By Natalie Pan ’23
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to attend a public high school? As someone who left the Brookline public school system after fifth grade, I am curious about what my life would have looked like at Brookline High School (BHS), which many of my friends attend. Thus, on Friday, October 28, I shadowed BHS senior Anya Rao—who is, among many other things, an editor-in-chief of BHS’ student newspaper The Sagamore—to compare my Winsor experience and her BHS experience.
BHS has a student body of around 2,000, with about 500 students in each grade. The school has an open campus, meaning that students have classes in many different buildings and are also able to travel to different parts of Brookline due to the school’s close proximity to the T. As a result, students are allowed seven minutes of passing time between classes.
Typically, Rao starts the day at 5:45 a.m. in the pool—she is a competitive swimmer who trains with a club year-round. Fortunately for me, a terrible swimmer and late riser, she did not have swim practice that day. As a result, I met up with her at 7:30 a.m. for her first class: String Orchestra. Fun fact: Rao and I both play the cello!
The conductor Ms. Bishop started rehearsal with rhythm practice, scales with bowing patterns, and a review of musical terms—exercises that Winsor’s US Orchestra does as well! The group is currently working on the piece “Souvenir de Porto Rico, Op. 31” by Louis Gottschalk. They received “instant feedback” when Ms. Bishop recorded a run-through of the piece, played the recording for everyone to hear, and then gave each section time to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses.
The next class was Yoga. Let’s just say that my outfit did not allow for the most flexibility, but I still had a lot of fun trying to follow along with the poses. The instructor Ms. Grindstaff emphasized that “yoga is a journey in self-exploration.” The class executed a variety of stretches and core and balance exercises amid the comforting ambiance of darkness and soft music. It was a nice preface to Rao’s academic classes.
The highlight of my day was attending Rao’s newspaper meeting. Unlike The Banner, The Sagamore is both a class and a club; only students who take Journalism are able to join the newspaper. Rao explained, “Class time is usually discussions, lessons, and then time to work on stuff. The bulk of actual work for the paper happens at home and at production. We have production once a month for 4-5 days, and we’re at school from 3:00 p.m. to anywhere from 9:00 to 11:30 p.m. on those days.” The Sagamore, funded solely by advertising and subscriptions, is published monthly in print and updated daily online.
The meeting kicked off with a “seven-minute pitch” in which writers suggested article ideas to pod editors while the editors-in-chief checked in with their advisors and supervised. This system is similar to The Banner’s article brainstorms. I had the pleasure of meeting News Editor Jamie, a senior who “runs the school” in his spare time. He kindly walked me through the process of how editors prioritize articles (spoiler alert: they choose the ones most relevant to the community) and showed me how to publish an article on their website. I learned from him that each article must include a minimum of three interviews. I also spoke with staff writer and sophomore Anna; it is her first year on The Sagamore staff. She told me that she has tried writing for every pod and enjoys learning from the older students.
After The Sagamore meeting, I accompanied Rao and her friends to Tappan Green, a student-run restaurant next to the cafeteria, for a quick snack. Students who take culinary classes at BHS have the opportunity to work in the restaurant.
Rao’s English class is currently reading Hamlet, which reminded me of Winsor’s Shakespeare curriculum. Four students briefly presented on the English Renaissance to provide context for the play’s social dynamics. The students then split up into small groups to discuss the infamous “Nunnery Scene.” One student commented, “I think your interpretation of this scene really depends on if you see a nunnery as a convent or a brothel.” Toward the end, the class watched two different enactments of this scene. One was Kenneth Branagh’s 1996 movie, and the other was the Royal Shakespeare Company’s all-black cast play. With both productions, the teacher Mr. Sedlack wanted students to use the actors’ body language to gain clarity on the dialogue. The class only had 14 students, which Rao explained was very small at BHS. Most of her classes have around 30 students.
The end of class was very eventful. First, when asked what he would be dressing up as for Halloween, Mr. Sedlack replied jokingly, “Someone with self-respect.” Then, I, unsuspecting and innocent prey, was convinced to scan a Spotify barcode off of a student’s sweatshirt. I have to admit that I was “Rickrolled,” taken directly to the song “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley.
I attempted to visit Tappan Green at lunch; however, I foolishly did not anticipate how long the line would be. Nevertheless, I was able to see my friend Tommy hard at work in the kitchen and chat with some students who had ordered their food. Afterward, I made my way back to the Journalism classroom where Rao and a few classmates were holding a working lunch to study for their AP Human Geography test. I did homework in this room before meeting up with Rao for AP Spanish.
AP Spanish was exciting from the beginning. A few students dressed up in Halloween costumes explained their choices in Spanish; most notably, Charlie, who dressed up as San José (Saint Joseph), and Ian, who dressed up as “Cómo se dice… hunter?” Students sat at five tables and discussed the theme of diverse representation in their school curriculum. Señora Marta then brought everyone back together for a whole-class discussion. It was nice to be able to practice my Spanish skills and learn about some of BHS’ extracurriculars; in particular, one of my group members, Rohan, is the leader of the Critical Music Review club, which you can check out on Instagram @bhscriticalmusicclub. Unfortunately, I had to part ways with Rao before her last class of the day. However, I had so much fun shadowing her, and I thank her and the rest of The Sagamore for welcoming me to BHS! If you would like to learn more about BHS from a student perspective, check out The Sagamore at https://thesagonline.com/.
Anya Rao’s Schedule
|7:30 am – 8:14 am||String Orchestra|
|8:30 am – 9:15 am||Yoga|
|9:22 am – 10:17 am||Journalism II Honors (The Sagamore Meeting)|
|10:24 am – 11:19 am||British Literature and Beyond Honors|
|11:22 am – 11:49 am||Lunch|
|11:56 am – 12:51 pm||AP Human Geography|
|12:58 pm – 1:53 pm||AP Spanish Language and Culture|
|2:00 pm – 2:55 pm||AP US Government and Politics|
Editors presenting during The Sagamore meeting.
The student who bamboozled me.
Brookline High School’s main building.
Charlie as San José.
The line for Tappan Green during lunch.
Example of lunch purchased at Tappan Green.