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High school then and now...


I graduated from high school in 2004, nearly twenty years ago now. A lot has changed in the world and in education since then and I thought it would be neat if I pointed out some of the main changes that have taken place since I went to high school and am now teaching high school in 2020. Below is my comprehensive list. Can you think of any other major changes?


1) We never would have been able to go remote in 2004.


In the early 2000s, we still used floppy discs. That's right, floppy discs. We still used bulky desktop PCs and Internet use was dial-up. Cloud computing was not even a thing anyone could dream of yet and no districts that I knew of were 'one to one.' Snow days were snow days, not e-learning days. If school was canceled for any reason, it meant a day off.


2) Parent and student communication in 2004 was in the form of a written letter or phone call.


To think that just sixteen years ago we were without the ability to send text messages via a Remind App or post on Google Classroom is incredible. If teachers or admin needed to tell students something of importance, a letter usually went home, or a Robocall was made. Robocalls and letters are still used, but they are used in conjunction now with many types of e-communications.


3) There were no SMART boards.


Chalkboards and blackboards were still the standard in classrooms. I didn't see my first SMART board until teaching school in 2009. Now every class has them. The coolest technology that came with chalkboards was colored chalk. I used to hate it when the chalk dwindled down to almost nothing or when it made that screeching noise on the board.


4) Zero tolerance policies were the standard discipline measures in 2004.


Back then, all discipline issues were treated the same. If a student swore in class, for example, there was one given consequence for that student no matter what. Today, there are social restorative practices that call on a wide variety of discipline issues. Students are disciplined in a variety of ways and depending on how the event transpired.


5) AP classes have expanded greatly by 2020.


In 2004, only a select number of students took AP. There was one class for AP US, one for AP Lit, one for Econ, etc. Today, there are several for each subject and more students are included in them. We call this EOS, or Equal Opportunity Schools, where more students are able to take the course to be challenged in the AP curriculum.


6) The grading system was different in 2004.


Today, grades are going to less 'punitive' measures. Grading is moving away from giving students zeros for not turning in assignments and instead, gives them a 50% on all assignments for their lowest score. Standard-based grading is seeping into schools where letter grades are being replaced with grades like "Needs Improvement," "Excellent," etc. Back then, it was the opposite. Letter grades reigned and if you did not turn in something, it was a zero. It also was not uncommon for students to not be able to make up assignments in 2004 just because they failed them, unlike today.


7) Students did not have cellphones yet in 2004.


Cellphones were out, but most high school students did not have them. Social media was in its infancy and this greatly impacted the learning environment back then. If students wanted to communicate with one another behind a teacher's back, they wrote notes to each other. Today, cellphone bans are instituted to keep students' focus front and center. Parents and guardians also frequently text students during class just to check up on them.


8) There were no school shooter drills in 2004.


The only mass school shooting we still knew of back then was Columbine. We talked about it at length in junior high, but mass and school shootings were kind of on the quiet side from 2000-2004 (from what I remember anyway). Today, we go through school shooting drills yearly in reaction to the vast majority of school shootings since then.


9) There were no surprise bag checks at the door in 2004.


This follows the no school shooter drills. There wasn't as much of the fear of students bringing a weapon to class since mass shootings weren't a thing yet. Now we need to conduct random bag checks just in case someone decides to do something rash. Also, students wearing ID's did not come into play until after 9/11.


10) There wasn't the focus on diversity in the classroom like there is today.


Following the George Floyd incident this year and the years that followed 2004, more of a push has been made to read diverse and LGBTQ texts. It has become school districts' goals to embrace diversity. Then it was not as much of a highlight in the classroom. It's just the way it was. It's amazing how much the world changed in just sixteen short years.


There you have it. Those are the main changes I remember from when I graduated until now. I wonder what the next twenty years have in store. I'm sure education will look nothing like it does today, but as the world changes, education needs to adapt with it. In the end though, the goal is the same: empower students for a better tomorrow.




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