03 June, 2016

American School English

I hear it time and time again—starting at CAJ is a culture shock for those who've not experienced an American school system. Even for families where the parents are American but the kids have never been to school in America find CAJ a bit foreign. But there are many in the CAJ community who have little or no experience of the American education system. If I'd had a cheat-sheet of the below words when we started, I'm sure that that would have helped me out tremendously.

Freshman = 9th grader
Sophomore = 10th grader
Junior = 11th grader
Senior = 12th grader (at least we have this in Australia)

Varsity = top sporting team (A team)
Junior varsity  = second top sporting team (B team)

Concessions = a food-stall like a temporary tuckshop, usually found at sporting events

Spirit week = relates to school spirit. Spirit weeks/days at CAJ have involved people dressing up as various things (like "twins" or a book character) or wearing crazy hair or socks or sporting team wear
Pep rallies = another term related to school spirit, but usually more associated with school sporting events.

Lock in = a sleep-over at school, but not many people sleep.

Culminating events = varying assessment and events that come at the end of a term/semester/school year. I quite like this phrase. It includes serious things like exams, assignments, presentations, and performances as well as parties, concerts etc.

Commencement ceremony = Graduation. This event takes the cake with quirky terms like valedictorian (top academic performer), salutatorian (second top academic performer), invocation (I still don't know what this is), diploma (high school qualification you work towards throughout high school and receive at graduation) etc. See here.

Bake sale = usually a fundraiser involving food people have baked

Student council = do Australian schools have these? In American schools it looks like a political campaign, with pre-electoral self-promotion of the candidates and voting for offices like President, Secretary, Vice President, Treasurer.

Lettering/letterman = an award given for a certain level of sporting (and, at CAJ, musical/academic) achievement in an inter school environment. See here for more details: 

National Honor Society = this one I don't really get, especially as we're not in the nation of the US and many of us aren't US citizens. But it seems to be an "all rounder" kind of award: good academic achievement is required as well as noble character and public service. What I know comes from here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Honor_Society

Packets = this is a CAJ word, not an American word, as far as I know. But it really annoys me. At CAJ it can mean a booklet of stapled together pages as well as a bunch of unconnected pages in a plastic or paper packet.

Back to School Day = I'm not sure if this is an American term or not, but it was a surprise to me. It is an open day at school near the beginning of the school year, but a rather directed one where information about school is imparted to parents.

Oh and then there are the academic terms you encounter in high school, AP, SAT, PSAT etc. (these are in the school handbook). Read about some of them here.

There are probably others that I can't remember, do you want to add some? 

But as you can see, coming into this system from another culture that doesn't have any of the above terms is rather a culture shock.

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