In Kindergarten I couldn’t wait to be in 5th grade. They got to have homework, dump their trays by themselves at lunch, and use the sledding hill at recess. In fifth grade I couldn’t wait for the independence of middle school. In middle school I couldn’t wait to be a sophomore, couldn’t wait to drive, couldn’t wait to start choosing my own classes. All through high school I couldn’t wait to be a senior. I wanted to be one of the oldest, one of the smartest, one with all the opportunities, friends, and responsibilities. Then, at the culmination of all this expectation, I realized that my peak had happened months ago; perhaps even during my junior year. How, after all this waiting, hoping, and hard work, did I become another senior in a class full of kids just like me who only wants to get it over with?
I hate this expectation that in the second half of my senior year I am supposed to be wrapping things up. Don’t assume I mean that my teachers are telling me that, but rather that it is an unwritten, never broken, end-all say-all law of your senior year. “I don’t want you to start something you can’t finish.” “Who’s going to continue that when you’re gone?” “Remember we need this all turned in by the 13th of May” Okay thanks, but I’m not dying, I will still be passionate about this in the future, and I definitely am aware of my graduation and all that it entails. I’m really, really tired of graduation being an end. I’m tired of the idea that your world changes after high school, and I really think this is a bigger problem than we all want to admit.
I love the idea that school is a place where kids can learn to be successful and grow themselves as people. I love that we expect kids to graduate being dedicated citizens and passionate adults, but I just don’t understand how we can be “taught” to care. I have been so lucky to grow up in a home where I am expected to go after my dreams, embrace my talents, and do all that other cliche stuff. The disconnect, however, is in the idea that everything we do in school is for school and school only. If life were a disney movie, school kids would be the poor princess banished to an island alone until our knight in shining armor, or in this case our graduation ceremony, came to save us from our solitude and give us a life full of all we could ever want. If we are learning to be dedicated citizens while in school, why is the learning not just doing? Why should I make a powerpoint about my role in our government, when I could talk to my legislators, vote when I’m 18, or talk to adults about my opinions?
Students are begging to be allowed a taste of work that has meaning. We crave projects with genuine, real-world outcomes. In my dream world students are valued as much as adults in our society’s function. We get to experience failure which has more at stake than a grade, and we get to celebrate success that isn’t defined by a score. It may not sound realistic, but I know it could happen. As for today, my assignments are turned in, I’ve taken my tests, my locker is empty, and I’m ready to start a new chapter.
Perhaps the best way to promote change in this situation is to work at it completely differently than expected. If so, I have a request.
Students: take advantage of all you are given. Push the limits. Ask for more and don’t settle for no. If you can connect school to the other parts of your life, do it. If you’re going to be graduating soon, make sure you have something you’re passionate about that you can take farther than your graduation. Talk to professionals and annoy your teachers with your desire to dive deeper into the things you find interesting. Those are the kind of limits that need to be pushed, so focus your efforts there. If you don’t want to hear it from me, then remember that Gandhi told us to “be the change you wish to see in the world” and Victor Webster had a point about our role in the world when he said, “Everything we do, even the slightest thing we do, can have a ripple effect and repercussions that emanate. If you throw a pebble into the water on one side of the ocean, it can create a tidal wave on the other side.” Stop waiting for schools to change, because by the time they do you’ll be gone. If you want to be given responsibility and freedom, then just take it and run. Stop asking for permission and start being a catalyst for change.
Future Educator. Iowan. Passionate about People.
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