Bras, bells and bathrooms


Caitlyn Lee

Castilleja vs. Public Schools

Going into high school, I had already formed a very distinct expectation of what high school would be like from my personal experiences at a public middle school (not to mention the influences of oh-so-realistic movies such as Mean Girls and Clueless).

So, as you may have guessed, my first day at Castilleja was an utter shock. Besides the obvious facts that 1. you need to pay (duh, it’s a private school) and 2. there are no guys (double duh, it’s an all-girls school), here are eight differences I discovered between Castilleja and public schools:

1. Size of the school
Castilleja’s campus is so small that I can pull-up to school at 8:28 a.m., sprint across the Circle, trip over my own two feet, face-plant into the ground, wobble back up, brush off the turf, race the remaining distance into the classroom, and still be in my seat a solid 10 seconds before class starts at 8:30. I’ll acknowledge that not everyone is skilled enough to complete such a feat, but regardless, the point is that Castilleja is tiny. To put it in perspective, at 6 acres large, Castilleja is 36 acres smaller than Gunn. For those non-mathematically-inclined people out there, this means that Castilleja is approximately 29 million Post-It notes smaller than Gunn. However, as a result of the small campus, Castilleja compensates with the number of stories in each building, which poses a flaw in my otherwise brilliant plan of showing-up-at-8:28-and-still-being-on-time-to-class. When I have Wellness first thing in the morning, my quad muscles fail to propel me up 42 steps in a mere two minutes. Would I face this problem if I were at a public school? If I were at Prospect High School, then no. According to one student, “everyone walks so slow they changed our passing period to 10 min.” A whole 10 minutes. What a luxury.

2. Uniforms
I have a confession to make: The most defiant thing that I’ve ever worn to school is a pair of patterned socks with sloths running on treadmills. Extremely inappropriate, I know. (I tend to save my infractions for the tardies I receive on the days where I have Wellness first period.) Now, when I asked a public school student the same question, she replied, “people wearing basically just… bras.” Bras, bras, bras. I received the same answer from students at many other public schools, to the point where a student told me, “At this point I can no longer be surprised by what someone wears to school.” Teachers apparently feel the same way. Ria Sharma ’25 from Los Gatos High School once texted me, “SOMEONE TOOK THEIR PANTS OFF. IN CLASS. AND JUST SAT THERE THE WHOLE PERIOD. IN THEIR UNDERWEAR.” The teacher didn’t care. If this had happened at Castilleja, I have a feeling that the teacher would have passed out from complete distress.

3. Trust
During my first test freshman year, my teacher just walked out of the classroom in the middle of the test. Do you know how many possible ways I could have cheated? Somehow, by having students sign their name on a line next to the statement “My name affirms my honor,” teachers believe they can trust students to not cheat on tests. Forgive me for my cynical point of view, but if someone was desperate enough to cheat, I’m not sure their honor would be the thing holding them back. At public schools, on the other hand, teachers show no mercy. Forget tests, they have so little trust in their students that some students have to carry a bathroom pass when they leave the room. Seriously? Bathroom passes?! The last time I had to use a physical bathroom pass was, I don’t know, kindergarten? Even worse, at Los Gatos, students who use the bathroom less frequently are rewarded with extra credit. This has gone overboard. Relieving one’s bladder is not a crime.

4. Bathrooms
Let me take you back to the first time I walked into the bathroom at Castilleja: I pushed open the door and BOOM! My eyes wide, mind blown. The bathroom was clean. No sinks were missing (re: TikTok ‘devious licks’ challenge). There was actually toilet paper in the stalls. It was a real bathroom and not the foul dungeon I was expecting. Not everyone is able to revel in this grandeur, however. “It smells like weed all the time in there,” Leland High School’s Addy Heaton ’25 said, describing her school’s bathrooms. How lovely. As for the boys’ bathrooms, according to one Prospect student, rumor has it that “boys [are] giving haircuts in the boys bathroom and doing other inappropriate things…”

5. Bells
School bells (not Bellarmine Bell Boys) may seem like an insignificant and trivial difference, but let me assure you, bells hold the power. At public schools, as soon as the bell rings, one is legally released from educational custody. I had the unfortunate experience of visiting a public school when the bell rang. The millisecond it rang, every door bolted open and students came flooding out of the doorways. Picture the Tie Ceremony when the seniors are charging at you… but multiply that unnerving image by a hundred. It was quite an overwhelming experience. Conversely, there are no bells at Castilleja. Without a bell, there is no cue to leave on certain days when the teacher is still chattering away at 3:16 p.m. To handle these unfortunate circumstances, I have mastered the slowly-backing-out-of-the-classroom-undetected method of leaving class. *Sneaky.*

6. Homecoming vs. FaDiDa
Any outsider would easily presume that FaDiDa was our version of public schools’ Homecoming. They’re fall dances, there’s mosh-pitting, blah blah blah, so what’s the difference? Well, take for instance when my public school friends asked, “Was there mosh-pitting at your dance, Caitlyn?” I replied “yes” with a straight face even though I knew perfectly well that they were certainly not referring to the mosh-pitting with fifty-year-old, graying dads that occurred at FaDiDa. With respect to attire, the two dances are fairly similar, although I have to give a shout-out to the kid who showed up to their Homecoming decked out in a knight costume. Respect.

7. Cliques
At public schools, Heaton said there are six types of cliques: “Annoying popular kids, sporty popular kids, annoying mean girls who think they’re popular but aren’t, emo kids, nerds, [and] normal kids.” I was told Castilleja was “cliquey.” Spoiler-alert: Castilleja is not cliquey… at least to the extreme of public schools. At Castilleja, everyone knows everyone. My hand muscles literally get sore from waving to every person I know. Now I just duck my head when I see someone familiar (aka everyone) to relieve my hand muscles.

8. Football
Castilleja, unbeknownst to many, is a football powerhouse. If last year’s flag football game during Rivalry was any indication, college football recruiters will be fawning over Castilleja players soon enough. Although the playing field was limited to the 50ish yard Circle, there were still many unbelievable passes and touchdowns, not to mention the dazzling half-time show. The players are the cheerleaders too! Feminism at its best. I would like to think that public school football (and quite frankly male football in general) is inferior to Castilleja football. An anonymous public schooler vocalized, “Most of the boys do football. And they all think they’re cool. But none of them are.” While our teams may have less testosterone, other schools better watch out, because Castilleja brings the heat.

Well, there ya go! If you ever wondered what life would be like if you were/weren’t a Castillejan, those are eight differences between Castilleja and public schools.