My day at Homestead HS
Each year, the Interdistrict Council (IDC) representatives from across the five Fremont Union High School District high schools plan IDC Exchanges during which students from one high school shadow studentS at another. It usually takes place on a special Friday, special meaning some event is happening that day. For many schools, it’s the day they have a rally. For my visit to Homestead HS, it was the week of Battle of the Classes (BOTC).
When I first heard of the opportunity during my freshman year, I was indifferent. Sure, I could skip a day of a school and see what another school’s rally looks like (though I was confident it would be nothing compared to the spirited and glorious purple and gold clashes at MVHS). But there was nothing else that really inclined me to want to participate in the exchange.
During my senior year, however, I made a promise to myself that I would try things that I wouldn’t get to try ever again. I participated in Challenge Day for the first time, initially indifferent to the idea, but I left with no regrets — maybe a few tears. I continued to try new things such as attending a club meeting other than for El Estoque. And when I attended one MV Cinema Club meeting, I’d met a small group of students who’d share the same interest in movies as I did, a small group of students whom I’d probably had never met otherwise.
It was clear to me that during my final year at MVHS, it couldn’t hurt to participate in an exchange, and so I did — but still indifferent about whether I’d enjoy it or not.
I arrived early, hoping to sneak into the cafeteria where I’d meet with my host without having to cross paths with strangers. The cafeteria highly resembled the one at MVHS — buffet style leading into a large paned room like the Student Union. I was greeted by fellow MVHS students participating in the exchange and two HHS representatives. They served six types of bagels and three types of juice. I appreciated their effort to make the shadows feel welcome.
I met my shadow, senior Akhil Sanka, whom I had met through other MVHS students. Due to the borders that determine the high school based on the student’s address, he was sent to HHS as opposed to MVHS or Cupertino HS.
Based on the schedule of HHS, I would only be attending two block periods that Friday: AP Physics C and AP Spanish. Initially I was scared of sitting in either of these classes. I had only taken my first year of advanced placement physics, and I had spent the last five years taking french.
Entering the physics classroom, I was drawn to a large wall-hanging pocket storage in which students one by one slipped their phones into after checking their last texts and turning their phones to airplane mode. No such thing existed at MVHS.
A tall middle-aged man with a short scruffy beard and a vest stood up from his chair, nonchalantly but kindly greeting the class. The period’s agenda was projected, along with the lesson. The pocket storage and the detail within the agenda was enough to say that he was strict but enthusiastic about physics. And his interactions with students proved no less.
After directing the class to start the lab, he frequently pranced around, table to table making sure each and every student was involved in the lab. He made small talk with those who had dressed up for the rally, and asked about their week so far.
I’d undoubtedly heard the common notion at MVHS that only few teachers try to develop interpersonal relationships with their students, and only few that are passionate about teaching.
The AP Spanish teacher surpassed my expectations of an enthusiastic teacher. I didn’t need to understand the language to tell that he was beyond happy to be teaching that day, and that he wanted every student to participate and enjoy his class. He started out the period with a discussion, summoning the hands of students who nearly talked over each other.
This was not the case in my own language class at MVHS. I deeply appreciated and continue to appreciate my AP French teacher for her efforts to engage the class. Even in the earliest class of the day, she’s always on her feet, often telling a story from her last hiking or skiing trip. She admitted she didn’t want to “torture” us for giving a test, but that it was necessary. Occasionally, she showed us photos from her own trips to places we were studying.
I drew similarities between my teacher and the one at HHS, but the reaction of the students was starkly different. At MVHS, it took a few tries to get a student to raise their hand. In my eyes, only a handful of students truly immersed themselves in the culture and language being taught.
The HHS teacher started the next activity, a typical exercise in a language class. He projected scenarios to which the students needed to respond to. One example directed students to describe what they would tell their friend to take on their upcoming trip to a spanish-speaking country. A student near me took the liberty to translate for me.
After reading a packet on the Mexican-American War, the teacher projected Picasso’s Guinera, a large famous painting, I learned, with a multitude of different elements. The teacher sectioned off the painting into rectangles and assigned each student, including myself, a rectangle to draw. As they drew, the teacher took song requests to play for the rest of the period. Students danced in their seats, sang loudly and didn’t hesitate to request for more songs.
As I mentioned before, I took high pride in the rallies we held at MVHS. For hours after school every day the week of the rally, leadership created the massive, colorful and creative backdrops for each class. They lined the bottom of the gym floor with black tarps. They come to school before 7 a.m. to create 20-foot long balloon arches for each of the four classes. When we entered the gym, I was always in awe at the effort put into decorating the gym.
There was less time put into the backdrops at the HHS rally, and there was hardly any other decoration in the room. But the sounds of cheers in the low-ceiling gym were greater than any sound I’d heard at an MVHS rally.
A sea of seniors swarmed onto the floor of the gym. The seniors’ color was green, also the main color of the school. Rally gamers (there were about twenty of them, boys and girls) dressed all the same: dark vans, black socks, black shorts, a camo shirt and a green bandana tied around their heads. They applied green face paint on each other. Just before the start of the rally, the gamers huddled in a large crowd.
Despite the uninteresting decorations, the games of the HHS rally were unlike any at and MVHS one. Each class had its own team of gamers who remained at the front of their class, cheering, yelling for each activity and each performance.
The games themselves were more creative, engaging for the audience and didn’t involve complicated rules, like many at MVHS. My favorite was a relay which students stood in a line bent over holding the waist of the person in front of them with their legs spread out. The person at the back of this line needed to lay on their back and use the legs of the people above them to climb their way across the line from under their legs. Once they got out from the other side, they joined the chain of students as the next person in the back climbed their way underneath the gamers.
Powderpuff also took place during the week of BOTC. With Powderpuff came dances from the boys of each class. From experience, I knew that the choreography for dances at MVHS needed to be thoroughly cleared by administration and ASB. This applied for all dances, including Homecoming routines.
The lyrics of songs also needed to be checked. In sophomore year, the song “Break a Sweat” by Becky G was removed from the routine due to its hidden, but not explicitly stated, references to sexual intercourse. The same year, the line “everybody gets high sometimes” from Justin Bieber’s “Cold Water” was altered after administration heard the song.
And so it came as a shock when I heard the song “Bust Down Thotiana” during the joint junior and senior boys’ dance at the HHS rally. The dance also included twerking, crotch thrusts and “drop it lows” (a provocative move involving facing away and bending your knees with your hands up). With every one of these moves, the cheers of the crowd grew louder and louder, but it seemed like a norm. At the end of the routine, the two dance groups created a mosh pit at the center of the gym as they sang “I got hoes” from the hit song “Mo Bamba” by Shek Wes. A teacher then had to come into the scene and forcefully pushed the boys off the spotlight.
I analyzed the situation and considered what would have happened if a dance group had done this at MVHS. Many situations popped into my head. Administration would have a talk with the leadership students. The principal would send out an email about “proper” rally and dance behavior. And El Estoque would then write a story that would later get misinterpreted by parents and various media outlets.