Tips for Teens

This is not your ordinary back-to-school article, boys and girls. This is practical advice from a class clown who went on to graduate from a middle-of-the-road university, almost with honors. So, pay attention, my horny little pizza-faced friends.

First and foremost: There is a common misconception that the best time to misbehave is at the end of the school year. The theory, apparently, is that if you follow the rules at the beginning of the year, you can expect some slack if you screw up in the spring. Nothing could be further from the truth.

If you behave at the beginning of the year, you raise the faculty's expectations of you and provide evidence that you know right from wrong. Also, you risk having a whole year of work pulled out from under you by zero-tolerance policies. How many horror stories have you heard about kids who didn't get to graduate because they indulged in senior skip day or flunked a final?

Clearly, if you confine your most serious rule breaking to the beginning of the school year, you'll have much less to lose, particularly if you attend a public school. Remember, the school district gets money from the state based on the number of students enrolled. It is simply not cost-effective to expel you at the beginning of the year.

A few other random bits of advice:

* Your teachers will think twice about busting you for cheating on a test if you go so far as to have the answers tattooed on your forearm.

* Keep in mind that, though it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to buy beer, it is perfectly legal for anyone to buy barley, hops and yeast.

* While we're on the subject of alcohol: If your friends are pressuring you into heavy drinking -- beer bongs and whatnot -- and start calling you a wimp, there is a safe way to fight back. Invite them to your parent's house for what you promise will be a wild party. Tell them you are making a wopatusi, or "wop," which is a punch made of fruit and vodka. When your friends show up, lead them to the bathroom, and show them that you have prepared the wop in your toilet. When they refuse to drink, tell them they are lightweights who don't know how to party.

Paul Lundgren is a newspaper columnist and a very nice man. His e-mail address is paul [at] geekprom.com.