In this essay, I will explain what the high school schools in the United States are like and compare them to high schools in Spain. Through these differences between these two systems, I hope everyone will learn more about the American education system and the culture and customs that shape it.
Think about a typical day in a Spanish high school. The students walk to school if they live close or they are picked up by a coach bus if they are coming from a different town. School begins around eight thirty and all of the students go to their home room. The teachers wander to each of their classes, ready to teach math, science, social studies, English, French, etc. There are six, fifty minute classes in one day and two twenty minute recesses. During the recesses, snacks and drinks are sold in the cafeteria and students can play games outside. Football (Soccer) is always a favorite to play during the breaks. The school has a large range of ages between students. There are students anywhere from age twelve to nineteen or twenty. At the end of the day, the students walk back to their homes or get on buses to go to their towns. Once they arrive at home, the students eat lunch with their families.
In an American high school, the system is organized a bit differently. I attended Belleville High School in southern Wisconsin. Yellow school buses bring the students, who cannot drive yet, to the school. The buses pick up the students at the end of their driveways or in central locations around the town, since towns in the United States are more spread out. Students who have their driver’s license can drive to school and park in the student parking lot. The teachers have a separate parking lot, so they do not have to park next to the students. Class starts at eight o’clock in the morning and the students usually arrive a little early to put homework and books away in their lockers before class. The lockers have combinations that only the student knows and the locker is theirs for all four years of high school. Every morning, they grab the materials they need for the first class and are in their classes before the second bell rings to start class. Between classes, students can go back to their lockers to put books away and grab new ones. Teachers in the United States have home rooms and the students move around to the different classes. Each classroom has decorations that have to do with the subject taught in them. For example, the Spanish classroom has a Mexican hat and posters with vocabulary.
A typical class schedule, at least at my high school, consisted of four ninety-minute classes. The classes do not change from day to day as they do at the high schools here in Spain, although there are other high schools that change classes during the week. An example of a schedule would be:
8:00-9:30 Algebra II
Break for 20 minutes
Lunch from 11:20-12:00
12:00-1:30 United States History
Break for 20 minutes
1:50-3:15 Band for the first half and choir for the second half
This schedule varied depending on the student and the courses the individual decided to take. There are requirements at Belleville High School that need to be met for graduation and it is necessary to take them in a certain order. Some of the classes are electives, or in other words, the students can choose these classes. The electives are necessary for graduation, but the student can choose from a variety of classes. Some of the classes that I took as electives are: third and fourth year Spanish, jewelry making, advanced English, and advanced United States History. There were a few classes that prepared the student to take an exam to receive college credits and test out of classes in college. After sophomore year, or second year at high school, the student can begin to choose these electives. The schedule was also based on a quarter system, therefore the classes changed every seven weeks. Most of the classes lasted two quarters or a semester, but once the two quarters were over, all of the classes changed again. Foreign languages are only required for two years, and Spanish and French are usually offered. At Belleville High School, Spanish and German are offered. German is offered because many Germans settled and live in Wisconsin.
High schools in the United States only include four years of students. In order from first year to last year the years are named: Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior. There is another school called junior high school, which they attend after they leave elementary school. The students are usually between ages twelve and fourteen at this school. Once the students finish their two years at junior high school, they begin high school around the age of fourteen or fifteen.
The students eat lunch in the school and can either bring a “cold lunch”, food from home, or eat the “hot lunch”, the food served in the cafeteria everyday. The meals are quite substantial and are affordable for the students. At breaks food is also served. Anything from pizza to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are served during the breaks.
Grading systems in the United States are different as well. In Spain, the grades (marks) are between 0 and 10, but in the US it is between 0 and 100. In the US we also use the letters A-F, in which an A is excellent, C is average, and D/F is failing. Here is an example of how the numbers coincide with the letters:
F 59 and below is failing
Since these numbers are much different than the grades in Spain, here is a translation for what the grades mean in the Spanish grading system:
American system Spanish system
A- 9 B+ 8-9 B 8 B- 7-8 C+ 7 C 6 C- 4-5 D+/D 2-3 F 0-1
There are many after school activities. Most of the activities are sports such as soccer (football), basketball, American football, cheerleading, volleyball, baseball/softball, and track and field. Some of the larger schools have hockey teams and swimming teams. There are also other after school activities for students who do not particularly like sports or want to have another activity besides the sport they play. In my high school, the students could participate in musicals, chess club, and volunteer programs. For example, I played on the soccer team, was a cheerleader for American football and acted in musicals. I also worked at a movie theater (cinema) during the entire school year, starting at sixteen, while I attended high school.
I hope this gives everyone a good idea about the school systems in the United States. Although classes, schedules, structure, and extracurricular activities vary from school to school, they differ in many aspects from the schools in Spain.