My character, Juliet, is very concerned about changing her sixth grade reputation. And if I was somebody who was known for ruining school dances, vomiting during assemblies and being incapable of completing the school cheer, I’d be concerned about changing my middle school reputation, too!
My sixth grade experience was completely different from Juliet’s, though. I based John Jay Jr. High (aka Triple J) on the public junior high that my little sister went to. She had a pretty large sixth grade class, who mostly followed her up through eighth grade and into the high school. I went to a parochial school, and we stayed with our homeroom teacher for most of the day. Like Juliet, I wasn’t the most popular girl in sixth grade, but unlike Juliet, my class had only twelve people in it. So if Hot Tickets were introduced in my class, it’d probably take less than a recess period to figure out who was handing them out!
To be honest, my little class of twelve caused a lot of trouble. I was pretty quiet in sixth grade, but if the whole class was throwing their spelling books on top of the closet or declaring an impromptu ‘health class,’ then I joined in, too. I didn’t get sent to the principal’s office nearly as much as Juliet does, but we had many classroom… incidents. Here’s one of my tamer stories from sixth grade:
Our school had a lab for the science classes, which was also at one point the art room. (When it was the art room, and our former art teacher had a headache, we were told to draw our shoe. I happen to be an excellent drawer of Sketchers brown oxfords. We then got a new art teacher, who did all sorts of great things – none of which involved our feet.)
Anyway, one day there was a cage with a live rabbit in the science lab. The girl’s room was right next to the lab, and I happened to take a peek into it on the way to the bathroom.
The rabbit was not in the cage.
I put my nose up to the door’s window. The rabbit was loose, and there were droppings everywhere. On the long wooden tables, on the floor, on the wet sink — it looked like someone took a ten pound bag of brown M&Ms and shot them out of a cannon in the middle of the room.
I ran back to the classroom, threw open the door and announced, “There’s a rabbit loose in the lab!” Immediately, eleven hysterical sixth graders went rushing out of the classroom.
Our teacher was shouting, “Sit down! Just leave it alone!”
“But it’s pooping everywhere!” I replied.
“It’s going to get hurt!” one of my classmates said, as they left the classroom.
We gathered around the lab door, and after the class had spent a sufficient period of time gawking at the rabbit, the janitor was called to catch it. We eventually shuffled back to the classroom, though nobody ever explained why there was a rabbit in the lab to begin with.
Over the course of our junior high career, our janitor would also be called to clean up a dead bird (not our doing), wipe the baking soda from the lab-room-floor-turned-slip-n-slide (that was us) and figure out what, exactly, was causing that disgusting smell in the coat closet. (It turned out to be a whole carton of eggs, which had clearly gone bad months before. I think there may have also been a bad grapefruit.)
In a major clean-up, we also discovered a ten-year-old jar of chicken fat, which was dumped down the girl’s bathroom sink. (A word to the wise – should you discover a jar of old chicken fat and decide to dump it down the sink, there will be a smell so foul, so raunchy, so indescribably stomach-turning, that you still will not be able to think about it without going a little green fifteen or so years later. Also, that room will become uninhabitable for the next three days.)
I would tell you more about my sixth grade experience, but I’m trying to protect the innocent… and not-so-innocent. Besides, who knows what part I’ll use of it in the next book!
This post was originally featured on The O.W.L., where you can also find a review of Hot Ticket.