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30 Things Only New York City Public School Kids Will Remember

Bust out that green MetroCard, "borrow" some more Jansport strings, and take a trip down memory lane.

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1. You secretly enjoyed filling out Delaney cards at the beginning of each year/semester because it meant 15 minutes of not having to do actual work.

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And you always had that one quirky teacher who asked you to add something totally weird to yours — like your favorite flower or board game.

3. The days of your youth are filled with memories of stair cages and bars over the windows.

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Weird, but you never really thought twice about it until you realized schools on TV/in the movies had open, bar-less windows and staircases sans a weird cage around them.

In fact, the entire building was pretty decrepit. I'm talking to you, great asbestos scare of the mid-'90s.

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Come to think of it, it was amazing you were ever able to foster a sense of childlike wonder and overall happiness, actually.


8. School lunch choices were a motley assortment of meals you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy.

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Cheese in the middle of a fish disk, washed down with 70-degree chocolate milk, anyone? Spotting the elusive pepperoni pizza or Jamaican beef patty was like hitting the jackpot.


11. And there were never enough lefty desks.


Sucked to be left-handed you — the dearth of lefty-accommodating desks throughout your public school education probably shaved two years off the back end of your life.

12. You either totally looked forward to (nerd!) or totally dreaded (underachiever!) the annual storytelling contest.


(FYI, one of these BuzzFeeders may or may not have made it to the district championships in third grade. NBD.)

14. SING!

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Even the non-theater nerds looked forward to it.


15. You had the best school trips a kid could ask for.

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The Museum of Natural History (dinosaurs and ^the Hayden Planetarium!), the Empire State Building, Ellis Island, the Met, the Hall of Science (giant bubbles!), the Statue of Liberty (though flashbacks of climbing those stairs still traumatize you to this day)...

17. Applying for high schools consumed 90% of your life circa age 13.


Reading through that giant book was equal parts terrifying, exciting, and utterly confusing. What do you MEAN this school will only accept me if I have it down as my No. 1??!?

...which also included studying for specialized tests (shout-out to Stuy!) and the TACHS test for Catholic high schools.

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Other kids were playing tag and frolicking through the park without a care while we were studying for 12738921 tests and playing Tetris with public high school choices 1 through 10.


20. Your social status was defined exclusively by the number and variety of strings on your bookbag.


The majority of which were borrowed (aka stolen) from your less-cool peers. Bonus points for putting a lighter to your multicolored string to split it into a couple different strings. Mad hard body.

21. The principal had to explicitly forbid grinding at your school dances.


Which left you confused as to how, exactly, you should move your body to music — so you just ended up grinding anyway. (What, were we supposed to waltz to dancehall reggae?)


22. Getting from one class to another was a serious mission.

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Six floors + no elevator + massive, slow-moving crowds + taking the long route to "accidentally" bump into your crush + realizing the book you needed for class was still in your locker/cubbyhole three floors below = 15–20 minutes.

24. You became immune to witnessing/hearing about fights after school...

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...if by immune you mean YOU RAN TO EACH FIGHT WITH DELIGHT. Two mean girls fighting? Basically Ali vs. Frazier every single time. [Ed. note: We do not condone acts of physical violence as a means by which to settle an issue. It was simply a part of our childhoods, and we didn't know any better.]


26. Your school had "drug-free", like, elementary school.


Thank you, New York City school system, for instilling in me a curiosity about what exactly "drugs" were by the time I was 8 years old — and why they were something you shouldn't be bringing to dances in the third grade?

27. You cut school — but it wasn't always so easy.

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It involved devising a plan so your parents never heard the NYC Board of Education "your child was not at school today" message on your machine. Or if you left early during the school day, this meant knowing which train station didn't have a police officer waiting to catch your truant ass.

30. Your friends were from every cultural and religious background under the sun.

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Which is a pretty amazing thing. (Especially because you learned how to curse/say gross things in a million different languages by the time you were 15.)