Adam Avitable's mundane moments

My first day of high school: The International Baccalaureate Program

(Originally posted on 8/25/2009. Revised and republished.)

I’m very smart. I may not always exhibit the best common sense, and my emotional maturity level is that of a 19-year old, but when it comes to observing, learning, and applying what I’ve learned, I excel.

I don’t say this to brag. It’s just necessary information for this story.

So. It’s 1989.

There I was, this smart-ass brilliant 12-year old kid, a year younger than everyone else in 8th grade (I would have been two years younger if my parents hadn’t been too damn afraid to put me in kindergarten at 3), discussing high school with my mother. See, there was this brand new, two-year old program at Spruce Creek High School in Port Orange, four towns over, called the International Baccalaureate program. The Daytona Beach News-Journal, a bastion for terrible reporting and subjective journalism at its worst, had published an article about it, and even though it was part of a huge public school, you had to apply to get into the program itself. I don’t remember what scores they needed – PSAT probably – but attendance was quite limited. It had a different focus on learning than any other program, and unlike AP, it required a full commitment – you couldn’t pick and choose classes if you wanted to get your IB diploma – the diploma that would typically allow you to skip a full semester worth of credits in college.

I was hesitant to attend. Change will always terrify me. My mother, always the influencer and decision maker from the shadows, encouraged me to follow an existing student for a day and see what I thought.

I loved it.

Adam Avitable wearing ridiculous clothes as a teenager
Every time I see this photo, I yell “NERD!” at myself.


My 13th birthday passed, summer started to turn to autumn, and my first day of school in the International Baccalaureate program approached. My bus assignment memorized, I was ready to be on the corner of Knollwood Estates Drive and Hidden Hills Drive at 5:45 AM. (As I was coming from almost 20 miles away, that school district had set up a special bussing system that would pick up kids from all over the various towns at ungodly hours and get them to school by the first class at 7:27 AM).

I stood there, shivering in the August heat. With the exception of a short-lived stint in seventh grade that ended with two bullies, a beating, my ass, and the ground, I had never been to a public school before. This was a huge transition from the security blanket of my private school, with only 11 people in my 8th grade class, people I had been with since first grade. My backpack weighing almost as much as I did, I put my Walkman headphones in, Weird Al blasting loudly, and waited for my bus.

“This will be awesome,” I halfheartedly told myself. “I can’t wait for some of these classes!” Yes, I’m well aware of the extreme level of geekiness in that sentiment. Here’s another tidbit of nerdliciousness for you to chew on. I used to sit at lunch with my friends and we would see who could correctly identify the highest number of elements in the periodical table in order. We would try to stump each other with calculus. I am geek, hear me roar.

In my head, I painted tapestries of grandeur. Our bus would probably have a special banner on the side, declaring our status as the International Baccalaureate kids. We would descend in full view of the student population as a hush went over the crowd. “Those are the smart kids,” someone would whisper while others nodded, trying to bask in our vast intelligence. The teachers would note our eager shining faces and the administrators would know that we were the good kids. The seniors would be impressed by our collective rising star. We would rule this place through intellect alone.

Class of 94 Spruce Creek High School IB
This picture contains a teacher, an engineer, a government official, a doctor, an entrepreneur, and a comedian


I was finally ready. Bring on the first day of school.

In the still of the morning, I heard the hum of a diesel engine over the chords of “Dare to be Stupid”. “This is it,” I straightened my shoulders and awaited my destiny.

As the bus rounded the corner, I knew something had to be wrong. Something had to be horribly, horribly wrong. Was this fate or God or just someone in the school district with a terrible sense of humor?

This was no ordinary bus. But there was no banner – there was no proclamation that there were geniuses on board. Before me was the short bus. A literal short bus. Replete with wheelchair ramp and handicapped symbols, normally used to transport the mentally disadvantaged and physically disabled, my chariot awaited.

The door squealed open. “Yer one of them smart kids, right?” The driver’s voice broke through the dark interior. I heard the sarcasm as it dripped from every inflection.

“Any recognition is better than none,” I thought to myself and boarded with a sigh.

109 thoughts on “My first day of high school: The International Baccalaureate Program”

  1. I have the ability to retain enormous amounts of information as well.

    But it generally of the ultra-useless variety. Comic book issues, movie quotes, one-hit wonders. Stuff like that.

    I’m the guy that you call when you hear “Spirit in the Sky” and you wanna know who sang it.

    “Norman Greenbaum”, I’ll reply. Then I’ll tell them that Doctor & the Medics did a version in the 80’s as well and it sounds just like the original. Then my friend on the other end of the line usually hangs up. Some people don’t appreciate that kind of thing.

    What were you saying?

  2. I come from a long line of nerds. My kids have been in their school’s IB program so I’m very familiar with it. My high school did not have it available way back when because I’m a virtual dinosaur within the blogging community. Instead I became very bored and became a delinquent. Knowing many of the IB kids … the short bus seems totally appropriate. Intellectually gifted but socially inept … Not you, of course. Or me. But all the other nerds ….

      1. @Avitable, me too. That was why I always thrived at “nerd camp” – Duke’s summer programs for gifted kids. Surrounded by other equally-awkward, comparably-nerdy kids, I found my kindred spirits. Being around smart people at college and in grad school was sometimes comparably rewarding.

        That periodic table game sounds like fun!

  3. I wasnt clever enough to be a nerd and I wasnt cool. I think I was ….a geek? I revelled in my ability to be contrary and not care. My friends were books. I got over it! Now my confidence is such that I am actually cool even if I have to say so myself.

  4. For starters, you are completely obnoxious, inappropriate and egotistical all the time….no need to backtrack. Then again, if you weren’t that way, I wouldn’t read.

    With that being said (::wink::), we had programs like that in my school district – except our school budget wasn’t large enough to have a little bus for the smart kids, so they blended us with everyone else, reserving the little bus for the special ed kids. We just went out on more trips than anyone else (i.e. Germany, London and NYC….).

    By the way, I learned to read when I was 2…so I beat you by 6 months. Ha!! It makes me feel a little giddy inside, I can’t help it. 🙂

  5. Wow, you really embraced your smartypants geek, didn’t you? I was really smart (wait, still am!) too however my school didn’t douche it up and call it a Baccalaureate program…we just had GATE and AP Classes. Ahem anyway, I managed to remain cool throughout high school and never let anyone know just how braniac-like I was.

    Of course, I may have belted out the periodic table of elements once while getting tapped from behind by half of the football team. 😉

    1. @Hilly, we had AP, too. IB was just a different type, where it was a “you’re in or you’re out” program and you took all IB classes or you took none. The curriculum was pretty intense for some of those classes, too. I didn’t mind not being cool, though. 🙂

  6. I was in the AP program and honestly, it was not that hard. I think I’d have loved a school like yours!
    But your story – ever bit of it, explains a lot about you. Especially the short bus!
    Hahahahaha – seriously – that is funny!
    And it only makes me like you more. GAH I am a sucker. 🙂

      1. Remember when he gave you a bad conduct grade and I had to go see him. He stated that you were always correcting him. I asked him if you were disrespectful when you corrected him and he said no. He said it was embarrassing. I believe I told him that sounded like a personal problem . He amended your conduct grade. And BTW where did you get those pants? You had to have purchased those yourself. Mom

  7. OMG Avitable, I should have suspected. I graduated in 1993 from the IB program at Atlantic High School in Delray Beach, Florida. Your post brings back so many memories…..

    The funny thing about my high school is that the IB program was a magnet program. Our school was on lock down all day with security at the gates, a police officer and drug dog roaming the school and gansters gathering at the gas station across the street starting at 2:00 pm. Now that was an adventure for a bunch of geeks!

          1. @Avitable, I know we didn’t go to the same school, but maybe Carla did?

            I’m actually surprised we *didn’t* go to the same school because I remember multiple drug arrests! I was afraid to go into the lunch room alone!

  8. I *HEART* geeks. I am psych major who works in higher ed but come from a long line of doctors, lawyers and aerospace engineers, but they let me eat at the adult table at family gatherings despite my obvious mediocrity.

  9. the early morning wake-up for the bus ride was the worst. I always got B’s in 1st period because my brain simply couldn’t function that early. Really, there was no one trained in child psychology on staff – a guidance counselor, anything – that could have said in the planning meeting “wait…this means they have to get up at 5:30 am, no way!”??? To this day, this busiest I ever was in my life was in High School. Up at 4:30, class until 2:00, sports practice or club meetings until 5:00, work from 7:00 – 10:30, homework until 1:00. Lather, rinse, repeat. The overloaded schedule taught me more about being successful in life than anything I learned in the IB classes.

  10. I think it’s nice the way that the adults tried to shelter you from the knowledge of your condition. I’m sure every short bus driver was taught to call his little flock of ‘tards “the smart kids”. But you’re a big retard now and its time to stop kidding yourself. :p

  11. I mean I knew you were a geek but I thought you were more of a Star Wars kind of geek not a smart geek, you just got a lot more attractive. But then I learned last night that I would sleep with Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory so obviously I find Asbergers sexy.

  12. That was hilarious.

    I was 11 for a couple of months while in 8th grade. Yes, just at the peak of puberty for most kids, I was a pimple-faced, skinny, bespectacled, bucktoothed 11 year old geek with no boobs in sight (still waiting, sadly). Not pretty.

    My kids are in the Junior IB program, and the local high school also has IB. So should we run? Just kidding, you are brilliant.

    1. @Karen MEG, it feels (at least here) like the IB program lets anyone in now, so they don’t quite have the small classes and great education that they used to. Hopefully that’s not the case everywhere.


    Oh my God. This was so perfect. I am ROLLING here.

    And also?

    ‘”Any recognition is better than none,” I thought to myself and boarded with a sigh.’

    *sigh fucking sigh*


  14. And this post completely explains why Adam Avitable and I were not better friends in high school. While some of us basked in the geekfest, others of us sought to distance ourselves from the sad periodic table spouting kids in the recesses of the cafeteria… oh, who are you kidding, you ate lunch in the AV room, didn’t you?

    Plus? You left out the part where the earth shook and the heavens opened up and you sept like a newborn child because you got to meet the coolest person on the planet.

    Yes, ME, you fucker.

    1. who are you kidding, you ate lunch in the AV room, didn’t you?

      Hey, nothing wrong with that! Actually, we ate in the satellite class room, because several of my friends took Japanese in there (via satellite/phone-in).

  15. I used to sit at lunch with my friends and we would see who could correctly identify the highest number of elements in the periodical table in order. We would try to stump each other with calculus. I am geek, hear me roar.

    You weren’t a geek.

    You were a nerd.

    Who rode the short bus.

    Somehow… it doesn’t surprise me.

  16. I’m giggling about the periodic table trivia game. I memorized the periodic table in seventh grade to keep myself from falling asleep in the most boring class ever created. Sometimes it sucks being the smart kid in public school.

  17. I read your blog and don’t usually comment, but I had to after reading this entry. I, too, went to Creek, but I wasn’t in IB. I did the AP and Honors thing, but wasn’t motivated enough to do IB. I was too interested in boys! 😛

    How did the rest of your 1st day go?

          1. @Avitable, I knew there was good in you. Thanks for sharing. Perhaps if we’re still trapped in this ‘hood in 2 years (God forbid), we’ll send her there. It’d be nice to NOT spend $20k/year on private school.

  18. I’m quite impressed. I have a friend that teaches IB and get to hear her stories sometimes.

    No smarty pants here. Just your average cheerleader, who preferred socializing and football games to studying. Kinda explains a lot, come to think of it.

  19. I remember the IB program. I was just one of those normal GT kids. Still, it was pretty intense. Every time I ran into a group of kids from IB it was like the Jets versus the Sharks. Instead of switch blades we had protractors. They always thought they were ‘soooo smart’… Bastards….no offense.

      1. @Avitable,
        I’m going to concede to this now, because if it’s something I’ve learned in the past – it’s that persistence, peskiness, and straight up douche-baggry are some of the fundamental assets in being an IB kid… “ohhhhh when you’re a Jet you’re a Jet all the way…” 😉

  20. The short bus? Really?

    3000 wpm is amazing, I wish I could read and retain like that – that is amazing. I love to read, but am not that quick.

    And we memorized the periodic table, because our teacher was more interested in watching the Gulf War than teaching, so that was one of our tests – a blank table. 1 point per element – the next year after her husband came home she was one of the strictest teachers, would have loved to have her that year, they did some awesome experiments.

  21. I read this on my phone the other day while waiting (forever) at the doctor’s office. You should write more about your younger, nerdy self. I had similar problems as a kid. I mean, I didn’t get skipped up or anything, because we pretty much decided not to after they sent me to a fifth grade reading class when I was in third grade. It was so intimidating, being a smart little kid surrounded by all of those bigger kids. As much as I don’t like to admit it, because I used to get teased so badly as a kid, I do love learning.

    (All of that to say, “write more about the IB Program!” Heh.)

  22. And the geek shall inherit the earth.

    My 6 year old, on the way to the beach yesterday was singing Yoda…and followed it up by singing the star wars song by Weird Al. The looks she was getting were hysterical. She’s a full on geek.

    We encourage geekiness in this house. Sounds like you were a really smart kid. I’m glad that you had the opportunity to explore it. I loved learning, once I got out of the house and was away from certain elements, I was able to concentrate and discovered that I was actually quite smart. I wish though that I had discovered these powers earlier and had been more career oriented.

  23. Haha. When we were in the “gifted” program at Campbell, for a while we took the short bus too. It stopped at Hillcrest. I remember there was this really cute little Down Syndrome kid named Ryan who would always yell, “RAILROOOOOOOOOOOOOAD!” whenever the busdriver stopped and opened the door at the railroad tracks. Good times.

  24. i clearly wasn’t in any ib program because it took me way too long to realize this post was from 2009. fuck. (i was shocked…shocked i say!…when i saw some of the people who commented!!)

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