Cougar Time

cougarHigh School Report 2

The average school day supposedly looks like this:

There are seven periods of 50 minutes each. The first one begins at 8:00 a.m. and the last one ends at 15:40 p.m.  Apparently the students have no homework, because they walk empty-handed to and from school. (They don’t bring lunch either, because that’s provided by the school.) Between each period the students have ten minutes to get to the next class. For most students this is more than enough, since the whole school is not more than 300 feet long, consisting of a hallway with classrooms on both sides. The students in Band come late for every next period, because they have to come from the other end of the grounds. Lunch is from 12:20 to 13:00 p.m.

So far everything seems pretty normal, right? But at 8:55 the nonsense begins. After the first period there is Cougar Time. The cougar is the school mascot. Cougar Time is spent, among other things, on the Pledge of Allegiance, which pours out of the speakers in all the classrooms, the hallway, and the library. All teachers and students rise as one, facing the flag, with their right hand on their heart, and say the pledge. “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” For some reason the emphasis is mostly placed on the least important words.

After the pledge, a student usually reads the announcements over the same speakers. These are often announcements that are only relevant for a few students. In Holland they would be written on a notice board at the entrance. When the principal does the announcements, he usually adds a ten-minute speech about the dress code or the fact that there are still students arriving late for class. (Well, why would they hurry? They’re not missing anything.) If there was a football game, a basketball game, a volleyball game or a track and field event the day before, he spends another five minutes mentioning all the students who scored points, always emphasizing that these are the kind of things the school can be proud of. Like most principals here, M. is a former coach, and he always goes on about how important team work is. In practically every announcement he mentions that we’re a team, and he uses football analogies to indicate how educational matters should be handled. (On the window of the front office there’s a poster, the first thing you see when you enter the school. It says: “There’s no I in TEAM”. So on the window of the library I also have a poster: “No-one else is quite like me”.)

After announcements comes DEAR. Drop Everything And Read. Whatever’s left of Cougar Time after M. is done, is spent reading, in theory anyway. The idea is that the students should read more, and should enjoy reading more, so that there’s a bigger chance that they’ll pass the TAAS test. The teacher must read as well, to set the example. The message is that reading is great, but how great it is when you have to stop after ten minutes, I don’t know. I get the impression that it’s ten minutes of goofing off. So after all this, the second period starts at 9:40 a.m.

(From a letter in 1996)

The next post in this series is about the various subjects taught at this high school.

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