Illustration: Lila Huang

Illustration: Lila Huang


Welcome to high school, Niner. You’ve been sentenced to this fine institution for the next four years of your life. Legs shaking yet? Luckily for you, us noble editors at The Reckoner have prepared a little survival guide to help you make it through boot camp. Forget all the Hollywood clichés you’ve been exposed to, as Garneau is a very unique environment. While you’re here, you may as well enjoy your stay, and we can help with that. Let’s begin.


Life in the Library

The Garneau library is an elusive entity. Sometimes it’s open, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes, you’ll rush to the library for your period 4 spare, only to have the door close on your face as the teacher-librarian squints at you and says, “Library’s full, go away.”

In which case, you’ll be promptly redirected to the cafeteria with all the other unlucky souls (“Stop loitering in the halls!”), where you’ll wait for ages to be let in, all the while lamenting the lost study time (just kidding, no one studies in spare).

If the prospect of either chilling for an hour in the bathroom or sitting in the crowded and excessively warm cafeteria doesn’t appeal to you, then you might want to head over to the library ASAP . Treat it as the most important race of your life. Use your elbows to cut through the crowd; no one will judge you. It’s a dirty war in high school.

Once you get into the library, before you do anything else, claim a seat. Put your bag on it or dig in hard with your claws. Don’t let anyone take it away from you. Your seat is your lifeline; without it, when the teacher-librarian comes sweeping through ten minutes later, you’ll be swept up, away, and out. Then it’s back to the cafeteria with you!

Rule of thumb is four people per table. Sometimes you can get away with more, but don’t be surprised when you get forcefully wrenched apart. If the teacher-librarian approaches you, try batting your eyes and flashing your cutest smile. Promise you’ll stay quiet. I can’t guarantee 100% success, but you might not be exiled to another table in futile dismay.

Finally, if you’re going to eat in the library – don’t. Teacher-librarians have a way of sniffing out rule breakers. You’re not going to get away easy.



Generally, Garneau staircases take you where you want to go. But there is one exception.

Staircase 3, also nicknamed the Romeo and Juliet staircase, does not lead to the main floor. It just leads outside. But if you’re going from the second floor to the third floor, or the third floor to the second floor, don’t worry, you’re set. Typically, you should be able to recognize staircase 3 by the number of R+J pairings scattered along the steps. They’re R+J, not because they’re dead, but because they’re in loooove. Romance may be a foreign concept to you young and pure niners. Do not be afraid. They don’t bite. Well. They won’t bite you (wink wink).

For some reason, the Romeo and Juliet staircase is the go-to place for romantic getaways with the bae. I don’t know if it’s the lighting (or lack thereof), or wall structure or something, but couples really like to hang out there and suck each other’s faces off. We at The Reckoner hope to dissuade you from this activity. Embrace niner life and go to social hangouts or join clubs! You could catch mono when you’re older.


Tricks and Tips for Getting Around

You’re going to get lost. No matter how prepared you feel, no matter how many times you’ve scrutinized the school’s blueprints (where did you even get those?) and marked down the nonsensical twists and turns of the halls, you’re going to get lost. It’s not a hypothesis, it’s a fact of life. We’ve been going to this school for 3 years now, and we still get confused by the door numbering system.

Here’s how it plays out. You’re walking down the hall, looking for room 341. Numbers flash by, 338, 339, 340… 345? Double back, count again. Nope, still no 341. How did you just skip four numbers? Unfortunately, the school just does that. Is there any method to this madness? No, not really.

I don’t know what to tell you. Sometimes, when we’re delivering papers, we can’t, because the room doesn’t seem to exist. Maybe it’s some sort of weird Harry Potter changing staircases situation. Fourth floor doesn’t exist, except between 4:00 and 5:00 pm (wink wink- okay actually, don’t go looking for a fourth floor. There is no fourth floor. If you do find a fourth floor… you’re probably not at the right building. Check Google Maps again).

And if you think the door numbering system is strange, you’ll be more horrified by the locker numbering system. Generally, locker numbers that begin with 2 are on the second floor. Locker numbers that begin with 3 are on the third floor. But a few lockers (2999, 2998, 2997 and probably a few more down the line) are on the third floor. It’s really weird. And now you know!

Illustration: Lila Huang

Illustration: Lila Huang


Cliques and Social Life

High school. Brand new environment. 1800 different people. I don’t know what you were expecting walking in, but it’s probably wrong. Let’s break down the stereotypes and take a glimpse at Garneau life.

Did you watch Mean Girls and come here anticipating cliques? Unfortunately, or rather fortunately, cliques don’t really exist at Marc Garneau. We have a diverse number of social groups that we believe are quite welcoming. More on clubs later, but try to join as many as possible! First year of high school is the year to explore as many interests as you can.

Sometimes you might be lingering around the shady parts of school (you’ll know them by the distinctly bad lighting), and you’ll see a sketchy group of people. Because, let’s face it, Garneau has a reputation for being one of the sketchiest schools in the GTA. Real talk though: it’s not that sketchy! Let go of your misconceptions, and look into the shadows with a new eye. Everybody’s actually really nice. Don’t judge them before you talk to them.

If you’re suffering from inconsolable teen issues, visit our side column, Ask the Reckoner! Read the advice we’ve given to your fellow peers of years past. Or, ask some of your own. We’re always itching to help.


Lunchtime Woes and Alternatives

In case bringing lunch from home is too plebeian for your liking, the cafeteria itself also sells lunches in the kitchen hall along the north wall. You might want to get there early, as the concept of an “orderly queue” is entirely foreign to many of its lunchtime patrons. During peak minutes, the place resembles a prison riot of inmates armed with plastic forks and knives. The cafeteria offers special seasonal meals on certain holidays in the year, such as turkey on Thanksgiving.

By definition, a cafeteria is where you eat lunch, but this isn’t necessarily true at Garneau. In fact, unless you fancy having your eardrums blown out by obnoxiously loud music that nobody is really satisfied with, we highly recommend you check out a number of other fine dining establishments in the area.

The hot dog stand at the intersection of Overlea and Don Mills has been a staple of Garneau cuisine for as long as most of us can remember. Although Jamie, the famous hot dog guy, spouts Bulgarian vulgarities when crowds amass, a nice Italian Sausage on a crispy bun is second-to-none for a quick pick-me-up on days where you forgot your lunch. Halal options are available.

Just two hundred meters north of Garneau on Don Mills is the local plaza. If you’ve made it this far without fainting from hunger, you’ll be rewarded with a wide array of food joints, including Tim’s, Subway, McDonald’s, Pita Land and numerous local establishments that we’ve been too afraid to try. Sunny Supermarket is a local favourite, if Asian pick-me-ups are your thing.  Estimated travel time between the school and plaza is 10 minutes. Don’t be late, unless you want to be the idiot that stumbles into class with a box of Timbits.

West of the school, across the bridge, you’ll find further dining options for your greasy indulgences. Popeyes is a school favourite, and all their chicken is Halal to suit the local demographic. One-way travel time is approximately 10 minutes, although I can attest that if you run fast enough, you can get to Popeyes, order, and get back all within 15, without the teacher ever questioning your “washroom trip.” Fried chicken is a powerful motivator.


Hit the Clubs!

High school is as much a social experience as an academic one. Get involved with the activities around you! There are tons of extracurriculars for you to experience, whether you’re a buffed-up jock who can’t count to ten or a bespectacled nerd allergic to physical activity. Don’t miss the clubs fair early in the school year, where a number of the school’s clubs make their pitch trying to convince you why they’re the best choice for where you should spend your sacred lunch hour. If you can’t find a club you like, why not make your own? SAC can provide you with all the details you need for club registration. Our personal club recommendation is a certain award-winning newspaper called The Reckoner–we’ve heard they’re top notch and always on the hunt for fresh talent (wink).


Never Forget: Student Number

Remember your student number. Seriously, the number of times you’ll need it within the next four years probably exceeds the numerical value of your student number itself (OK maybe not). The sooner you remember it, if you haven’t already, the less times you’ll have to shamefully reach for your bag each time it’s needed.


The Whats, Whys, and Wheres of Spare

Spare is a hallmark of high school at Garneau. A little history: Due to severe overpopulation a number of years ago, administration decided to create an extra period in the day to redistribute class volume, resulting in the unique scenario among TDSB high schools of having 5 periods in a day. Therefore, with only 4 classes a day but 5 periods, everyone at Garneau ends up having an extra slot each day. Yes, we start at 8:15 and it sucks, but you’ll learn to worship and look forward to your spare like it’s Christmas, except, every day. During spare, you can do whatever you like, although we suggest you get in the habit of spending your time productively, even though we know you’re going to ignore our advice. Don’t worry, we’ll get the final laugh four years down the road. Period 1 and 5 are commonly regarded as the best spares, as you either get to sleep in or go home early. Period 3 and 4 are acceptable, as you’ll have a longer lunch. Period 2 spare? Ha, sucker.




Hopefully we haven’t scared you off too badly. Seriously, high school can be a really fun time. Go out there, talk to people, make new friends. Everybody’s probably feeling as nervous as you, so don’t worry about looking like a fool.

We’ve only delved slightly into the whirlpool of aspects that make up Garneau. If you ever have any questions, or need any help, remember, we’re here for you. Check out our advice column if you haven’t already.

Now. Go forth and conquer! We believe in you, even if you don’t.

(Oh, one more thing. DO NOT pull the fire alarm unless there’s a real fire. Got it? Cool.)