An Inside Look At What REALLY Goes On In High School

January 4, 2018 in Parenting,Teenagers

UHS_20170504_0922*This post is sponsored by A+E Networks and “Grown and Flown”

My two older dudes have collectively been in three different high schools, so I feel pretty experienced at being a high school mom. One of the schools was an all-boys Catholic high school with very strict, rigid rules. Another school was our local public school, which is quite large and fairly diverse. The third school is a small, private co-ed boarding school in northeastern, Connecticut where Middle Dude is currently a student. All schools are quite different from one another and yet, they all have the common denominator of teenagers navigating the culture of that particular school.

My boys experienced their share of what I felt was “typical” high school angst: Who should I eat lunch with? Why did so-and-so say that about me? How come that teacher gave me a bad grade?

As a stay-at-home mom, I was always around after school to hear about their day and be a sounding board for any issues that came up with friends or teachers. I felt involved, not just because I was physically present, but also because my dudes were and still are, very open with me…or so I believed.

Maybe it’s cell phones, or technology or social media or our generation of (over)-involved parenting or all of the above, but I think parents today have an inflated sense of being connected and aware of what our kids are up to, even when they are away from us for 7+ hours a day at school and other activities. For me, I’ve always prided myself on having open relationships with all three of my boys, even bragging at times that they “tell me everything.”

But, do they really?

Maybe our kids have become so skilled at publicly displaying their “highlight reel” on social media that they can do the same for mom and dad. Maybe we aren’t getting the full picture after all…

What if we had the access to really see what happens during the day at high school? I’m not talking about tracking our kids on their phones or asking for feedback from teachers and guidance counselors. What if we had reliable sources who essentially went undercover, posing as high school students, in order to expose what today’s high schoolers are encountering on a daily basis?

As it turns out, a high school in Topeka, Kansas did just that with seven young adults who voluntarily went undercover to reveal what life is truly like for teens in high school today. This social experiment was filmed by A&E networks over the course of a semester at the very diverse Highland Park High School. Only a few top administrators were aware of this experiment. None of the teachers knew who their “new students” really were. The interesting part of this project was that each of the young adults who went undercover had the personal motivation to go back to high school and try to effect positive change. One undercover student had been a victim of bullying, another was a teen mom and one had actually been the bully herself. Each one of them had the desire to befriend real students, participate in clubs and activities and try to change the culture of the school for the better.

I was fortunate to be able to watch an advance screening of this series and it drew me in immediately. The first episode focused on four of the seven undercover students and their initial assimilation into the school. What came across loud and clear right from the start is that these young adults have not been out of high school for that long and yet, so much has changed in such a short time. One undercover student was barely able to follow the conversation at the lunch table, as it seemed to jump from topic to topic at a rapid-fire, jumbled rate. I wondered if today’s high schoolers are so used to obtaining their information in quick, concise chunks that perhaps their dialogue mimics a similar rhythm.

Another undercover operative experienced sexual harassment via social media within days of her arrival at the school. The comments and texts went from inappropriate to downright scary. And yet another operative witnessed students using their phones during class and ignoring the teachers who attempted to stop their distracting behavior. He was disheartened by the lack of discipline for such blatant disrespect.

Although I only watched the first episode, the series goes on to address other teenage issues including gang violence, drug abuse and cyber bullying. If you have a child in high school or approaching high school, you will not want to miss this. Tune in on Tuesday, January 9th at 10pm ET/PT on A&E to watch “Undercover High.” For more information and a quick view at the trailer, click HERE.


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Donna Naquin January 4, 2018 at 2:07 pm

Emily, As a retired high school teacher, I am interested in this series. I retired in 2013 after 25 years in the classroom. I suspect that the culture has changed in just this short period of time. I began my career in 1976, so I witnessed first-hand the evolution of teenagers…both in the classroom (like your sons, at public and parochial schools) and in raising 2 daughters. I saw the damage created by what the series covers… gang violence, drug abuse, cyber bullying, homelessness, poverty….I could go on. It is encouraging that attention is being paid to such important issues. Thanks for sharing.


ohboymom January 5, 2018 at 1:59 pm

Thanks Donna — I hope you’ll try and watch it because I’d love to hear what you think of the series and what it has exposed in this particular high school.


Kristi Campbell January 5, 2018 at 1:21 am

Wow. I’m not sure I’m ready for this but I so so so want to know because it’s sooner than later that my little boy (who is already pretty big) will be in high school. Thank you for this. I’ll definitely watch.
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ohboymom January 5, 2018 at 2:00 pm

I know what you mean because even as a mom to high schoolers, I wanted to know what goes on “behind the scenes” but I also didn’t want to know! I’ll be curious to hear what you think if you’re able to watch the series.


Janine Huldie January 5, 2018 at 3:10 pm

OK, I am definitely going to have to try to watch this. I have been out of high school myself over 20+ years. But I did teach in high school briefly my first year of teaching. But again this was a while ago and before I had my own kids. High school definitely can be a challenge even on the best of days from my own memory. Still even though my kids are on the young side, I know sooner or later they will be in high school themselves. So, I am may need a refresher and this show sounds like the perfect way to get it. So, thanks Emily for sharing and will definitely try to find it to watch now.
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ohboymom January 5, 2018 at 7:45 pm

I hope you’re able to watch it, especially since you once taught in high school. I would love to hear your thoughts too!


Christine Carter January 5, 2018 at 8:12 pm

OH wow Emily, I am definitely going to tape this. It sounds fascinating and well, terrifying too- as you know my girl just started high school and my boy is on the way. I too, pride myself on having open and trusting relationships with my kids too, and yet I do wonder as I read your post if they are sharing everything. It’s natural for them not to, but what I worry about is the bad stuff- the sexual harassment, or bullying, or drug pushing etc. Sigh…

It’s overwhelming.

I am really anxious to watch this series. Do you think it would be a good idea to watch it with my kids? I’d really like to.

Thank you so much for telling us about this! I’m going to share it on my page tomorrow.


ohboymom January 6, 2018 at 9:07 am

So glad you’re planning to tape/watch it…I would watch the first episode first and then decide if you want to watch the entire series with your kids. I do think it could be a great way to open and continue a dialogue about the many issues that today’s high school students face. Thanks for sharing this too!


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