High School English Class According to Teen Movies

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Tirzah Price

Senior Contributing Editor

Most of Tirzah Price's life decisions have been motivated by a desire to read as many books as humanly possible. Tirzah holds an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and has worked as an independent bookseller and librarian. She’s also the author of the Jane Austen Murder Mysteries, published by HarperTeen, and Bibliologist at TBR: Tailored Book Recommendations. Follow her on Twitter @TirzahPrice.

Welcome to high school. It will either be the best or worst time of your life. You will either fall in with the perfect group of friends or find yourself sitting alone under the bleachers at lunch — there is no in between. Someone will inevitably push you into a locker and you will probably cry in the bathroom at least once. Gossip will travel at the speed of light, and the only thing worse than getting your heart broken by your crush will be never getting your heart broken by your crush. If you play your cards right, you’ll end up meeting your best friend in the entire world and landing an invite to the hottest party of the year before eventually taking a limo to prom.

Oh, and you’ll definitely have to take an English class.

English class will be the best class in your entire schedule. You’ll be assigned books by Truman Capote and Ernest Hemingway, and you’ll read Shakespeare and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. You will be asked your opinions about complex themes that relate to the book, and your English teacher, despite being well intentioned, will assume you don’t know as much as you actually do.

Your teacher will meander through their classroom, ruminating on metaphor and symbolism while students pay rapt attention. They will strut between rows of desks, telling you about the historical context of The Scarlet Letter. They will never need to use PowerPoint, because they know how to command the attention of 30 high schoolers by rapping about classic literature and poetry, with alarming frequency and varying skill levels. They will call on students, and ask them their opinions about the readings, making sure to always call on the clueless or disinterested ones first. This will annoy you, because you will be vibrating in your seat, begging to be called on so you can deliver the correct answer. Inevitably, you will have to interrupt your teacher in order to be heard. The quiet kid in the corner that no one notices or thinks much of will speak up with truth bombs that will spark a debate.

Your English teacher loves fostering debates. 

Your English teacher will egg on students who disagree so that they argue about genre, intent, and impact…and then step in just when things get heated. They will dish it out as quickly as students serve it up, and everyone will laugh when the English teacher swears or loses their patience, which they will do often because they are not paid enough for this shit. Your English teacher will send you to the guidance counselor for questioning the curriculum because you’re pissing them off, and they will order you to the principal’s office for calling a mean girl a twat…but later they’ll apologize for it. The mean girl was being a twat.

Everyone will agree that high school classes should assign more James Baldwin.

English class readings will eerily coincide with life lessons you’re meant to be learning outside of the classroom. You and your classmates will take assignments very literally and use what you learn from the readings to get a whole new wardrobe, plaster yourself with a scarlet letter, write a poem to confess your love to a crush, or vent friendship frustrations. Your English teacher will watch this unfold with varying levels of concern, but you will lie if your teacher asks you if you want to talk about. Your English teacher will understand. They were young once, too.

Your English teacher will encourage you to go to college. They will arrange for you to interview at Dartmouth. You will compare your crossword puzzle time records before class. Even if you pretend not to have read the assigned books, your English teacher will always know you did. On the last day of school they will give you their phone number and say, “Call or text me if you ever need anything.” If they see you sitting alone on the Ferris wheel, they’ll step in and save you from embarrassment. Your English teacher will be everyone’s favorite teacher. They will win teacher of the year awards, and get invited to party with the cool kids. Your teacher will respond to these invitations with a sphinx-like smile. Later, when you text your English teacher, they will come through.

Because English teachers are the best teachers.

With thanks to 10 Things I Hate About You, Easy A, Save the Last Dance, Booksmart, and Never Been Kissed for the guidance on what to expect.