me. I had to explain the while I could not, and would not, force them to say the pledge against their will, I could force them to show respect to those students for whom it was important. They were welcome to read or do homework, but they would be quiet, just as they were expected to be quiet during any announcement that came over the PA system.

They threw a fit about it until I brought in information regarding the pledge from the free speech forum and an explanation of the Supreme Court ruling from my sister, who is a judge. (Not on the Supreme Court.)

We also had one teacher who made everyone say the pledge until one of the students threw a fit. She was reprimanded.
lurker2209lurker2209 on September 25th, 2008 09:29 pm (UTC)
Actually, at a small school like that, you wouldn't even have that many administrators. According to the staff list, they just have a principal and a vice-principal.


At my school four teachers acted as advisers to the different classes. For example, the home E.C. teacher advised the Junior class and would help them raise money and plan prom.
lurker2209: bloody handslurker2209 on September 25th, 2008 09:20 pm (UTC)
Here is the forks high school handbook.


On page three is the bell schedule. They don't have block periods, although I think they did last year. Eh, the timeline is flexible. Still if you want exact times in your story, they may as well be correct!

It looks like they don't have homeroom, but a five minute 'Advisory' period each day. (45 min on Wednesday) This is described on page 2 as a time for students to consult with teachers to ensure they are taking the right classes in order to graduate high school, get into college (if they're planning on that) and for the school to make sure the students take the right standardized tests (google WASL, if you want to know more) It's not mentioned in the books, so unless you can work it in as a plot point, feel free to ignore it.

Beneath the normal schedule is an assembly schedule. The first day of school would probably use the assembly schedule and the principal would address the students during the assembly. The student body president might also speak.

In my high school (also on the west coast; there are a lot of regional distinctions in the US) we got our schedules and were assigned lockers during orientation. Orientation would be scheduled about a week before school started. For freshman, this would be a half-day program introducing them to high school, with presentations by teachers, etc. For upperclassmen, this would be a drop in event over two days where you could come by, pick a locker, get your schedule, see the counselor if the schedule needed to be changed, pre-pay for yearbook and school pictures, etc. You choose what classes to take the spring of the year before.

In each class (teachers generally stay in a room and students move around, for high school) the first day the teachers pass out paperwork, syllabi, etc. You also check out textbooks. In US public schools the textbooks are the property of the school and students check them out for the year. You don't have to buy them. Most teachers would do 'get to know you' exercises. Except math (it's math, not maths, in the US) teachers, who have a reputation for giving HW on the first day of class.
jacquie_o on September 25th, 2008 10:08 pm (UTC)
US public High school English teacher here...

First day of school at my school the students reported to homeroom, which was assigned alphabetically. The students report to homeroom (this year I had Ri-Rod...which was most of the 'Rodriguez' students) and pick up their class schedule. It lasts about 10 minutes and then students are released to report to first period. We only meet for homeroom on the first day of each semester (once beginning in late August and once when we come back after winter break. We have 4 quarters (9 week periods of time), and the 1st and 2nd nine weeks make up semester 1 and 3rd and 4th nine weeks make up semester 2. The second semester begins the 2nd or 3rd week in January. Spring Break is a week long vacation that takes place between 3rd and 4th nine weeks.

High school consists of 4 levels:
9th grade = Freshmen
10th grade = Sophomores
11th grade = Juniors
12th grade = Seniors

My school is on a traditional schedule which is 6 class periods a day. (Some schools are on a block schedule but I could tell Forks High has a 6 period schedule (or close to it). The classes taken are usually: 1 English/Literature, 1 Science, 1 Math, 1 History, and 2 electives (Physical Education and a foreign language at Forks...but some students take fine arts classes, business, leadership, or other electives, etc.). Each grade level requires students take a particular science/math/history/literature.

Usually courses for grade level are:
9th takes Geography/State History, Algebra I, English I, Integrated Science
10th takes World History, Algebra II, English II, Biology
11th takes American History, Geometry, English III/American Literature, Chemistry
12th takes American Government/Economics, an advanced level math (Calculus or such), English IV/British Literature, Physics

At my school, students have to take a Life Management/Health class, and two semesters of physical education but many smaller district require students to take physical education for 3-4 years. College bound students are encouraged to take at least 2 years of a foreign language...the remaining credits are electives.

The larger school districts with more money usually have more diverse curriculum offerings. Bella would not have as many scheduling options at Forks as she would have had in Phoenix, as Phoenix is a very large metropolitan/urban area.

Back to the start of the day...
Immediately after the tardy bell starting homeroom on the first day, and 1st period every day afterward, we have the Pledge of Allegiance followed by a moment of silence.

Each class period is made up of completely different students, like college classes are. A high school student could be a part of 6 completely different groups of kids through their schedule.

Forks High School has an okay website. You can go there and get a feel for what kind of extracurricular activities are there. In the US, American high school football is the dominant sport from August to the end of November, with many schools making playoffs of some sort. From late November to mid March basketball is dominant. Then baseball is from early March to the end of May. Track season can fall either in autumn or spring (check the FHS site). Don't forget that cheerleading goes hand-in-hand with football and basketball (football especially).

Then there are pep rallies, homecoming, open house, dances, clubs, yearbook, newspaper, fund raisers, prom, student government, etc.

I haven't even touched on all the specific privileges and activities that students do during their senior year (12th grade, the end of which they graduate in an elaborate ceremony).