5 Things I Learned in High School that I actually HAVE used later

So, in preface, I went to an IB highschool, which was fun and also kind of a lot of work. On the plus side, the English classes were probably more rigorous than every English class I took at Rice except one: Literature and the Environment, senior year. I distinctly remember thinking, “Wow, I haven’t worked this hard at writing a paper/reading a book for class since high school.” On the downside, 2:1 girl to guy ratio so, you know, so few guys that I never, ever had a date, but enough guys that I could still feel like it was 100% my fault.1. Here are five things that I learned in high school that have actually come up again later in life:

1. Math
Yes, it is one of my life regrets that I took higher level IB math instead of higher level IB French in high school. I would have aced that French exam, or at least failed less embarrassingly than in math. “Oh well,” 18-year-old Patricia thought. “It’s not like I’ll ever really need this again.” WRONG. Not only did 20-year-old-Patricia decide that Math 101 would be a great, easy way to get some D3 credit out of the way (it was), but grad school Patricia finally got a job because she was a double threat of English AND Math tutoring skillz. Also, the research methods class I’m in now is like made of statistics, or is trying to be. Maybe it’s just because no one’s awake that early in the morning, but a lot of us don’t seem up to the questionable challenge. The professor has had to remind us that y=mx+b multiple times so far and a lot of times just tells us how to get the stat pack to spit out numbers and says “… and don’t worry about how this happened.” I assume the rumors I’ve heard about this exam being hard are because all of the English BAs in this library program have forgotten what a square root is.

It looks like this, just fyi.

2. Grammar Rules
My senior year I had an English teacher who was obsessive about grammar. Every time we turned in our 4 essays on whatever book (“journals” as they were called, but that makes it sound fun and reflective when it wasn’t), she would mark all of our grammar mistakes with a highlighter and a system of abbreviations of her own devising. Then we would have to correct all of them and turn them in again, a process that seemed way more laborious while doing it than it takes to describe. My first journal corrections (don’t ask me why I saved these), I had 19 (mostly dangling modifiers). By the end I was only getting one or two (mostly word choice), so clearly I was improving. And, yes, I can see the appeal of being able to write mistake-free, but what’s the point of obeying some of these more obscure grammar rules that my supervisors won’t know about or follow? See above about the tutoring job; I’m pretty sure half the reason I got it was using the words “dangling modifier” in an appropriate way.

3. ITGS: Information Technology in a Global Society
So everyone in IB has to take a Sixth Subject. Lots of people with previous talent took things like IB Art, IB Theater, or IB Music. Those of us with no real skills to speak of took ITGS: Information Technology in a Global Society. It sounds like it’s going to be about computers or something, right? Well, sort of. We didn’t actually do any programming or anything–although there was an awesome semester senior year where we just learned a lot of Microsoft Office skillz–but mostly we read newspaper articles about how technology is rapidly changing the world we live in. There was probably more to it than that. The only thing I remember with any certainty–besides the Microsoft Office interlude–is once writing an extensive report on RFID tags in the livestock industry. And something about robotics. What a great way to learn nothing and get IB credit, right? And then I got to library science grad school. Where pretty much all we do is have debates about: “TECHNOLOGY! Is it the end of the library?” (the answer is no, but some of my professors think it might be the end of them). Also, there was this one course where we made websites, plus learned about Microsoft Office. My life has suddenly become ITGS in every class, especially since a lot of libraries are using RFID tags to keep track of books. If only I had saved that paper.

4. The Vaguer your job description, the better
This one is more a life lesson I learned by example than something someone was trying to teach me. Junior year, everyone had to take this class called TOK, or Theory of Knowledge. There’s even a song about it. The point of the class was to teach you: 1) that nothing you know is true because you can never really KNOW anything. What does it mean to “know” something anyway? 2) some philosophy, 3) how to debate without facts. At the end we all had to write a big paper about topics like “Is science or art more objective or subjective? Which is better and why?” and reference things like how the perception of color is all in your head. Basically, like the SAT Writing but five times longer. Because the class had the vaguest description possible and arguably anything could be considered philosophy or enriching us in some way, the teacher pretty much just did whatever he wanted. Here are some things I remember talking about/doing in that class: 1) reports on different figures in Greek mythology, 2) watching a nun tell us what art is sexually frustrated, 3) debating random issues like abortion and censorship, 4) watching an opera of Othello, 5) listening to the teacher tell us random stories about his life, most of which were lies, 6) listening to classical music, 7) watching a bunch of films featuring interviews with Stephen Hawking. Mr. Walsh, this teacher, clearly had life figured out. While the other IB teachers were bound by pretty strict standards, he could be like “Eh, I feel like watching Donald in Mathmagic Land today” or “Today I will pretend that I used to be an electrician at Wal Mart/a librarian at the New York Public Library/a space invader” and that’s what we would do. I remember really wishing that that were my job, and now it almost is. After all, as a librarian I could be asked ANY question (e.g. “What’s the funniest book on the Titanic?”, “what is this thing on my neck?” etc.) so really almost ANYTHING I could be doing/reading/watching is like research for some future unanswered question.

5. The main export of Portugal is cork
You’d be surprised how often it comes up


  • 1Actually, more recent evidence proves that it probably was still 100% my fault; one of my high school friends recently told me that she was “so shocked” when she heard I was engaged because “we all thought you were asexual”. Honest mistake; I’m clearly only attracted to people who look like pirates and/or silent movie villains, neither of which thick on the ground at my high school.
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