There was a group of us from my 6th grade class who attended JHS 44. I loved the idea of going there since it was diagonally across the street from the American Museum of Natural History. Yet, in the two years I attended, I never once visited the museum after school which HAD been my plan.
Although the school had a good reputation for education, once we were there, we learned that was not true in all subject areas. History and math both had good teachers and we learned a lot. I wrote my first research paper in 7th grade about Crete (and it has fascinated me ever since). In math, we started algebra in earnest (I realized the little I’d learned in 2nd/3rd grades was a “start”, nothing more) in 8th grade.
Science was the “internal combustion engine” in 8th grade - the teacher gave the city syllabus to a different student each day to copy onto the chalkboard - the other students spent the entire period copying from the board. I wish I could say how a car worked, but the engineers have changed the engine so much in the past 45 years…
In English we didn’t fare much better. One of the teachers taught us from an ancient essay book. Her favorite (trotted out each time there was an observation) was “Coping with the Complement”. I remember the title, but not much more…
Although I’d received a smattering of Spanish language learning in elementary school, we studied French in junior high. This was the era of the Audio-Lingual Method (ALM). We memorized dialogues and were graded on how well we recited them back. (I still remember the first one and the bulk of the second one.) I developed a good French accent, but don’t really think I learned very much. Another language learning method was the substitution drill - the sentence was recited, then the part being learned was changed. Je n’aime pas les _____________. The teacher went around the room student by student… friends, pens, movies, books… then when she got to me “boys”. The entire class laughed since it was well known I was boy crazy and to have to say, “I don’t love boys” even in French, for a lesson, was silly to the extreme.
Gym was a few times a week, and we often had dancing for physical education. I liked the folk dancing a lot since I’d been learning it outside school at Sunday school and a place downtown on 15th Street on Saturday nights and I was familiar with it.
When we started in junior high school, we understood that it would be for three years. We were stunned when towards the end of 8th grade we were told we’d be going to high school the next year!! Gone were the plans for a “big” graduation and “prom”. We had to scurry to find high schools.
I tried out (took the test) for Bronx Science High School (the brother of one of my classmates attended and showed us how to get there). I didn’t pass the test. I lived halfway between two high schools, so my mother visited both of them to see which one she liked better. One was about 3 miles uptown, the other 3 miles downtown. The uptown school was an older building and rather large (she found it more impersonal); the downtown building was brand new, and she found it more to her liking. The high school was SO overcrowded that the 9th graders went to the “annex” - the old and LARGE (6 storeys) building.