What Your Calculus Teacher Can’t Teach You

Please welcome Ally Russell, a Scripps Ranch High School senior, as our writer for the 2015–2016 school year. She will share her thoughts about SRHS and give us an inside look into the goings on there. Ally is founder and president of the school’s Women in Literature Club and a member of the Spoken Word Club. She is also on the yearbook staff. She titles her columns “The Story So Far…” because high school is a time filled with so many firsts. She says that while high school is a time for change, she realizes that she and her peers are just beginning their lives.

Now a senior at Scripps Ranch High School, I take pride in my mastery of cutting through large crowds of unsure students on my way to class. At the end of the day I’ve conquered the embarrassment I once felt as I sprint to the parking lot when school ends to avoid traffic. These are all tricks of the trade one learns as they navigate the uncharted waters of high school.

The first day of school is filled with a flurry of new schedules and the stress of realizing your friends didn’t decide where to meet before the bell. Lesson learned. The majority of the high school memories that have resonated with me have been those learned outside the classroom.

Don’t walk on the grass. That was one of the first lessons I learned at Scripps. The lesson, unfortunately, came too late for me. Halfway across the circular field that acts as the school’s central hub during lunch, I realized I was the only person walking on the grass. It was a surreal moment I can only compare to the protagonist in a high school movie when they realize they’ve sat on a chocolate bar as the entire school joins in to laugh at them.

Of course no one paid me any attention, apart from a few knowing looks that this freshman didn’t know one of the school’s golden rules, and I made it off the grass unscathed. I remember the humiliation of realizing every other student grasped this unspoken rule except me, all circling around the quad like ants avoiding a misplaced rock. The moment, however insignificant I realize it was looking back, would be burned into my mind for the rest of my high school career. These unquestioned rules make up the foundation of the high school experience.

Shortly after this incident I came to terms with another aspect that makes Scripps Ranch High unique—our diverse and flourishing ecosystem. Students often complain about the long drive to the beach from our home deep in the suburbs. However, this distance is no problem for the flocks of seagulls that make SRHS their home during lunch hours. For the first few weeks during lunch I just observed in confusion how so many students navigated the quad with binders held above their heads. The answer to this strange phenomenon would come to me in the form of a seagull pooping on my nose during lunch.

Until this moment I’d always resented how much my nose stuck out at a crooked angle. That hot Wednesday at lunch, however, my nose was my savior, catching all the seagull’s droppings, saving my brand new outfit from ruin. But I was still reluctant to join in with my peers sporting binder bird poop deflectors. After this incident I concluded that since I had already been pooped on, the odds were in my favor to avoid a similar fate in the future.

It would take getting pooped on three more times before I began to model my own version of seagull repellent. Imagine a junior walking around the quad wearing a backpack yanked above her head, arms jutting forward still in the straps because she refuses to carry a binder over her head. Despite the questioning looks, I like to think that one’s choice in seagull repellent allows SRHS students to showcase their unique sense of style. To this day, I prefer the backpack cap to the binder umbrella.

As I grow each year there are more lessons I wish I could tell my freshman self to save the younger me from the anxiety and mistakes I experienced. I wish instead of memorizing formulas, my math teacher would have told me to find a spot at lunch in the shade where you can sit down, instead of standing in the crowd of freshmen —nicknamed the “Freshman Flock” —who aren’t sure where to eat.

As I approach the beginning of my senior year I have to prepare myself for the disease that has claimed so many seniors before me, each falling victim to suddenly romanticizing the last four years of all-nighters and getting pooped on by seagulls, the disease of Senior Year Nostalgia. I’ve seen it happen to friends who’ve graduated, the sudden camaraderie that erupts between all social classes of seniors, the hatchets buried between once bitter rivals now friendly acquaintances.

This phenomenon begins with subtly bringing up once humiliating incidents experienced in one’s freshman year. It ends with tears in June begging everyone, even that boy you only spoke to in Spanish class, to sign your yearbook because you will miss them so much.

With this in mind, I can’t help but realize I’ve already begun the trend of looking back on past memories I’ve accumulated in high school with a sense of content, despite praying for the end of high school consistently along the way. One’s high school experience, I’ve realized, isn’t captured in the final touchdown of the big game or the last call to finish bubbling your test answers, but instead is found in the moments that cluster between larger events. These tiny memories that seemed insignificant at the time helped shape so many memories I will cherish long after my time at SRHS has ended.

Ally Russell, SRHS Senior