With schools across the metro starting back up this week, I find myself reminiscing about my days as an Oklahoma public school student. Though the textbooks probably haven’t changed much since my time, I’m sure a lot else has. So, here are 11 things I remember from my time as an Oklahoma public school kid.
1. Borderline unsafe playground equipment
As if our playground equipment wasn’t dangerous enough being primarily made of splintering wood, rusted screws, and metal bars that sizzled to the touch thanks to the Oklahoma sun, schools graciously dumped and scattered a few tons of gravel and rocks across the playground to break our fall if we got a little too wild on the monkey bars or swing set.
2. Riding the bus home to no adult supervision
I remember as a 12-year-old being dropped off about a block away from my home with 6-8 other children, who also walked home to empty houses. The best part was that as the eldest neighborhood kid on the bus route, all the other parents made me the point-of-contact if their kids needed help or supervision of any kind. But don’t worry. We may have had a few head injuries due to helmets not being a thing or scorched mouths from Totino’s pizza rolls, but nobody actually died.
3. NRA Eddie the Eagle videos
Maybe it was because schools knew we kids had no adult supervision between the hours of 3:30 and 6:00 every day, but it seems like nearly every Oklahoma public school-educated person I know remembers being shown the Eddie the Eagle gun safety videos. I don’t know which is scarier: how many of us were left unsupervised during the day or how many of our houses schools assumed had loaded guns just laying around. Granted this is Oklahoma, so the schools probably assumed right.
4. One day per week computer access
With some Oklahoma schools issuing students personal tablets or even laptops, kids these days will never know the excitement of waiting for the one day per week the whole class got to go to the computer lab. Subsequently, kids these days will never know the thrill of using the “bomb” in Kids Pix to destroy the crudely drawn penis you created before the computer lab teacher made her way to your row.
5. The AV kit
The happiest day in the life of the Oklahoma elementary school student was when the squeaky AV cart was rolled into the classroom. Except that one time they made all the boys leave the classroom and we had to watch a circa 1982 grainy VHS tape about our changing bodies. That day sucked.
6. Pizza Hut Book It Program
Some of my proudest moments as an elementary school kid was when my mom would take me to Pizza Hut so I could cash in on my free Book It pizza. A popular program back in the days of having to request to sit in the non-smoking section of a restaurant, Pizza Hut’s Book It was an incentive system in which students were rewarded with little metallic stickers by their teachers for every book that they read. Once we got 12 stickers on our card, Ms. What’s-her-face would trade us for a coupon for a free, one-topping, personal pan Pizza Hut pizza. This unfortunately stopped once a kid left the 6th grade. Being that half of our state’s adults can’t read beyond a 7th grade reading level, I’m starting to think this program probably should’ve been extended into high school.
7. Being cussed out by teachers
Whether it was because everyone gave the substitute teacher fake names or no one had memorized the marching band music, back in the day Oklahoma public school teachers were not above cussing out a classroom full of students. I don’t know if it “toughened” me up or anything like that, but it definitely improved my vocabulary from a young age.
8. Going to lunch at Braum’s
Nothing made you feel more grown up and mature than the first day of high school when you were allowed to load up in the vehicle of the one friend who had their driver’s license with 5 other 15-year-olds and ride to Braums for an off-campus lunch. Though there was nothing grown up or mature about a gaggle of teenagers riding in the bed of a speeding pickup truck on their way to eating nothing but milkshakes and fries for a meal.
9. Abstinence only sex ed
Oklahoma public schools are known for often providing abstinence-only sex ed. I came away with two nuggets of knowledge from this experience. 1. Abstinence prevents pregnancy, STDs, and hell. 2. No high school kid gives a shit.
10. The entire town going to football games
As a part of the marching band, I was required to attend every home football game lest I be cussed out by my band director (see blurb #7) and dropped a letter grade. But even if I had not chosen to put on a cape and plumed hat, odds are I still would’ve been at the stadium during home games like every other citizen of Elk City. But for us kids, it was about more than watching our padded peers get their asses handed to them by Weatherford. Football games were about socializing with friends, being creeped out by seeing teachers in public, and eating 3 servings of fake cheese nachos before our bodies actually started storing fat.
Bonus: A great childhood
We may not have had the technology, playground equipment or adult supervision kids these days enjoy, but that didn’t stop me and my ragtag group of friends from making great memories as Oklahoma public school kids.
Hayley survived public school. Follow her on twitter @squirrellygeek