The first reaction most people have upon hearing the name of my high school – “High Tech High” – is “Hmm, nope. That sounds fictional.” This is no doubt aided by the existence of the 2005 film Sky High, an altogether flawless motion picture about teenagers with superpowers, attending high school in the sky.
***Sky High. $2.99 on most video-renting platforms. Tell your friends.
So, I may not have taken a flying bus to superhero school every day, but my learning experience was fairly unique. For one, it is tiny compared to other schools; my graduating class totaled 100 students, making for a very warm and close-knit community. Secondly, High Tech High follows a project-based curriculum. What this means is that every couple of weeks, we would have a new presentation to give, a new art piece to make, and a new topic to creatively explore.
In my junior (third) year of high school, I visited London and Paris with a handful of my classmates. My high school, the wonderfully fictional-sounding High Tech High, had something called “Intersession”. The week before spring break, every student was free to choose something they wanted to take part in for a week. Every event was hosted by the teacher, and it was usually something along the lines of surfing, or visiting restaurants, or, the one I usually chose, creative writing. Some offered international trips, like snorkeling in Belize, and, of course, a trip to London and Paris.
It was in the months leading up to this trip that I started to learn French. I went online, to websites offering free lessons, and learned as much as I could. Much alluded me (like the pronunciation), but I learned basic phrases, numbers, how to say what time it was, how to ask if there was a bakery nearby. “Est-ce qu’il y a une boulangerie près d’ici?” was the first phrase that I fully memorized, and prided myself for doing so. I also learned the art of being exceptionally annoying. Well, I don’t know if it took me until age 16 to be annoying, but I certainly perfected it by then.As a teen with a newfound knowledge of basic French, not to mention, a complete fixation on Doctor Who, I was an unstoppable tirade of irritation to those around me. Every conversation was an opportunity to bring up something cultural or etymological, some examples include, “Hey guys, Allons-y! Right guys? Right?” and “Oh man, counting by tens is so weird in French!” (I caught myself bringing up the latter topic recently and could tangibly feel the loathing that the other person was emitting).