Insider's Guide to High School The Tattoo

It’s not what you know, kid, it’s all about who you know

BRISTOL, Connecticut, U.S.A. — Face front, new recruits — you’re on the front lines of secondary education now. If you want to survive, memorize these contacts — useful people you will meet along the way — and, when you’ve finished, eat this article.


1) SECRETARIES: Secretaries have been more useful to me in my high school career than any teacher or administrator.

These women are, almost without exception, friendly, accommodating, and very well-connected people. If you need something — a name, a number, a transcript, a stapler — they can get it for you. They know, hear and see everything.

If you treat them kindly, show them you’re an all right person and just struggling to get through your day, they’ll more than likely help you along or point the right way when you’re in a jam.

2) LIBRARIANS: You’d be surprised at how useful the school library’s going to be.

Sure, it’s the computer age, you can do all your research from home — well, think again. Inevitably, you will find yourself in the library, under the command of a teacher who wants to make sure you’re not leaving it all for the last night (admit it — you would ).

Do you know how to use PowerPoint? To operate the school’s ZAP ME! Computers? You probably shouldn’t have to, but there will be a teacher who requires it. When this happens, the librarian is going to be your best friend.

3) CUSTODIANS: Like secretaries, custodians are resourceful, generally outgoing people with thankless jobs. They’re also a lot more powerful than you give them credit for.

Think about it — they know where everything is, they have every key, have access to every supply, and they spend most of their days just cleaning things up and taking things in. They’re wellsprings of knowledge and ability — and usually pretty interesting people, too.

4) TECH WING/BUSINESS TEACHERS: As you become more familiar with the state of technology in our schools, you’ll realize three things:

a) There’s not a lot of it.
b) It’s not always the best or most advanced equipment around.
c) It doesn’t always work the way it should. Or at all.

Business teachers generally know what’s working and what isn’t, and have access to the good stuff. Tech teachers have all the best equipment as the drafting courses are taught there.

If you’re not taking one of their courses, make it a point to meet them anyway — they’ll save your life more than once before you graduate.

5) CAFETERIA PERSONNEL: Another underrated, under-appreciated job mostly by kind, patient people — they’d have to be — they put up with hundreds of hungry pubescent goons throughout four lunch waves every day.

Do right by them (no stealing, swearing, making a mess or generally being difficult) and they’ll make sure you get by with everything you need as quickly as possible in a situation (THE LUNCH CRUNCH) that is utter chaos no matter how you look at it.

6) PEOPLE WITH WALKIE-TALKIES: Like the cell phone among the student population, the walkie-talkie is a sort of functional status symbol among the staff.

People with walkie-talkies have them because they’ve been deemed important enough to call when things need to be done or important enough to hear about those things being done.

A good tip: to avoid being stopped and questioned by walkie-talkie people in the hallway, make direct eye contact, smile, maybe even wave. Chances are, even if you have something to hide, they won’t question you if you don’t look like trouble.

High school is war and war is hell. These people are your comrades in arms — you watch their backs, they’ll watch yours. Make them enemies and, if you graduate, you’ll be limping up to receive your diploma full of shrapnel, the ringing in your ears drowning out “Pomp and Circumstance.”

Joe Wilbur is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.

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