While the trudge up to room 243 for the last forty-five minute chunk of the school day is no stranger to Communication Arts Program (CAP) students in Kevin Shindel's eighth period research class, a gang of less than twenty kids, the hall is abuzz on this Tuesday. Shindel stands outside as the final bell rings, to motion groups of stragglers into the room. Inside, the desks are arranged in a wide square. The tables sit in the middle. The room is crawling with students from every year and every dynamic. The class has visitors.
Cuando Elissa Fischel, estudiante del duodécimo grado, entró el primer día de la escuela en el amplio y extendido edificio de la escuela secundario, era obvio que ella resaltaba en un mar de estudiantes. Siempre que ella caminaba por los largos pasillos, los estudiantes se paraban y la miraban fijamente. Fischel no tenía una señal pegada en su espalda ni nada parecido; ella era distinta porque era estadounidense, una extranjera en Brasil.
For senior Danielle Tarr, every day at school is a trip around the world and a mouthful of dialects. She is greeted first period with "Assalam alaikum," fourth period with "Hello," sixth period with "Konichiwa" and seventh period with "Salve." Tarr takes four different language classes – Arabic, English, Japanese and AP Latin – two of which, Arabic and Japanese, are being offered for the first time this year.
Sweeping across the stage, she recalls the first time she met Arthur Miller - the playwright responsible for "The Crucible" - and the way she was ignored for the likes of Winona Ryder and Daniel Day-Lewis. But at the read-through for the 1996 movie version of the renowned play, she summoned her annoyance from her earlier dismissal to deliver a spitfire, passionate rendition of Tituba opposite Miller himself, who decided to read the part of Reverend Parris. Later that day, Miller visited her trailer, proclaiming, "Oh my god, you are Tituba!" In her trademark feisty manner, she simply replied, "No, I'm Charlayne Woodard."
The bus stops, and the scrambling starts. Forty-eight students file out with one thing on their minds – money – and, of course, not getting lost amidst thousands of bargain hunters crowding the messy streets of New York City's wholesale district. Four and half hours later, the students will be back on the bus, their wallets a little lighter, and the negotiations will begin.
En todo el mundo, hay muchas maneras en que se puede decir "hola," pero probablemente les sorprendería aprender que hay muchas maneras diferentes de decirla en Blair mismo. Los hispanohablantes dicen "Hola," mientras personas que hablan francés dicen "Bonjour." Hawaianos dicen "Aloha," que también significa adiós. Mucha gente dice, "Kelou," que es un saludo igbo, o "labas," que es lituano. En la lengua yoruba, hay 15 maneras de decir "hola."
In real life, freshman Eric Ruggieri may not actually have 509 friends. But one aspect of his Facebook page rings true – he doesn't want his Shetland sheepdog to be used as live shark bait. Below his "Top Friends" list appears a small box labeled "Causes," where the group "Stop using live dogs for shark bait" shows Ruggieri's avid support for animal rights.
It's a weekday in the SAC and the whole room is abuzz with excited chatter. Several crude but enthusiastic posters, the spitting image of Spirit Week propaganda, are slung across the backs of chairs. People file in slowly and sit with their friends and acquaintances, but this isn't a typical lunch period — this motley crew of excited constituents, all hailing from the fourth voting district in Prince George's and Montgomery counties, are here at Blair to hear a debate between the candidates for the Democratic nomination to Congress for the upcoming Congressional election.
The rules are simple – one weekend, one crew and one final film production. At 7 p.m. on Friday Oct. 19, a crew of 13 Blazers and 1 student from Kennedy High School embarked on the race to create a film in 72 hours for the National Film Challenge.
Like bugs to a light, a swarm of girls gather around a bonfire nibbling on pizza and roasting s'mores. Giggles and guitar melodies combine with smoke swirling through the air as they zip up their jackets against the brisk fall breeze. Engulfed by the relaxing warmth and glow of the orange blaze, these seven girls decided to spend their Saturday together instead of attending Blair's annual homecoming dance.
So maybe the little old lady who hands out quarters instead of Halloween candy gave you an odd look last year when you arrived at her door with a trio of pals scrunched into your Disney Princess costumes from fifth grade. Perhaps you felt a flush of shame when that jerky pack of Power Rangers giggled at you from behind their little orange buckets of Junior Mints and Twizzlers. You know what they're all thinking: Aren't they a little old?
The lights dim and a fast, catchy beat slowly seeps out from the speakers, making the audience tap their feet. Eight girls dressed in intricate red and blue costumes stand posed on the stage with their backs turned to the audience. Slowly, two by two, they turn around with their waving arms in the air and start dancing to the rhythm of an energetic bhangra tune.
On a backstage door surrounded by electrical cords, screwdrivers and small power tools, a sign reads, "The stage crew does whatever it takes to ensure the success of the production." For stage crew director John Kaluta and his Blair students, this slogan is a way of life.
It was mid-August and Blair seemed empty, except for one solitary man striding down Blair Boulevard. Gazing up at the threshold of the main staircase leading toward the high turquoise ceiling, Darryl Williams stopped in his tracks. Everything was oversized, built to hold the diverse mix of students constituting the largest high school in the county, but without them crowding the halls, its vastness engulfed him. Williams was standing in the midst of the high school which was to become his new home.
The night before Blair's 2001 spring musical, "Guys and Dolls," technical education teacher and stage crew sponsor John Kaluta decided to leave the Blair Players forever. Sitting down to write an instructional letter to the incoming stage crew sponsor, James Distler, Kaluta attempted to ensure that he wasn't abandoning his crew to dedicate more time to sailing. After typing the last period and printing the letter, Kaluta looked down at the 14 pages sprawled across his desk and decided then that he had to write a book.
Ten years ago, downtown Silver Spring was a different city, home to many abandoned, run-down buildings. The once-charming Silver Theatre had lost its beautiful look, and there was neither turf nor Majestic Theater. The declining trend, which began in the sixties with the opening of Wheaton Plaza, seemed to have no end.
Within the realm of the new school dress code, Blazers may find it harder and harder to stay in vogue. A few fashion pioneers, however, have managed to break through the barriers and create fall styles of their own. Silver Chips Online has spotted and reported the hottest trends of the season from Rodeo Drive to Blair Boulevard to help the everyday Blazer dress to impress beyond the first week of school.
Last year, U-16 Washington Area Girls Soccer (WAGS) coach Ian Oliver presented his team, the D.C. Blast, with the opportunity to select a foreign locale to visit. Much to his surprise, the group of 14 to 16-year-old girls bypassed Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower for two weeks in South Africa, educating poverty-ridden girls their age about HIV and AIDS.
Suspended thirty feet in the air, muralist Stacy Ridgeway carefully paints the black outline of Montgomery Blair's nose while sporting a gray jumpsuit with a "Batman" symbol on the back. Near the main staircase down below rests a paint-splattered stereo playing jazz tunes. After putting on final touches, Ridgeway descends on a hydraulic machine lift and selects another, smaller paintbrush, and the front of his paint-covered jumpsuit is revealed to show a picture of Dora the Explorer. Ridgeway glances above him to admire the nearly finished portrait of Montgomery Blair. However, his work here is not yet done.
"It's like I'm an actress in front of an audience, so I need to know what the audience wants," says a smiling Maria Cuadrado-Corrales as she describes her teaching style. Cuadrado, a Spanish teacher in Blair's Foreign Language Department, has been teaching at Blair for three years but has taught in other schools for the past 15.
By seventh grade, she and her mom had decided. She was not going to be anybody's secretary. She was not going to be a waitress. And she was definitely not going to be a teacher. Yet Candace Thurman is currently finishing up her third year teaching at Blair after having taught for 23 years at Walter Johnson.
Michelle Roberts decided in high school that she wanted to teach music. Sitting at her desk, Roberts gives an amused yet somewhat cynical laugh as she recalls her band director's warning. Shaking her finger, Roberts does an animated imitation of her teacher. "You know it's a lot of work, but I'm telling you, it's a lot, a lot, a lot of work," Roberts says in a stern voice, before breaking down into laughter.
Staring down at her manicured hands, Biology and ESOL environmental science teacher Jenny Tanner reflects on a time when those same hands felt as if they were on fire after she ripped seeds out of poisonous peppers for a day.
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