Copyright 2016 De Pere High School
Published by Rob Guyette at Shakespir
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Mackenzie: My family, as well as friends who impacted my senior year.
Luke: My friends and teachers at De Pere High School.
Edson: My family and teachers who always believed in me.
Abby: My family, who taught me to think for myself and never stop learning.
Michael: Everyone who wanted me to give up, who wanted me to fail, who abandoned me, and to those who hate me -- I’m still here, and I’m still moving forward.
Kiera: All my family and friends who dedicate parts of their lives to me and give me inspiration.
Doug: Becky Hawley, who inspired me to pursue my dreams without bounds.
Jade: My teachers and classmates who shaped my experiences at school and me as a person.
Maya: My sister, who was always there for me growing up.
Ian: My friends, family, Guyette, and the 13 co-authors who made this project possible.
Naixuan: My family, friends, those who doubted me, and particularly to the ones who looked down at me, literally.
Aaron: My family and friends who helped school become enjoyable and memorable.
Dalaney: Everyone who loved me and let me expand myself in ways I didn’t even know were possible.
Ryan: My parents and friends for helping me become who I am.
As a former newspaper journalist who currently teaches high school English, I love reading about education.
Most of the news these days, though, is extremely political and, therefore, usually negative. Stories about lawsuits, budget issues, test scores, teacher shortages, etc., seem to recycle themselves every year.
The pessimism bothers me. It’s tough to sit back and do nothing.
So, against that backdrop, I present this book, written by 14 De Pere (Wis.) High School students who generally have a positive view of their life and future. These teenagers are passionate about what they do and who they are to become.
I asked each one to chronicle their year in high school and give the public an idea of what young people today see not only in themselves and their peers, but also in the world around them.
Their assignment was to produce one essay per month about something that struck them about their personal journey. The 14 students are spread out among the different grades, and they represent a variety of hobbies, interests and friend groups. I chose them because they are deep thinkers -- kids who can analyze and see the big picture.
Our goal is not to be controversial, nor is it to criticize the modern school system or to critique all of society’s problems. Our goal is not to be edgy nor mean-spirited, and we do not aim to ignite debate through contentious opinions. We are not going to solve racism, sexism, or any other type of social inequality in this book. That’s what the Internet is for.
Instead, we aim to give insight to what high school students are thinking about today. What do kids care about? What are their goals and fears? How do they see their teachers and peers? What do they want adults to know about this stage of life?
This is not a yearbook, though, and not every essay is filled with love, joy and happiness. Sometimes kids get angry and frustrated. Our main target is honesty.
Adults who remember these days will be able to relate to the essays about friendships, social acceptance and teachers. Those who don’t will be reminded by these students about what it’s like to get a driver’s license, go to their first school dance, or prepare to leave the house and head off to college.
Students might be comforted to know that some of the topics our authors wrote about are the same concerns they have been wondering about themselves but might have been afraid to discuss among friends.
Sometimes the authors unknowingly wrote about the same topic, but I didn’t stop them. Each person’s view is unique and adds to the discussion.
Not every student on our team at the beginning of the school year made the cut. Some students who began the project in September did not finish. Working on this book was a major commitment. This is not the place to read a slacker’s view on high school.
The 14 who did grind their way to completion did not write an essay every month. Our team worked together for 10 months (September 2015 through June 2016), and most students filed about seven or eight entries.
All of the co-authors did this work on their own time. They did not get paid, nor did they receive any school credit. Their main incentive was to be part of something unique.
“High School Life” is their work.
- Rob Guyette, English teacher, De Pere High School
Mackenzie: Back from the “breaking point”
I would love to say that high school only gets easier as the progression from freshman year to senior year staggers on, yet I’d be a liar if I said so.
Pursuing greatness isn’t easy. Or always smart.
Often times, people ask me, “How do you do it, Mackenzie?” And, honestly, I am kind of confused as to how to answer, for it doesn’t seem as if I have that much on my plate, though I really do.
Between AP classes, cross country, Student Council, National Honor Society, Sting Cancer, Spanish Club, working two part-time jobs, piano lessons, rotation between my divorced parents’ houses, a social life, and attempting to find some “me” time in there, my life is pretty hectic. Actually, it is abnormally too much for a 17-year-old to juggle.
The funny part is that I know this, yet I continue to pile up burden after burden upon my shoulders as if it does no harm to me. I do love to be busy, constantly going and going. My mind thinks about so much that there is no time to feel fatigued or stressed, until it catches up with me finishing that AP Bio lab report at 3 a.m.
It’s almost as if I am numb to how much I do in my life, which is weird to admit since a person should normally be in touch with one’s self. However, as I wobbled through school, a sense of “individualism” began to take place within me. I began to realize what I could “take” before reaching my breaking point.
I definitely reached my breaking point last year, because from this day forward, I still fear junior year. The beginning of the year was fine, but from the middle part onward, I found that taking a 7 a.m. class, AP Biology, AP Literature, and Spanish IV proved to be a terrible decision. Three hours of sleep a night seemed to be fairly reasonable, especially after the 10:30 p.m. closing shift at work, followed by a plethora of homework to attack afterward for as long as my eyes would stay open.
I had reached the breaking point, and good thing I realized it, because I immediately told myself to dial it down. I had to settle my extremely overactive brain and take some time to relax. I began to wonder, “Am I the only teenager who’s gotten this stressed out or worked this hard to make money, get good grades, craft a good college resume, get the best ACT score, turn that B- into an A, and refrain from losing that 4.0 GPA to get into a really spectacular college?”
This whole “working myself too hard” idea only applied to myself, I figured out; the rest of my school mates, and probably the rest of the world, didn’t stress so much over these miniscule things. They found ways to cope with stress and realized that taking multiple AP classes would never make them any smarter; the classes would just look better on college resumes, in all honesty. My classmates learned to balance their time better, found the key to studying hard, and still had time to pursue fun stuff.
All this time, as I was trying to get ahead by taking too many advanced classes and working long hours at multiple jobs, I was actually falling behind. I was losing insight into my own mind, body and spirit, finding myself more detached than ever before. Now, as a senior, I find myself much more relaxed; I’ve been to that breaking point and back, so I know what I can and cannot handle.
Testing my limits last year was good for me. I have learned that turning down opportunities and saying “no” is acceptable. I will remain calm, tranquilize my overactive mind, and just believe things will work out ... even that B- in Physics.
Luke: It’s easy to spot the freshmen
I like going back to school due to the fact that, by far, September is the most interesting month in the school year. A fact I have learned in my four years of high school about the first month of school is that it is one of the two months out of the year in which a fight could actually occur because for some reason people feel the need to show that they are not a pushover (the other is June because people are just tired of being around each other).
However, the far more interesting facet of September is the development of cliques among the freshmen and new arrivals to the school.
On the first day one could not find any freshmen hanging out in the commons or the BO-drenched art gallery, but instead rushing to their first-hour class hoping not to be tardy the first day. However, as the month drags on and the freshmen have had a chance to find their best routes from class to class and meet new people, slowly the tables in the commons start to fill up before school starts, and the art gallery finds new members.
I enjoy this time before the freshmen have found their place in their new group as it is a breath of fresh air to the school and reminds us that while it is important to find friends in high school, learning and making a good impression on the teachers is just as important.
It seems to me that only in this first week of high school do learning and impressions take priority over being accepted.
Abby: Wondering about my class’s legacy
When I came back to school my junior year, nothing seemed out of place or different. I was surrounded by familiar faces, with no huge sign something was wrong. Slowly, I noticed myself looking for a senior from last year at my cross country meet. When I am looking for someone to go to games with or hang out with, I pause at my best friend’s name, about to text her, when I remember she is two hours away at college. I catch myself constantly looking for people who have graduated and moved on.
I spent two years getting to know the graduating class of 2015, sharing many fond memories and acting anywhere from crazy to serious with many of them. Now they are just gone. Most are at least two hours away, and the ones in the area I only see in passing. Sure, I can always text them, but it’s not the same, and it won’t ever be the same.
When we miss our friends, we don’t just randomly miss them. We find ourselves in situations that we think “Brooke would have loved this” or “This reminds me so much of Sam.” Then, in that moment, we feel their absence.
I find myself looking around at the current senior class and my junior class and wonder how the underclassmen will view us. Will they miss us when we’re gone? I feel that last year’s graduates left us with positive memories. They were respectful and smart, yet they knew how and when to be goofy and fun. My last question fluttering around my head is, Will we reach that standard? Will this year and next year’s seniors reach the level that past seniors have set?
Everyone needs to decide for themselves if they are happy with where they are, but I believe that some have already reached the level expected from a high schooler and strive to be better. I also believe that some kids need to grow up just a little more and realize some behavior that is OK in high school will be frowned upon in college.
I hope that we will leave De Pere High School with respect from our peers and teachers. High school is not our entire lives; it’s actually a pretty small part, but the memories we make are permanent, and I would rather leave behind good memories than bad ones.
Kiera: Already, time is running short
First month of my junior year has already passed. Let’s just say coming back from summer and the realization of upholding responsibilities wasn’t, and still isn’t, easy.
Not only did I get the realization of concepts such as less sleep, more homework, and sports, but I am actually a junior. Driving?! I’m driving now and still begging my parents for my own car since the day I got my license.
Anyway, the future is something I think about quite often, or at least I think that way because society makes one’s future such a big picture in everybody’s small little lens. It just always seems like you have time … time to think, time to decide, time to do that homework you save until the hour before it’s due.
Junior year already being here seems so unusual because I was just a little freshman two years ago. I thought I had plenty of time -- time to make decisions and time for real responsibilities to uphold.
However, my last year is literally next year. It goes by so fast. It especially goes fast with how busy life is. If I actually ever have time to breathe, let me tell you I cherish that time. If I have time to breathe and talk to my family for more than 10 minutes, I also cherish that as well. Within the limits of school, work, sports, and a partial social life of a typical teenager, it’s very hard to make that time.
All and all, the transition is not easy, and everyone in high school is going through it in some way, shape, or form.
Michael: Clubs help to break the monotony
Perhaps it is not a concept that particularly struck me during September, but rather the distinct lack thereof that reminded me of just what it was like to be in school again. It’s the start of another nine-month journey that I was excited to take part in for the 12th time in my life, but boy is it a weak start that almost made me regret going to school again. The first day for all 1,300-plus students of my student body is spent getting syllabus after syllabus for each and every single class, and maybe even a textbook too.
It’s a dreadfully slow day that only makes me wonder why anyone bothers to show up. I learned nothing on the first day, and honestly, I could say the same about the rest of the short week that followed it up. It’s a slow start, but it quickly reminds me to give in to the monotone drawl that a strict schedule sets: wake up, brush my teeth, go to school, drag myself through the day with a look of content while hiding feelings of contempt. It’s a wonder that people can go through this cycle and not become jaded and cynical just from how boring it grows to be, and it leads me to worry that if this is what school is like, what will a career be like?
For what it’s worth, though, the friends that I’ve made, along with the cool teachers I have and the clubs that I’ve joined, just barely manage to make this cycle bearable. These three things are all breaks in the melancholy that school instills into me when I enter the doors each and every day. Paintball Club is by far one of the more interesting ones, led by two of the most energetic and passionate teachers I have seen, but the other clubs I have joined (Robotics and Writer’s Guild) get a fair mention, too.
Along with these clubs, our school’s version of a pep rally, the Redbird Rally, certainly helped. Redbird Rally is essentially an event for all clubs in our school to have a chance to recruit new members and for students to hang out with friends during a football game. With a dance afterwards, it’s genuinely a fun time.
Doug: High school = responsibility
Throughout the course of my development, I’ve found that certain concepts are acutely difficult for my mind to fathom. Varying as these concepts may be, I always try to understand them to the best of my limited abilities in order to grow as an individual in the great story of life.
But on a consistent basis, I still find myself faced with peculiar notions that I simply can’t comprehend. Whether it is the concept of adulthood or the potential of my own bleary future, these approaches always seem to astonish me. So rather than try to assimilate all of these entities in a single attempt, I often seek to make sense of the smaller pieces and crumbs that compose the philosophical pie. As an example, I’ve decided to select a topic that has been reminiscent throughout my time as a high school student -- the meaning of responsibility.
Upon my entry into the halls of De Pere High School, it seemed as if I was cast into a realm of both triumphant uprisings and perpetual doubt. As this unexplored part of my life began, I was overwhelmed. This strange consciousness was based around the fact that I was, in effect, surrendering adolescence.
I began to discover that responsibility was going to be my avenue to personal growth. Believing and justifying my actions was -- and still is -- crucial. Since learning this in my freshman year, I was able to grasp the fact that my past, present, and future were entirely dependent on my choices.
Without going into great detail on any one case, I have learned responsibility through taking advanced courses, having to plan for college, maintaining a somewhat respectable grade point average, and others. In the many examples that I could provide, I find that their value will only increase as time goes on. High school has forced me to learn the value of things, free time and spending money, because this is the phase of my life when my resources are no longer unlimited.
This consummation is crucial for all students as well, because it teaches them the ramifications of their decisions. The concept of responsibility is one that often inspires repulsion among high schoolers and adults alike, as it removes the metaphorical levity around adolescence; however, it is a necessary evil. The actions of human beings are used to define their character as well as their capacity; and to conclude in the words of George Bernard Shaw: “We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.”
Jade: Back to the high school social structure
High school is a wave of fears, jealousy, stereotypes, and reputations all bound into one beautiful story. The truth is, this will never end. This story isn’t just high school. It’s life.
Life is one big rise to the top. Everyone wants what everyone else has, and most are always disappointed.
For many teens, including myself, this constant disappointment and feeling as if we are disappointing everyone leads to large amounts of insecurity. If high school has done anything for me, it’s made me wish to look like someone different and to be someone different every day.
I have yet to accept myself because I walk these hallways with an overwhelming feeling that I have or am nothing compared to my clearly superior classmates, even though I know they aren’t better than me.
They are given the confidence that they are better from others because no one has the guts to tell them differently. Everyone would much rather pretend to be their friend and kiss up to them in order to be as happy as them or as popular. I’ve grown tired of these people with no heart, no creativity, and nothing to them getting all the credit. There are so many other people out there that people should take the time to get to know.
High school is all about finding one’s self, a task that would be a whole lot easier if we didn’t have so many things thrown in our faces telling us who we should really be. People change so many times because they are trying to become this person that everyone is in love with.
Sadly, that can never happen. After freshman year I could see that each individual group we are divided into -- jocks, geeks, pretties, theater junkies, etc. -- gets hated on from the other groups. No matter how hard I try, not everyone will like me. So, then it comes down to which group I want to belong to. What happens if I’m not accepted by any of these groups, then what?
It’s a weird world being accepted by no one because they are not mean or anything; they don’t care about you, but they still know your name and will still talk to you. So during the school day, all these people will talk to you, but then as soon as that last bell rings, you don’t exist.
Freshman year was the worst school year I have ever had. I didn’t have a good connection with my classmates, and coming back to school this year hit me a lot harder than I expected, especially now that my best friend of five years hasn’t texted me all summer. I don’t have a lot of friends, and sitting in class is tough when there is no one to talk to. I don’t know what I did, but I guess I really screwed up because now I have to sit here and try not to make anyone else hate me.
Ian: Don’t worry about unpopular hobbies
Here in my little corner of the universe, I am sitting in a cabin at a campground. The reason I am here is because I am a member of the Green Bay Boy Choir, which I have been a member of since the third grade, and we are doing a weekend camp at the moment.
I have had amazing opportunities in this choir. I’ve met a large group of great people from all over northeast Wisconsin. We took a tour of Europe two summers ago, stopping in Austria and the Czech Republic in cities like Vienna, Salzburg, and Prague.
However, I never wanted to tell anybody that I’m in choir. I think one of the reasons is that when I was in the fourth grade, I tried to get some of my friends to join. I was the kid in that group that no one really liked, and I’m not sure how or why I became friends with them in the first place.
The director of the choir gave us a few pamphlets to hand out to people to give them some information on the choir. I tried giving them to my friends, but one of them took all of the pamphlets out of my hands and threw them away and laughed at me. This made me feel ashamed to be in the choir, for everyone thought I was a dork or a loser because of it.
The point I am trying to make is that some activities I love to do I hide because of how I think people will view me. But I’ve found that at this point in school, it just isn’t worth worrying about those kinds of things.
I like me, and I’m not going to worry about people judging me because of what I like. This attitude is crucial in high school today. The pressure to fit in and conform to the “norm” is pretty darn high. So, in conclusion, self-acceptance and self-confidence are critical in high school, and it’s a wonderful thing to just be yourself.
Maya: Social levels are individual matters
To socialize or to not socialize?
This is one of the many thoughts high schoolers have at the end of a school week. Personally, I find myself thinking this quite often. If I’m blatantly honest, we high schoolers are giant tornadoes of drama and laziness, along with a dash of disrespectfulness. Often times, we eat all the food we can find like vultures, and we tend to leave behind a trail of breadcrumbs similar to Hansel and Gretel. Only, it’s not a trail to lead us home; however, it is a trail to lead us between the couch and the kitchen. Despite all this, every weekend someone sacrifices the cleanliness and peace of their home for a couple of us to spend a night or two there. The reason why is simply because of boredom and the need for social interaction.
The bane of our existences -- boredom -- plays a huge role on our level of socialness. None of us want to be found couch-potatoing alone, or we may be subjected to chores to “keep us busy.” By having friends over, we eliminate the threat of parent intervention in our free time. Unfortunately, this also means we have to entertain the teenagers we have invited into our home.
At first, everything is pretty normal with Netflix streaming on the television, but around 10 p.m., we begin to get bored again. When that occurs, not-so-intelligent ideas fill our heads. It begins with board games like Scrabble at midnight. Then the hunger kicks in, and YouTube food tutorial videos begin streaming on computers. Before we even realize it, Ramen noodles are being made into failed meals, and blenders are being used in the basement at 3 in the morning. Once we wake up the next afternoon, we are met with not-so-happy parents who have found our new creations clogging the garbage disposal. Boredom is good for bringing teenagers together, but it’s not so good for staying on our parents’ good side.
Another reason for hanging out is our need for social interaction. As soon as I hit high school, a strange need to be around others my age struck me like a lightning bolt. At first, it was a strong pull, but now it has faded to a dull buzz. Part of this may be my love for solo activities, but it also may be from the mess friends leave behind. Last time I had multiple friends over, it took two hours to sweep up all the crushed goldfish crackers that somehow appeared on my bedroom floor. My social need was satisfied, but my room was not so satisfied with the storm that swept through it.
In the end, students’ social levels are really up to them. Some enjoy the mess-involved activities that come from others pillaging through their home. Some may not enjoy it all and may have family issues, and some simply don’t like people. Whatever the case is, it’s probably best to just let them do what feels right for them as long as it’s healthy. Because by the time students reach high school, they probably know their limit to social interaction.
Naixuan: A new city, a new school
Life is not easy, but no one ever said it was.
During the summer after my freshman year, my family decided to move 53.8 miles away from what I called my home, 307,824 feet away from all my friends, and 3,693,888 inches away from my beloved school.
My first impression of De Pere High School was not very pleasant. A brick building, it looked like a prison to me. Ripped away from what I knew to be my perfect life and placed in a new environment, my whole world tipped upside down.
Without a doubt, many people told me that I would adapt to the new changes. But during the month of September, I dreaded this move. I kept asking myself, why me?
Without the support of old my friends and teachers, I truly felt like I was alone. Not before long, I ran into my first major obstacle -- a fall sport. By the time I moved in and settled down, I had already missed a few weeks of golf. Showing up was one of the most awkward moments of my life. The moment I walked on the driving range, all the girls turned around and stared at me (quite funny, to be honest). Soon we all got accustomed to one another, and the first day of school rapidly approached.
One of the biggest observations my first week of school was the fact De Pere High School is not very ethnically diverse. With this in mind, I was thrown into many uncomfortable situations such as teachers trying to pronounce my name (it’s nai-SHEN), kids asking me where I was from, and other people trying to understand the reason I moved.
All of this and three schedule changes added to the stress I already had on my shoulders. Although I may not want to be here and I miss my old life, this is a new start for me and another step towards being more mature. No one ever said that life was easy, but someone did say, “In order to fly, you first have to fall.”
Aaron: Classes are more than just freshmen
When I walked into the first day of classes, I wasn’t expecting the next four years to be much different from the last eight. The transitions from elementary to intermediate, and then intermediate to middle school hadn’t meant anything more than a different building to sit inside of for seven hours a day.
Though I was liable to find myself lost in this newer, much larger structure, I was determined to remain unfazed throughout the legendary “high school transition.” This phase of high school, which had been warningly advertised by teachers and ominously anticipated by students since kindergarten, would be hardly distinct from school as I had always known it.
I was partly right.
Sure, most of the third-grade theories about the high school system turned out to be false; teachers didn’t force their pupils to write everything in cursive, and forgetting to scribble my name on the top of a test before turning it in didn’t result in an automatic fail.
Eliminating recess from the school day (this was regarded with horror by elementary school kids everywhere) was not as excruciatingly painful as projected. However, I would soon find out that school itself undergoes a dramatic transformation in an unexpected way.
Enter Aaron Milkie: a 5-foot-5, 96-pound, somewhat intimidated 9th grader drinking in the inaugural day of his high school career. The hallways were more crowded, the classes more formal. Of course, the biggest change would arrive when the bell rang to start third hour.
Wandering into my advanced algebra class, I had been forewarned that I would be the only freshman in the class. It would be mainly filled by juniors and seniors, with one or two sophomores to keep me company. Unsure and a little nervous, my brother would later tell me that I had the classic “freshman look”: a bewildered facial expression and a stack of books piled up to my chin. Reading the whiteboard, I went off and stood to the side of the room and waited for instructions. As my tall, unfamiliar, and sometimes bearded classmates filed into the room, I grew nervous.
Finally, Mrs. Wollin got everybody’s attention.
“Hello! Welcome to third hour Advanced Algebra. I’m Mrs. Wollin, your teacher. Here’s how we’re going to choose seats….”
Eventually, the seats were tediously filled. I ended up sharing a group of four desks with three juniors who seemed to have been friends since their preschool days. I felt as out of place as a tortoise in the Indy 500. Though they occasionally shot a question or comment in my direction (it was usually to ask for answers), I was naturally very shy. At first, I struggled to even talk to the quick-witted, mischievous trio, but I began to warm up to their comical ways of conversation.
“Let’s start a snack rotation,” they suggested early in the year. “We’ll each bring in a snack for the whole group once a week. You don’t bring in a snack, everybody else in the group gets to slap you.”
They called to the teacher: “Mrs. Wollin! You want in on our snack rotation?”
“No, thank you,” she politely declined; her response was met with chuckling from all three.
My colorful classmates, despite the age gap, were kind to me, and for that I am thankful. But I’m aware that it doesn’t always work out that way. I know that for others, classes didn’t work out so fortunately.
I was stunned by the way ages were mixed together in high school more than anything else. Only three of my eight classes consisted totally of people my age, which was the stark opposite of what I was used to from middle school and earlier.
Plus, the freshman class was expanded as students from other areas who came to De Pere for high school poured into the student body. For this fact I was completely unprepared; accordingly, it was the biggest transition.
In all the fables of high school I heard throughout the years leading up to this one, this concept of grade-mixing was left out. I wish I would have been able to prepare or at least have been told ahead of time, because for me, it came as a huge surprise.
Dalaney: The pressure of being perfect
When I walked into school on the very first day, I already knew it was not like any other school I had attended.
At high school, much more is expected. The responsibilities claimed my nights, weekends, and free time. The instant I walked in, I felt that I must be perfect. I must maintain a good grade, sign up for clubs, go to the dances, and be a great student.
People have always emphasized that high school was the big one. Mess up there, and there is no going back. The way teachers act, and the older students too, it seems like all they want you to do is fail.
Of course, that’s not what they really want. It just seems that way because of the high tension that surrounds high school. The high piles of homework, the club meetings and assignments, plus athletics and extracurriculars make it even harder to remain sane, let alone feel perfect.
We put so much pressure on ourselves to be great that we push ourselves too hard and don’t have as much fun. Throughout the month as the classes really start up, it hits me over and over again. How did I do on this test? Will I pass the class? What should I study?
We over-stress and worry so much because we have been told repeatedly that we must keep up our GPA so we can get into good colleges and so forth. What we don’t realize is that we only make high school worse for ourselves by doing this. The comments I hear from people are that high school is supposed to be fun, enjoy it while I can, that it goes fast.
Nowadays, we do as much as we can as fast we can, we forget to have a good time, and we get caught up in trying to be the perfect student. High school is harder than most older people realize, and we just make it harder for ourselves sometimes.
Ryan: My friend group got smaller
As I start my freshman year of high school, I wonder about many things. How will I do with grades? Will I have teachers that I enjoy? Will I get lost in the school? How will my friends react to high school? Do I see my friends at all throughout the day?
All of my worries have two underlying themes — school and friends. As soon as I got my first assignment, I felt this pressure to do well but, at the same time, I also felt the pressure to completely disregard it and go enjoy myself and have fun with my friends.
Of course, there is the pressure to do things with your friends, fit in, and have a large group of friends. The doing things part with friends is great; the last two pressures are not so great. The need to fit in and be a part of a group is important. Many people, myself included, have tried to fit in and be that person, even if they aren’t necessarily that person.
With having a large friend group, I could say my group has the opposite problem. I was told by a couple of upperclassmen that all the social groups seemed to melt together at the beginning of freshman year. I found that is not the case for my group. Granted, we are different from all other groups in the school, but I feel my group got smaller.
Yes, I saw some people I had previously rarely seen, but I also lost some people from my group, and that has weighed heavily on my mind, heart, and soul. While many social groups joined together unconsciously, my friend circle has seemed to drift apart from all others as we focused on our group’s primary interests.
We enjoy playing Magic: The Gathering (a card game) and video games, and that isolates us from the rest of our classmates who don’t have those interests. Our group is fine with that because we have a good time, and life is lived for those good parts.
Edson: The end of soccer season
We all have had the same dream to one day become professional athletes, but in reality, that dream will likely never come true.
I honestly believed that if I worked harder than anyone, I could actually one day live my dream. However, with age, I opened my eyes and understood that just won’t happen in my life. Although knowing I couldn’t ever become what one day I hoped, I still wanted to be the best athlete I could be for my school.
My whole life, I tried to prepare myself for high school soccer because I knew that that was going to be the only time I would ever feel like I could belong somewhere. During the beginning of my high school career, I was playing the sport that I loved with several people who attended school with me. However, as I grew up, I realized that I wasn’t just playing for myself. It didn’t matter what the name on the back said or how many points I had.
I learned that every second playing soccer had to deal with being able to represent my school and playing with my brothers on the team. Sophomore year was the first year in which my two best friends got to play alongside each other for the first time. As excited as we were, we knew that we wouldn’t get much playing time because we were the youngest on the team. However, every game and every practice we made sure to give our 100 percent.
That same mentality was the reason why we became successful our senior year. No one else wanted to win more than the three of us. We took third in conference this season when no one expected us to be in the top five. Through all the joyful times that I shared with the team, I knew that one day everything would end. My only wish is for people at our school to remember me as the kid who loved soccer and did anything he could to win.
Everything came to an end too soon, but the memories will never go away. Part of me wishes to be able to go back and start all over as a freshman, but the other part knows that it is time to move on. Although high school soccer season is over, I still run every day to keep myself in shape and play indoor soccer to make sure I never forget how to play. I may not have to opportunity to make it past high school soccer, but I can assure my children will all go professional some day. They will get to live the dream I never had.
Mackenzie: Missing friends, too far away
Often times I find myself reminiscing over “what used to be” -- the times that were simpler, the times when I was so young that nothing came off as imperative as it really was.
This October, I realized that especially. I have always been one to become too attached to things and people that make an impact on my life and help me grow in some way, shape or form. As I grow older, this “condition,” essentially, only becomes worse.
Sure, perhaps it’s just hormones and all, but there has to be something more to it. Perhaps there is a valid reason as to why human beings, like me, feel so much for others and then when something detrimental occurs, we fall too hard and end up empty. I’m highly curious if this occurs to anyone else, or strictly just me.
During the simpler times of childhood, the biggest problem was probably figuring out what to bring to school for a snack. I’m sure there was drama in the background, but it didn’t affect me as it does today. As a kid, nothing hits hard. People and things come and go, and kids live their lives as if nothing happened.
When I grew up, I found that these tactics reversed. People come and go, and I miss them -- severely. Things come and go, and I find myself not caring. I’ve begun to realize that material items mean little in comparison to the relationships I have built up with people who have taught me about life and made an impact on me.
Just recently, two of my good friends, who are out of high school and really into cars, moved to Tampa, Florida, to progress on with their lives, leaving Wisconsin behind. They had always mentioned the thought of moving elsewhere, specifically because the supposed “car scene” (a group of people interested in meeting and talking about their vehicles) in Tampa is much better than in Green Bay. Of course, I thought nothing of it. I figured the guys were all talk, and their move to Florida was just some unrealistic dream, never actually to be pursued.
However, I was wrong. They saved their money and traveled south a few weeks ago. First off, it was hard to see these guys before they left, since I was in school and they had graduated a few years ago. Their departure left me sad and empty. Emptiness is a hard feeling to define. For me, the emptiness isn’t all encompassing all of the time. The emptiness only comes when I reflect over the times my friends and I had, and I thought we had to come.
For the record, I have discovered that where I stand in life at one point is entirely temporary. It may last for a while, but I will never take my current situation for granted, for it is going to change. No doubt.
My friends will be back to visit, but for now, the waiting is hard. I find myself reflecting upon the memories we created last summer, and I feel as if we’ll never be able to replicate those memories again. I guess that’s growing up, and that’s life.
Time continues, and maybe their leave was for the better, perhaps to teach me a thing or two about getting over my sense of getting too attached. All in all, “Life is a big fat gigantic stinking mess, but that’s the beauty of it, too” (If I Stay, Gale Forman).
Luke: An appreciation of being on the team
When I was young, I thought that high school football would be a great time of girls, after-game parties, and drinking (getting the bulk of my information from adults and movies), but the truth is that, at least on our team, this was not the case.
Instead of going drinking at a crazy house party after a win, we piled into cars and headed to Denny’s, where we would often order the Bacon Bourbon Burger, so kind of like drinking?
I don’t know if high school football players have changed over the years, but I also remember hearing stories of football players running the school and being the most popular with girls. However, as I can tell you personally, some football players are not the most popular with the girls, and instead of thinking that they are top stuff, most players avoid sounding cocky or entitled like the plague to the point where they will avoid telling people they won a certain award or prize for football as to not risk turning into the cocky jock.
Also, from the stories I have heard, the coaches would be real hard a**** who were always yelling at their players and never looked like they were having a good time; however, on our team, while the coaches did get fired up from time to time and were always focused on winning, they were out there to have a good time too, laughing and joking around like a lot of the players.
From all the information I was given by movies and adults about high school football, I found only one was true: you will remember it for the rest of your life. From the nights out after the games to the crazy plays made during it, Friday nights were always crazy and memorable.
(Editor’s note: Luke was a starting lineman on a team that finished 10-1.)
Abby: Big decisions are on the way
Everyone thinks about senior year as the beginning of the end, but as I was standing at the start of my last cross country race for the season, I realized how wrong that was. After I finished this race, the next time I’d run cross country would be during my last season. Most kids would probably respond with, “Well, duh, you’re a junior,” but I don’t see it that way. It feels like yesterday that I was a freshman at my first high school dance. The past two years have gone by so fast that I don’t even believe I’m here.
So yes, as I am finishing my cross country season, I realize the next time I do this will be my last. The beginning of the end. It sounds so final and definite, but then we all know what comes after that: college, loans, and jobs will come crashing down on us, and absolutely nothing will be certain. So this is what I have to say to the underclassmen: Enjoy it, go to all the school dances, hang out with your friends, and just have fun. You will have to make decisions that will affect your future the second half of high school. Do not put them off, but enjoy high school too. I haven’t even scratched the surface of what I need to decide, and I’m already thinking of running for the hills. (You can decide if I mean literally or figuratively.)
I’m not saying juniors have no fun and it’s all tough decisions, but as an underclassman I always thought, “I don’t have to worry about that.” Now I’m here, and yes I have to take the ACT, look at colleges and figure out scholarships and loans. I have two years to figure out what seems like the rest of my life. This is the beginning of the end of my high school career.
Now, my last race did not go the best. I was three minutes slower than my previous race, and that’s bad. Even still, I could look around at all my friends, and I have countless memories from cross country with them. I’ve seen them when they are injured and going through hard times, and I’ve seen them reach goals they never would have imagined. They have seen me go through the same things. Yes, this is the beginning of the end, but I have so many friends who have been with me through the years that I’m not ending this alone.
Michael: The daily routine has set in
It’s October now. Late October, in fact. I’ve still got amazing teachers to thank for providing at least a bit of enjoyment into my day, helping to combat the bleakness that has begun to creep in.
Each day has begun to feel like a simple cycle: wake up by six o’clock, bike to school, talk to an important friend of mine, and head to my 7 a.m. class. This begins the cycle of talking to that friend for most of my breaks in between classes, all of which continues until 3 p.m. From there, if it’s Monday, I head to Writer’s Guild, and if it’s Wednesday, it’s Robotics. If it’s Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday, I will instead go and talk to a friend for a short while, and then I bike home.
It’s enjoyable, don’t get me wrong, but it’s more and more of the same. The cycle has yet again proceeded to continue, and it’s again my fault that it propagates in my mind. My last essay had devoted itself to talking about how I didn’t want this cycle to continue, and how I wanted every day to be unique and exciting. Now, maybe a bit more than a month since I wrote that essay, I’m writing about how exactly it’s settled into my mind.
Maybe I’m not alone. Maybe it’s the same cycle that has infected almost every other high school student at some point in his or her life, and continues to infect them to this very day. What can we do to combat a cycle that only exists because of people’s willingness to let it exist?
I wish I had the answers there. Maybe this book will offer some advice to people who are going through the same bleak cycle of sameness that I am.
But sadly, I don’t think I do.
Kiera: Too much complaining going on
October in particular has brought me to the question and concern of what high schoolers deserve. This comes to mind lately because I can confidently write that I do not hear enough complaining -- sarcasm, of course! -- as I sit in class, walk through the halls, and listen to lectures.
I don’t actually know where to start because my fellow classmates seem to have so much to complain about. When I’m among them, I honestly don’t know whether to simply hop on the bandwagon and just do what I normally do to end conversation quickly and agree, or to be disappointed by such negativity that is constantly around me.
However, that is why I am writing this -- to address this negativity.
We live in a generation that portrays laziness, lack of effort, and most important in my opinion, the inability to see other perspectives and/or differences. I apologize for the small majority of students to which this does not apply.
For example, this month De Pere HS held its “Octobird” celebration for the second year. This event is supposed to replace our homecoming that was taken away about 15 years ago. We are given this time to show school spirit and to create fun experiences with efforts throughout the school, but there are still kids whining that it’s not homecoming, so therefore it’s stupid and why participate? Which, thankfully to them, is another great example of how we, as a society, reject ideas that don’t fit correct labels in our minds about a topic.
It doesn’t stop there.
Yes, we all complain about homework. Who doesn’t?
What really gets me, however, is when people complain about their grades and then blame the teachers. I’m not trying to suck up to the teachers reading this, but I speak truthfully when I say we get the grade we earn. So many of us want the world handed to us on a shiny platter, but that isn’t a sufficient way to succeed. We get the grade we put in the work for. With so many resources and opportunities out there, we have to stop relying on others and stop trying to put all responsibilities on other people’s backs.
We don’t deserve all the luxuries we want when we can’t appreciate what we are given. And I can say that goes for everything in life.
Naixuan: Joining some new clubs, groups
With the leaves changing colors and the weather getting colder, two months of school quickly flew by. The excitement of the fall weather was everywhere, along with that the excitement of our first semi-formal dance, Fall Ball.
From dresses to shoes, it was an exciting time. Becoming a member of Student Council, I was honored to help set up decorations for the big day. After days of planning, we were finally ready to start decorating. We put up streamers and sparkles for two hours, and we were officially ready.
The night of Fall Ball was the most fun I experienced in De Pere, and many new memories and smiles were shared that night. The week after, I rejoiced as my friend invited me to homecoming at my former school. Driving an hour home, I finally got to see my friends again. It finally hit me that despite the fact that I moved an hour away, my friends still cared for me. Moving may not have been a painless joy ride. With the support of my friends and family, it was an experience that has and will mature me into a better person.
I joined orchestra at school, and outside of school I became a member of the Green Bay Youth Symphony, where I met all kinds of people from different schools around Green Bay. Through a friend, I discovered a figure skating team that represents De Pere, and upon joining the team I felt a little better.
All these groups gave me a sense of belonging to something. At a new place, it is a feeling that I desperately needed. Hoping that my placement in these groups is permanent, I pray that this school year will be better than how I foresee it.
Ian: We all define “friend” differently
I like to think I am social. I know a ton of people from my grade, the grade below and two grades above.
However, it astounds me how many of those friends I really know a lot about and am really close to. Of the seven other people that sit at my lunch table, I probably know two of them really well. Don’t get me wrong, I consider all of them friends, though I think the word “friend” is a vague term that changes at different stages in life.
At this point in my life, I would define a friend as a person who I like to be around and who doesn’t hate me. But there are people whom I consider close friends. These people I know more about or I’ve known for a long time. These are the people who I trust the most and who know the most about me.
One of these close friends, let’s call him Phil, I’ve known since elementary school. If I want to go to a football game or a movie or something, Phil will always be the first one I’ll ask to see if he can go, too. It’s important to have these kinds of people in high school to go to for help with studying or just someone to talk to about personal issues.
Then, some close friends I have are relatively new in my life. One of them, we’ll call her Jenny, I met less than a year ago, but I consider her a close friend. Jenny and I met in math class my freshman year, and we don’t go a day without texting back and forth for a while or calling each other and just talking about life. I can’t say whether the way I describe a friend is the same for everybody in a high school, but it’s my definition.
Another observation that goes hand-in-hand with this topic is the fact that I know almost everyone in my grade. Now, this doesn’t mean I would go up to them and be able to carry on a conversation, but I could pretty much point out who most everyone is if I had to. Maybe it’s just that I’ve been in this district for so long, but if someone tells me they have a crush on someone or something like that, I almost instantly know who they are and at least a little bit about them. I think that’s a really cool thing.
To finish up, personal relations in high school are crucial and everyone has a different definition of what a friend truly is.
Jade: In school mode, time goes fast
As the end of October approaches, I am starting to realize just how fast time is going, and it’s really sad.
As lives get busier and more things become a priority, time suddenly slips away. People are trying so hard to hold on to it, and I don’t blame them. I remember when an hour felt like three, when a day felt like a week, and I especially remember when summer felt like a year. It was nice to sit back and enjoy the feeling of having all the time in the world.
I went into high school thinking I had all this time, but in reality I don’t. Last year, it had felt like I’d be in this school forever, but now I’m a sophomore already thinking about the next stage in life, and I wish it could all slow down.
Everything is moving so fast, and it feels rushed. I often wonder how long I really have until I am alone trying to take on all these new responsibilities. I don’t feel close to being ready to be on my own, and I doubt two short years will get me to that point.
I miss my endless summers where it felt like school was long gone, and I miss the school years that gave me all the time in the world to figure everything out. I’m scared for what’s next and even more scared for how fast it’s going to hit me. I was told that freshman year was the fastest and slowest year of high school, and it’s true because I remember begging time would go faster because I was bored out of my mind, but this month I haven’t had time to be bored because I turned around and it was over.
Sophomore year has so much more work and studying that I don’t have all the time to sit back like I did freshman year. Everything is work, work, work. Now that things are finally back into school mode, I don’t have time to think because now is when everything gets into gear. The first couple months are about getting to know classmates and teachers and a little less about school, but after that time is over, the actual units kick in and the stress levels begin their climb.
Maya: Driving isn’t all that magical
Turning 16 is that magical moment in every teenager’s life where we can finally drive.
Well, maybe not so much.
First comes the long, dreadfully boring Driver’s Ed classes that contain videos from when the VCR was new technology. In addition to that, teachers show powerpoints that nobody can see due to cruddy projectors and the myriad of teenage skulls blocking the way. The final obstacles are the behind-the-wheel sessions and then the actual driver’s test. After getting through all that, we can finally drive.
Although, teenagers soon discover that driving is not all it’s cracked up to be.
To begin with, teenagers are by far not the worst drivers on the road. The accidents teenagers get in are probably partially due to other idiotic drivers who don’t bother to follow basic driving laws. For example, the other day I was driving down the highway when a semi stopped suddenly and then did a Y turn in the middle of the highway. The semi proceeded to drive backwards and then turned onto a ramp it missed. Laws have to prohibit doing that on a highway because that’s dangerous and quite moronic. Another blunder that happens more frequently is people not using blinkers. I’ve almost gotten hit before because some random person decided to change lanes with no blinker, and people won’t use their blinker when turning as well. Apparently it’s too difficult to turn on a little light to prevent traffic accidents.
Speaking of preventing accidents, roundabouts are supposed to help with traffic and prevent head-on collisions. Unfortunately, it seems as though no one knows how to use them correctly. I have to go through seven roundabouts on a normal school day, and I have come to realize that everyone uses the roundabouts differently which results in lots of almost-crashing, honking, and infuriated people. One main issue is many don’t know to yield to the left and look to the right to see if they should go. Then, they’ll just pull into the roundabout, causing the person to their left to honk because of being cut off. Overall, the roundabout confusion is a widespread issue with people who went through driver’s ed before that was taught.
A big issue at my school, parking lots are a warzone of honking instead of bullets and a whole lot of armies or cars each on their own side. They can become a living nightmare during large scale sales in malls or at the end of a school day. In the DPHS lot, teenagers rush to leave school all at the same time, creating a huge mess of cars pulling out of parking spots and long lines of cars trying to beat the busses. All this commotion usually leaves my car, which is near the exit, blocked in for a good 30 minutes. When I finally am able to leave, I encounter a roundabout right outside the parking lot which takes ages to get through and occasionally can’t be used at all because someone didn’t use the roundabout correctly. Then, I have to find a way home that doesn’t use the roundabout, a near impossible task because of our terrible parking lot setup. So far, I am not enjoying driving, especially in parking lots.
Personally, I have a hard time blaming teenagers for all the traffic issues when there are so many bad drivers who don’t follow laws. Although teenagers do occasionally make a mistake, older experienced drivers are not necessarily better drivers. It seems as though driving skill varies from person to person, and everyone should really stop complaining about new drivers -- at least they’re trying to follow traffic laws.
Ryan: A chance for new experiences
October is our school’s spirit month. I was told at the beginning of the year to go for all the opportunities that slightly interest me, lest I regret it later, and that is what I am determined to do.
I started this new approach by somehow convincing myself to go to a school dance and, while I might have rather been doing other things, I told myself that if I didn’t attend at least one dance or school event, that I would have regrets later. I didn’t quite enjoy it, but going allowed me to escape the feeling that I was missing something when I didn’t go to future dances or other school events.
The feeling of regret is fickle. I regret not hanging out with my friends, but had I not gone to that dance, I would have regretted not going. It’s important for high schoolers to have options so they can develop a personality and lead lives different than those of their peers. These four years really shape a person and who they associate with, and it is important for everyone involved in a high schooler’s life to encourage them to try different things.
Dalaney: Concussions can affect academic life
High school is hard, even for an almost straight-A student like me. I struggle to maintain my A’s as I’m sure everyone else does. But high school just got a lot harder.
For almost the entire month of October, I have had a concussion. I missed classes, sat through them but couldn’t do anything, and the longer the concussion lasted the more I missed. I started failing classes, and that hurt me a lot.
Even missing a day can put a student behind a week. Classes are challenging and frustrating. Not everything makes sense, and the teachers go fast even if students don’t fully understand the material. Teachers have to do what is good for everyone, not the individual student, making understanding and getting help that much harder.
Concussions are a big thing, and they can happen to everyone. Lots of people think that they only affect boys, and that’s not correct. Soccer is the No. 1 sport for girls concussions, and that’s actually how I got mine. Going to school while having a concussion is like having all the energy sucked out of me. I don’t want to do anything and when I do, I am not allowed to.
I am still failing some of my classes thanks to my concussion, and it worries me. High school is hard enough without worrying about failing classes too. People think that it lasts a little while and then people are ready to get back up again, but really that’s not it.
I missed a little over three weeks of school before I was cleared to do school work, and I’m still not caught up yet. So know that high school is hard, but having something hold you back makes life, and school, so much harder than anyone who hasn’t had a concussion can know.
Mackenzie: Stepping out into the adult world
This month, I realized what “growing up” entails. I turned 18 in September, and already I have experienced the process of moving out, making monthly payments on a credit card bill, buying a car, licensing the car under my name, and paying car insurance (which is quite expensive, especially if you’ve been pulled over once already for speeding, but I’ll save that story for another day).
The bottom line is, time is precious. Many wise adults have told me that time flies. They aren’t lying. It’s a bittersweet issue, but sooner or later, we ALL have to grow up. I just chose to get a move on earlier than others.
For me, it was an independence kind of thing. My parents will say that I have always been an extremely independent individual who would often refuse to ask for help unless I desperately needed it. I strongly dislike having to depend upon others. Not only does it make me feel somewhat useless, but it makes me feel stingy, like I’m feeding off others for something beneficial in return.
So when I moved out a few weeks after turning 18, I returned the car my parents had lent me back to my Dad, and I started my Craigslist hunt for a new automobile. It was somewhat scary at first, because for a week or so during which this “hunt” was taking place, I was without a car. Talk about being dependent on people. I realized how much I was dependent on my car.
I found various cars I liked, but many of them fell through. Some were advertised for a decent price but were “missing the engine,” “in need of wheels,” or “project cars.” However, I ended up encountering an Acura Integra, the same car as which I’d been given permission to use by my parents. This one was all black, addressed with black rims, a decent tint job, and an aftermarket radio. This Integra appeared luxurious in comparison to the last one, which had been rusting on the sides, and it sported a bedazzled Acura emblem on the front, courtesy of myself when I thought that embellishment would be a nice touch.
I contacted the owner, bought the car on the spot, and took it to the DMV a day later to transfer the license and register the car. Now, I couldn’t be happier, or more proud of myself, to say the least. I bought my own car in full, and the car is registered under my name. I’ll have that car to myself up until college, through college, and even after -- it’s all mine.
Additionally, I opened a credit card to begin the establishment of credit. This is yet another adult responsibility I took into my own hands to prove my independence. At the end of every month, I receive a statement of my spending; usually, I purchase small items so that I can pay the total in full.
To conclude, I don’t feel like rushing life is a good idea, necessarily, but getting my feet wet with what the future holds isn’t a bad idea.
Sure, my parents will still pick up some costs, but for the most part, I can support myself. I work over 20-hour weeks during the school year and full-time during the summer. Rather than get all of the responsibilities associated with being an adult thrown at me at one time, I’m taking baby steps into the real world and getting myself out there.
Edson: Leaving home is a bit scary
The more time that passes each day, the more I begin to realize how unprepared I am for college.
Almost all of my friends around me have their lives figured out because they know exactly where they are going to college and what they will study.
And then there is me. I am still clueless as to where I want to go to school. I know that wherever I end up, I have to make sure that I am with one of my friends because I simply can’t do the whole “being alone” idea.
My older sister, who is 25, was the first one in our family to go to college. Although she did go to college, she did not leave home because it is a Mexican tradition to simply not leave home until married if you are a girl. I wanted to do the whole college experience and leave home to go live in dorms, which is why I needed to talk to my parents about it. I was unsure as to how my parents would react to me asking them if I could leave home and become independent by leaving them behind; however, after a long talk, they agreed to let me go and enjoy the experience to become successful.
My dad never finished high school, and my mom didn’t attend college, so they knew that in order for me to be successful in school, I had to attend a four-year university to get a degree and start my career.
I still don’t know what I want to study when I am in college, but I am simply trying to get into a school first. I’ve never been away from home for more than two weeks, which is making me even more scared for completely leaving. Both of my parents told me that they know what it is like to have a job rather than a career. They explained to me that the difference between a job and a career is that people love doing what they do.
Although I am terrified to leave home and leave all of my friends behind, I am excited to see what the future holds.
Doug: School could help in reducing stress
Whether someone is on the brink of death or a student is writing a simple thesis statement for a class prompt, stress alters the way we think. Originating from seemingly endless criteria, stress is nearly impossible to avoid in and out of school.
The work weight imposed by school is by the far the greatest contributor to my apprehension towards high school, and I feel that my peers would concur. Day in and day out, a steady cycle of work must be completed in order to succeed; if these standards are not met, failure will soon follow.
With this in mind, high school produces an abundance of stress upon its students: pupils who already worry about endeavors such as college, a job, or whether or not they’ll be able to make it to the next Chess Club meeting. But even with all of these afflictions mentioned, stress is a necessary catalyst; it is the justification and pursuit of personal success.
Without stress, there would be a dismal lull in the development of every student’s potential. From an educational perspective, the advantages of employing stress are crucial because they teach students how to value and manage their time.
Nevertheless, even with its provisions, the stress that I have so far felt in my high school career is tremendous and often seems unjustifiable for a junior in high school. In concurrence, I believe that schools should employ methods to relieve or at least acknowledge the massive load that all students must carry on a routine basis. Small additions to curriculum like the simple act of applying the education to real life functions would do a great part in this matter!
My best example of this is shown in the seemingly endless amount of homework that I receive in any given week. To me, it seems as if the amount of work that I’m given restricts my potential learning since I don’t have enough time to process each given assignment or topic. In this way, I feel as if teachers are forced to pile on homework for a grade rather than a purpose -- this is what gives me stress in and outside of the classroom. I personally loathe the idea of being forced to learn about things that will have no precedence later in my education or even in my lifetime. An example of this can be seen within any high school history class, where true comprehension is placed behind the burden of curriculum and grading standards; rather than allow students to think upon massive historical events, we instead force them to memorize it for the next test and then cast it aside afterwards.
It is the not the learning that gives me stress, but it is the practice of learning something that won’t be applied later on in the school year or in my lifetime. I find that the teachers who are able to spend more time justifying and expanding a topic will yield less stress and a greater amount of learning within their classes. Finally, I think that stress is best handled by justifying the education to the students -- if a student puts value upon education, he or she will work harder to manage and pursue it.
Abby: Rise above hate in the world, at school
Terrorist attacks and mass shootings have become normal in our society. Not to say the deaths taken do not mean anything or are not mourned by the nation, but it is no longer a shock to turn on the news and see news of a mass shooting. This month I was at work washing dishes, and we had a break, so I went on my ipod and looked on Facebook.
On Facebook, two of my co-workers and I discovered multiple posts saying “Pray for Paris”, and profile pictures had been changed to have the French flag colors over the picture.
We all looked at each other in confusion. We had no idea what had happened, so I did what most people do today: I Googled.
Just glancing at the articles made my stomach churn. At that point I think it was up to about 120 deaths. The news was plastered everywhere for the next week-and-a-half, playing reactions of the dead that all sounded similar. They asked the question everyone wanted to know: “How can humans do this to each other?”
Amid the reports, one man stood out that they interviewed. He wrote a letter to the terrorist who had killed his wife, leaving their little boy motherless. In the letter he said to the terrorist, “You have not succeeded. My son will grow up to be happy.”
He continued saying that the terrorist will not have the man’s hate, and he will live a normal, happy life. This was something different, and so it stood out.
In high school we will encounter people who dislike us. A person can do everything right and try to please everyone, but no one will succeed. There will always be people who hate their classmates, and nothing will change that. Each person, though, will always have the upper hand in these situations because we can control how we act.
The haters will not have the satisfaction of knowing they got to us if we don’t let them. My father once said it takes just as much energy to hate as it does to love, and I don’t have enough energy for that.
Kiera: Thankful for all of my friends
This month’s insert might come off really convenient or somewhat obvious because of Thanksgiving. Being thankful is what I am coming to feel passionate about lately, and yes, you could say because of the recent celebrations. Teenagers can be very selfish, and unfortunately, as we grow up, it seems every generation is getting worse.
High school should be remembered as a time that was fun, crazy, and only described as selfish in the sense that a person took every opportunity in those four years. I want to remember high school as something I enjoyed, and I want to say when I’m older that those were some of the best times of my life.
I know that there is enjoyment in every age, but I will only do high school once. It sucks hearing the adults or even college students say, “That was the worst time” or “I couldn’t wait to get out of there.”
There is always something to smile about, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Some days can feel like the end of the world -- bombing a test, listening to rumors floating around, or hearing snarky comments about peers. It’s most frustrating to hear about people talk so negatively about others because we are all going to be out of this place eventually, so why not just keep your mouth shut and save it until it won’t matter anymore?
To say the least, I’m very thankful for my true friends, because they are the ones who will help me remember that high school was the time of my life. The friends I can call my best friends are those who don’t always want to talk about others, and who make me forget to check my phone.
Most people have two types of friends: ones they can have a good time with here and there, and friends that you can’t stop laughing with but can also sit and discuss deep topics like life and death. It’s important to have both types of friends in high school because it makes us appreciate the good friends more.
Michael: The impact of teachers
To me, it can be quite amazing at how successful I can be at forming a sentence that I’ve typed up, only to watch myself later manage to -- several times in just one sentence -- stumble over the same word again and again.
It’s just as amazing as it as amusing, I suppose. Likewise, it’s amusing when I notice just how fluent I feel when it comes to typing up my emotions; however, when it comes to speaking about them, I feel as fluent as a fish trying to swim upstream with a hook in its mouth.
And yet, I love to talk. I won’t deny being a vain person in any sense of the word -- I like to think quite highly of myself and then at the same time put myself down for things out of my control in a toxic cycle of joy and happiness. To me, there’s a simple joy in the art of communication, whether it be through writing or speaking. Plus, I like the sound of my own voice. Go figure.
What does this have to do with high school?
In class, I’m sometimes a completely different person: I stay silent and just simply do the work assigned to me and get no further joy out of existing than I would doing quite literally nothing. But a few odd teachers that I have make me come out of my shell, and I speak up and enjoy being there. In some cases, it’s simply a matter of having friends with me in my class, but in others -- classes where I started the school year with hardly anyone that I knew in them -- it’s a different matter. Rather, it’s a much more important part of school that often seems to go ignored: the teachers a school has.
How can teachers make such a big difference in how a student acts? It’s simple: they engage students to their fullest, no matter how much attention they get back. They allow for arguments and for discussions; not only that, but they inspire them. They tell stories and they make the classroom not feel like a classroom. They make it feel closer to a collection of friends, no matter how close any of the students actually are.
Perhaps this is but one of the solutions to the depressing days of school: teachers who enjoy teaching. I’ve got quite a few of them; in fact, if De Pere High School has one thing going for it, it’s the teachers. There’s such a list of them that it’s hard to fit them all into this short essay whilst still giving them all a proper reason for why they’re a good teacher, so I’ll just list the cream of the crop here: a history teacher (Mr. Oslund) and a French teacher (Mr. Mohar).
Almost the entire school can agree that they are amazing and engaging because they’re just so passionate about what they do. They turn a class into a community and make sure that everyone gets to talk. If every teacher was like this, I’m certain that the only way people could fail a class would be if they truly did not understand the concept, they were gone for half a semester, or they simply did not try. Sadly, not every teacher is like this, and I think that’s one of the biggest disappointments about school that I’m forced to confront.
Naixuan: Teens aren’t always as they seem
Sometimes the happiest people can hide the darkest secrets. It is something I would know. From the outside, people can see a happy girl; if you get to know her, you’ll understand that she’s hurting inside.
Often all this pain is caused by myself, whether it is through criticism or judging myself harshly. There are times I wished I wasn’t alive, times that I looked at the sea, with my pockets full of rocks asking myself “Is it my time to go?” Although we are young, many teenagers suffer through the same problem. Darkness and sadness consume our souls, leaving an empty shell behind. Hatred and low self-esteem rip through our bodies, and proceed to leave rage and reckless minds. Most people have asked me, “Why don’t you get some help?”
Help is such a sacred word. Many kids are afraid of it. Getting help is like asking the devil to take away your soul. Let me tell a secret: Although we teenagers don’t think we need it, help is the one thing we truly need and desire.
Along with that, we also crave love. The need to fit in, the need to feel loved, and the need to feel accepted are all questions teenagers ponder every day. All these factors are ideas that are forced upon us by our society, things ranging from having the perfect body to being the best athlete.
So the next time you see a teenager, don’t judge them by how they look or how they act. Judge them by what is inside and encourage them to live on. Life’s too short and we need to learn to value it, for we only get one chance of living it.
Jade: Where, exactly, do I belong?
I think people tend to have a big issue with self-acceptance. It’s something that I have had a hard time overcoming. Everyone underestimates things about themselves, and that tends to get into people’s heads with strong negative effects.
I do believe high school is a huge factor with this concept because it’s a time where people struggle to figure out where they belong. This four-year period can be scary and stressful, as teenagers begin to see how not everything is easy and carefree.
I have definitely had moments where I just wanted to give up. I didn’t see the actual purpose in what I was doing, or why I had to put so much work in. Freshman year I was bullied a lot, way more than I led anyone on to believe. A Twitter page was made about me, telling me I should kill myself and that I was worthless. I didn’t outwardly express how that actually made me feel because I didn’t want to make a big deal of it and then regret it in the future.
The bullying only made me even more insecure, and the self-hatred built up to the point where I didn’t want to try anymore. No one knew that, though, because I was determined to appear like I didn’t care. But I did because it hurt a lot and ever since then I haven’t been able to tell myself I am just as good as everyone else because in reality I may not be. There is nothing I can do about it either because standing up for yourself doesn’t work anymore, not when you have nothing to stand up for. In high school the only opinion that matters is majority opinion, so by being bullied, it was decided that my opinion no longer suited the rest.
Maya: Sharing hobbies isn’t always easy
Ride or dies, squad, crew, posse, gang, clique or whatever you want to call it: These are a large part of social well-being in high school. As teenagers or even as humans, we tend to make assumptions and assume everyone is similar to us.
In some ways this is good, for this behavior helps us get along and group together; however, it’s also bad because we miss out on certain aspects of people and their lives. It’s worse in high school because everyone just wants to fit in somewhere and not be outcasted due to some unique attribute they possess. The result is many shallow friendships and a whole lot of strangers you just happen to hang out with.
One idea that surprisingly gets left out of many friendships is real hobbies. Average hobbies like watching movies, playing sports or liking video games are encouraged, but things like sewing, hunting, or art are left out and are a little shunned. People who are really into art will find themselves in the outcast groups, and they may keep it hidden to make finding friends easier. Personally, I try not to hide my hobbies (computer, chess, archery, writing, and reading), although it really limits the number of people who enjoy my company.
Many times, while stuck at assigned table groups, I’ve noticed the sameness of many “regular” friend groups. It is almost as if they are all the same person, and they all talk about the same things. Intellectual conversation isn’t ever heard among these groups, and it saddens me a bit thinking about how these people must be unique inside but choose to hide it.
Clubs and other extracurriculars aren’t really focused on when compared to sports. When kids are in a club and a sport, the sport always takes priority, and athletes will get in trouble for skipping a practice to go to a club. Once again, teenagers are forced to comply with certain hobbies to make others happy instead of doing what they please in terms of free time. Forcing teenagers to choose between the more encouraged option and the one they enjoy most can be quite the struggle and tends to lead teens into choosing the widely accepted option while hiding what they really want to do. In the long run, these teens make friends with people who only like the hobby they chose rather than the majority of their hobbies, and this leads to the not-so-wonderful friend groups.
The common cliques that form from this kind of interaction seem to be full of drama and hatred between friends or leaving certain people left out. It’s unhealthy for their mental well-being, and high school would be a much more pleasant experience if everyone was open with at least their hobbies. Unfortunately, it seems as though this social structure isn’t changing anytime soon, so I suppose it will continue being this conformity of the hobbies concept for now.
Ian: Honestly, my clothes are clean!
Here in northeast Wisconsin, winter starts early, which means we all start to wear warmer clothes.
Many of my winter outfits, if you could call them that, consist of a sweatshirt and either jeans or sweatpants. High school is not a fashion show, so I tend to wear the least dressy combinations possible without looking like a complete and total slob.
Nevertheless, what really gets on my nerves is when someone I barely know says something like, “You wore that sweatshirt two days ago.” Yeah, why do you care? It’s not like I didn’t wash it in between those two days. At least a full 24 hours have passed since I last took off that sweatshirt, and a load of laundry takes two-and-a-half hours tops. And even if I didn’t wash it, I most likely made the judgment that it doesn’t smell bad enough to need a wash, meaning more or less that it’s clean.
The one piece of clothing I’ve found people won’t comment on in the same way I mentioned before is jeans. Jeans are wonderful. They are pretty darn comfortable, they look nice, and the best part is I can go a couple days without washing them and no one notices.
The more I analyze school the more I start to realize that physical appearance is very important in high school. I am fairly confident about how I look right now, more than I ever have been in school. There will always be a level of self-consciousness in high school, but this is not a red carpet, and I wear what I want.
Ryan: Discussion of news events is needed
On the 13th of November, a Friday, terrorists attacked Paris, and 133 people lost their lives.
The Monday after the attacks, I heard nothing about the events at school. It seemed in the two days following the attacks that everybody had either forgotten about the tragedy or decided to not speak of it. These two scenarios are most distressing to me.
I feel that after any major event, people should be conversing about it. Part of our curriculum at school includes current events, but I don’t think our school puts enough emphasis on it. Not talking about current events does a major injustice to me and my fellow classmates.
How can my classmates or I form opinions about life events if we go to school in a bubble? I can see why our school might want to limit access to these current events; after all, most of our media in this day and age is biased in some way, and the idea of current events curriculum implies that the coverage is unbalanced.
But still, it is possible to mandate a curriculum with current events, as shown by Introduction to Social Studies, which is a freshman-year class. That class and the teachers who teach it manage to give mostly unbiased current events in the form of CNN student news.
I would like to see more current events in all school curriculum.
Aaron: The ups and downs of sports
High school is different. Even in the first few months of school, I had learned this obviously and sometimes brutally simple fact. Taken with the buzz of newfound high school life, many of my friends adjusted quickly and were swept away by a torrent of GPAs, electives, passing times, dances, and new faces. Overall, I felt like I was doing similarly well; oppositely, there was just one glaring chunk of high school life I was still struggling to swallow: sports.
Back in the beginning of August, I was enjoying the dwindling relaxation of summer while I still could. Suddenly, I recalled that cross country practice began that week, and I wasn’t exactly overjoyed at the surprise. Unready to forfeit any precious summer days at the hands of a grueling workout regimen (or so I thought), I complained and groaned. Who could imagine: I would have a meet on the third day of school! This was an outrage! Sports had never started this early in the year before.
Unsure of what to expect, I rode my bike to the first day of practice and found an extensive crowd -- boys and girls, freshman to senior, beginners to experts -- congregated in the rear parking lot. I was surprised again, but this time pleasantly. In my past experiences, running had always been a low-interest sport.
But here I was, surrounded by kids who shared my interest in running, and there were over 100 athletes on the team! My lazy summer jogs were soon swiftly swapped with tempo runs and organized workouts, and I was whipped into shape. Additionally, it was an especially convenient way to see my friends and ease back into the school year, all while doing something I loved to do. Astounding! Pretty soon I was running in competitive meets (which were a much bigger deal in high school) and being even more successful than I had anticipated, setting a new personal best 5K by almost three minutes.
Consequently, one would think that my freshman year of athletics was perfect, pristine, and all around peachy; this didn’t end up to be completely the case.
Still fresh off of the excitement and success of my cross country season, the basketball season was approaching, and I charged in with a full head of steam. Now, I knew I was no LeBron James, but I was fairly sure I could make the team. So I didn’t know how to react when I was shaved off the roster in the final round of cuts for freshman basketball.
To say that I was disappointed would be accurate; to say that I was surprised would be more so. The De Pere basketball program is competitive. That was certain, and I had known it from the start. The difference was that now I was experiencing it firsthand.
Running is my sport. Basketball is not. However, I do love to play basketball, and I had a good time in every game I played. I didn’t think I should have gotten cut, but then, that’s what anyone in the situation would say. My friends made the team, and I didn’t. It’s as simple as that.
Even though I wouldn’t have wanted to admit at the time, I learned something by being cut from the team: the biggest difference between middle school and high school sports was the competitiveness. Those who are good at something, as I was at running, can have a very enjoyable, rewarding experience. On the other hand, a more hardcore program like basketball, which can only be participated in by an elite few, can yield a painful situation if you’re not talented enough to play.
The contrast between these two outcomes is immense, but that’s part of what makes high school a unique time, at least from what I’ve observed so far. Nobody can control things such as cuts from a sports team, but they can decide how to react and how to learn and move forward from the experience.
Dalaney: Teachers do lots of good work
I would like to dedicate this month to teachers. November is usually the month for parent-teacher conferences, but that’s not why I want to talk about them.
Last year I had a teacher who helped me through some things in my life that I am grateful for, and it took me an entire year to realize what teachers do for students. Throughout my life I don’t think I’ve ever met a teacher who didn’t try to help their students in every way. I understand that while teaching, they have to focus on the needs of the entire class, and not the individual, but they do the best they can. I have had great teachers, and will hopefully have more in the coming years.
I don’t write this to say all teachers are amazing. I understand that some are not the best, but I want acknowledge all the hard work they do. Teachers spend a lot of time grading papers, making tests, and planning the school days, and their students don’t realize the work they do. As a teacher’s daughter, I see all that goes into the process and have come to respect it.
I want to give a shout out to all of the teachers who have given their time to the next generation. Without teachers, the next generation wouldn’t know anything. Teachers are the basis of our education.
In high school teachers have it rough, for they have to deal with insubordinate, crazy, wild teenagers, and that’s not easy. So thank you teachers, for all that you do and all that people don’t see.
Luke: Thinking about a future career
One of the biggest challenges I face as a senior is the decision of what major to choose in college.
I understand that statistically almost 50 percent of college students will change their major, but, of course, I’d rather get it right the first time. When trying to come to a conclusion to this question, I try first to think of the classes I like and the subjects I found interesting; however, the problem with this method is that I’m not sure if I liked those classes because they were easy or because I got a good grade in them or if I do really enjoy them.
Also, due to the relatively short time in high school and a limit to the number of electives I was permitted to take, I wasn’t able to take all the classes I wanted to, and don’t know if I would have liked those better than other classes. When I’m thinking of what major to choose, I try to picture what career can go with that profession.
For example, maybe I could major in history and then go onto law school to be a lawyer. The problem, though, is that I have very little information on what a lawyer or a person in a different career does on a day-to-day basis and whether I would enjoy doing those things.
Instead, I go on websites that describe careers. However, I find myself looking at the salary of those jobs and how easy they are to get and base my decision on those factors. I don’t think that is how you want to choose a major or career. I think that I want to be a computer programmer because I found the classes fun and the pay is, on average, quite good; however, the struggle is that I don’t know if these classes are a good indicator of what a job in that field might be like.
It would help if someone working in that field would come and talk to me and say, “Yes, that is what it is like,” or “Yes, if you enjoy that, then you will enjoy the job.”
Edson: I will miss being with Dad
Sitting down with my family and eating our last meal before the new year, I began to wonder just how much different my life would be in exactly a year.
As we all went around sharing what we have been thankful for during the past month, I simply sat and listened. My father began to share everything that had happened to him throughout the year, and it began to sink in that I will no longer be here in a year to share all of the wonderful moments I had with him. I feel as if it is too early for me to feel any sort of emotion towards it, but it was just the fact that it was New Year’s Eve that made me feel different.
The greatest impact that has helped me become the person that I am today has all been through experiences that I have shared with my family. During the course of my childhood, I have learned many different possibilities to solve a situation. My father has always treated me with utmost respect, and he allows me to experience the world on my own instead of telling me what is right and what is wrong. The most amazing part about this is that when I fall down and feel hopeless, he is always there to help me up and keep me moving forward. He isn’t the kind of person to yell at me for mistakes that I make, but rather correct me and tell me how differently things could’ve turned out if I would’ve just thought twice. Although my dad is very kind, he is still a man, which means it is difficult for him to show any sort of emotion.
One of my father’s close friends told me that my father told her that he will never experience anything as hard as losing me when I head out to college. The lady told me that he said, “Crystal lives very near, which is very easy for me to go and visit my daughter. Josiah has always been more attached to his mother, but Edson has always been mine.” When I heard this, tears began to fall down my face.
As much as my father and I disagree on everything, there is no one else that I love more. He has helped so much in my life, and it is very hard for me to believe that it is all almost over. He has done everything he could to make me a great person, but now the rest falls on me.
My only wish is to someday be the man he is.
Kiera: College is stressed more for today’s kids
It’s crazy how much high school has changed. Not specifically over the course of my years, but since my parents went to high school.
Every day, any typical mother will ask, “How was your day, honey?” and most kids who don’t feel necessary to go into detail, say, “Good.” Then she asks, “What did you do?”, and the kid will say, “The normal.” But what is the normal? What was normal 10 years ago? I can describe my normal, but can we really define normal?
I have listened to my parents talk about high school during their time, and while the time gap isn’t that substantial, their description differs greatly from mine.
My parents always say “everything was so different back then,” and the biggest difference is how much pressure is put on high school students of our generation. Not only is pressure put on simply succeeding in school, but also choosing a path to the future. It’s so frustrating to be a 16-year-old girl and be expected to know what I want to do in life.
The parents of my generation didn’t have to know where they wanted to go, yet the parents of all my friends and my own parents are successful. College is stressed upon and talked about in a way that those who don’t go will not get a good job.
This attitude comes from everywhere -- of course a majority of it comes from the school environment because they the ones who are supposed to prepare us for college. However, friends and family are constantly asking about what I want to major in or where I want to go and my future and general. I can confidently say that I am sick of being asked this question because first off, I don’t know the answer. Secondly, it makes me feel more pressured and stressed to figure out my life.
I would just like to know what it’s like to not feel like I have to decide what I want to do for the rest of my life so quickly and that every decision doesn’t depend on my future, but unfortunately sometimes it does, and I still feel the same way.
Abby: Wanted: Return of Christmas spirit
This is the first year I didn’t have my brother home after school to annoy me because he was away at college. My mom and dad’s busy season is Christmas time, so both were working late. I would come home to an empty house and wash dishes, feed the dog and do other odds and ends. There were nights I wouldn’t see my parents until 9 p.m., when I got back from archery practice. Then there were nights one of my parents was home and they would get upset because the other was busy. All of us were too busy to have time to see each other. Christmas is always December 25, but to me what makes Christmas great is the feeling all month long that goes along with it.
Every year my family helps decorate the house. We would pull out ornaments and hang them on the tree. This year I was the one pushing to decorate the house in hope of bringing that childhood feeling back. My parents were too busy with work to help or were too tired to try. I’m not blaming them -- we all have busy lives and I love them for everything they have done for me -- but I just miss us as a family making gingerbread houses and the excitement of Christmas we used to have.
How does this relate to high school? Being alone after school for hours and not seeing my parents made me take on responsibilities I didn’t have before. The absence of my brother during December was brutal on my Christmas spirit. My homework, job and clubs all took away time with my family. All of these things are true, but I guess that’s not my point.
Christmas is sacred to me. The feeling of the holidays is one of the happiest times in my childhood. It’s the kind of feeling that I just can’t describe, and this year it was gone. This is the first time in my life that I haven’t experienced that joy, and that’s scarier than one might think.
With new responsibilities I feel as though some of the childhood excitement has left. This is the first time I realized that in a year or so I will be alone away from my family all the time -- not just at Christmas.
Michael: An interesting diagnosis, discovery
December certainly was an interesting month for me. A bit of it was the result of Christmas, as it always is, but another reason stood out -- “Star Wars”. The new movie came out this month, and it was quite amazing.
But those two events aren’t the reason why this December was interesting.
No, instead I found out something rather major about myself: When I was a child, I was diagnosed with autism, specifically, Asperger’s Syndrome.
Actually, using “diagnosed” there is technically the wrong term. What I should say is that I should have been diagnosed with autism, but I wasn’t due to my mother’s arrogance when I was a child. Several people had, in my younger years, pointed out that something was up with me. She had me tested, and the doctors found out that I was autistic, but my mother never got me officially diagnosed. She thought that I was improving based upon my first year in school and that an official diagnosis was unneeded.
I’ve looked at the symptoms for Asperger’s, and they all make too much sense. Problems with social skills, eccentric behaviors, communication difficulties, limited range of interests, coordination problems, and being particularly skilled or talented in a certain area are all the symptoms I display. Though they are very mild, I have begun to think: How different would my life be if I was officially diagnosed and getting help with all of these issues in a more effective manner?
Honestly, I don’t think I want to know.
That would have been a completely different path of my life, seeing as how early diagnosis and treatment might have been able to improve my general quality of life. The biggest thing, really, that I got out of this was a sense of relief in knowing that the reasons for my general awkwardness were not exactly 100 percent in my control.
Doug: Writing for school isn’t always so great
Writing has always had an aura of stigmatism for me as I’ve passed through my education; the concept and execution of providing words on paper has always been met with trepidation.
In my opinion, the literary education that I’ve received during my time in high school has been tremendous, but there is a constant fear of writing that teachers never seem to acknowledge.
From the educator’s point of view, writing is the academic equivalent of pulling teeth; this is not the fault of the teachers nor the students. It is not the means of writing that scares me, and perhaps my peers will agree, but rather the fear that the words which I provide may not be up to the standards of my teachers. Even when it comes effortlessly, the “grey area” surrounding my own thoughts always seems to restrict me from presenting my writing without a bit of anxiety.
I frankly don’t remember how long I’ve had this issue, but it has become far more noticeable since my entrance into high school; often I have wondered if this was the case among most students.
More often than not, I find myself being overly fastidious towards my own writing, in a way that seems appropriate to my teachers. It almost seems unhealthy to be spending such great amounts of time going over and rewriting my essays, solely to bring them to the “perfect” standards that a good grade requires. As someone who loves writing, I hate the idea of forcing my own creativity into a little snapshot that is mandatorily put in place by rubrics and grading scales. To me, it seems like I’m being forced at times to put down a certain amount of criteria that essay needs -- things like a defined topic, vocabulary, or concept -- which leaves little to be expressed by my own imagination.
Students today are disenchanted by the prospect of writing, as shown by the incessant complaints which I have witnessed in any given English or literary classroom.
Why is this?
I feel as if the joys of writing are quickly diminished by the pursuit of completion; for a high school student, writing a great paper is only worth the effort if it yields a good grade. This is where I find my literary education’s greatest detriment: the student’s potential creativity is immediately placed behind his or her capacity for advancing the GPA.
In a seemingly robust high school, we still rely upon a rubric to solidify a student’s verbal capabilities. In effect, we kill the classroom desire to write by placing the student’s boundless thoughts into a cage of grades, which provides educators with a means of measuring creativity based solely on the pupil’s ability to address a thesis or to be under 500 words.
With this in mind, I believe that the solution resides within individual or even small group consultations between students and teachers.
To open the door to discussion, having these small “meetings” would force both parties to achieve a greater understanding of writing. For student writers, it would give them an opportunity to question their work with the overseeing of a professional. And for the teacher, it would permit a greater understanding of the student’s intentions with their writing, which would help when reviewing essays or projects.
Lastly, I have always been a strong supporter of teacher consultations for any curriculum, and I think that students can grow when given individual support from their teachers.
Ian: Not enough down time here
I’m finding it harder and harder to find time to write these. I want to put as much effort into these short essays as I can, but I never seem to find time.
This is a perfect segue into what I want to write about for this month. I find that this year more than any other in school I just don’t do things. For instance, I will make a schedule of sorts for what I’m going to do after school with homework and projects and such, and then I just won’t do any of it.
I’ve talked to people about this, and they’ve had the same experience. I want to be a good student and keep up with my school work, but it’s tough when going to school from seven in the morning until three in the afternoon. Eight hours is a large part of the day, and most days I have something to do after school.
When lacrosse season starts, I will have another hour and a half tacked on to the day, taking away even more study/homework time. Thus, I usually end up coming home and just relaxing and trying to distance myself from school, but that in itself is impossible.
Weekends sometimes help with this, but I have weekend activities to do as well as homework. Schoolwork takes over my life. I am always worrying about what’s next in my classes or what I have to study for next.
The next school break can’t come fast enough.
These seem to be the only times I can take a deep breath and just relax. That being said, we usually go to some relative’s house on holidays, the nearest one being in northeast Ohio, which is a good half a day away by car. Even breaks aren’t a break.
It’s frustrating, but it’s what high school is for me.
Maya: The effects of the bullying cycle
Everyone knows the stereotype of the losers in high school, the outcast teens who are either glorified or degraded in the movies. Of course, these movies are works of fiction, but they’re not completely wrong. Bullying and high school social classes most definitely occur, even if it isn’t as dramatic as Hollywood likes to portray it. Teens who are different or easy targets tend to be pushed out of groups with dirty looks, cold shoulders, and purposeful disregard.
Despite having been taught about bullying at some point in their school career, many students still bully -- just in a “joking” way. What they do is, unfortunately, no joke. Guys may call their friend who didn’t want to date some girl a fa****. What if he was gay? That statement could be the reason their friend cuts himself. A girl may call her friend “fat”; what if that girl is self-conscious? Maybe she becomes anorexic.
I’ve seen this happen, and it sickens me to no end. Teachers try to help when they can, but it happens too often for them to stop all of it. Teens get craftier the more they are caught; thus, bullying becomes a behind-closed-doors activity. They might begin sending text messages, delivering instant messages, posting statements on social media, or even passing notes. The victims don’t want to tell anyone, mostly out of feeling ashamed or the fear of losing their not-so-great friend. Nobody says anything, and the bullying continues to hurt the victims silently.
Bullies may eventually get tired of the mopey victim and move on, but the damage has been done. Suddenly alone, victims may be sitting in the corner of the classroom hoping for no group work, wishing just one friend was true enough to stick around, wanting the day to be over. They’re not getting bullied anymore, but the pain is still there. Then, they fade into the background and become the outcasts over only a few months or weeks. The story behind their fall in the high school ranks a convenient mystery.
These victims are forgotten about, and schools give themselves a pat on the back for stopping bullying. All the students know this isn’t the case, but they’d rather be ignorant. Parents never question their kid; no one wants to find out their little angel has become a monster. Sometimes that leap out of the comfort of obliviousness and into the knowledge of reality is necessary for a better high school experience or even a better society.
Next time a stranger passes by, remember they’re a human with a story too -- maybe a sad one, maybe a happy one, maybe one that still needs editing, but a smile and a wave could change that story for the better.
Aaron: It’s best to keep an open mind
When students envision this month, the thought of winter break is the first one in their mind. The 10-day vacation stands out, and it’s a relaxing time to stay home, enjoy the holidays, and take a break from school.
On the last day of school before this temporary dose of freedom, everyone is buzzing with anticipation and energy, so the schedule isn’t very academic; an iota of work would have been done anyway, and next to nothing would have been accomplished with the collective mind of the student body focused on the break to come.
Besides, anything taught on this day would have been totally forgotten by the time classes resumed in January, so bothering to start anything new was futile. Consequently, our day consisted mostly of wrapping up units and singing Spanish Christmas carols. At the end of the day, most of the school congregated in the gym and watched the final event before the break -- the holiday assembly.
Pumped with school spirit and studded with student participation, the assembly offered attractions ranging from a tug-of-war tournament to an impromptu (and rather unartistic) portrait by Mr. Orlich, the assistant principal. Personally, I thought the whole ordeal was a refreshing way to cap off the first few months of the school year.
Apparently, not everyone shared this opinion.
During a singing performance by two choir members, a few kids sitting behind me relentlessly criticized the performers. Anyone with a musical ear could tell that the vocalists were very talented, but a few other freshmen were making a sport out of finding faults with the duo. While I did my best to enjoy the song, I must admit that the onslaught of negativity from behind me made the performance considerably less enjoyable.
The experience made me think. I came in to the assembly with good expectations, and I managed to enjoy it. An opposite but equally common attitude, however, was that the assembly was one last event to endure before Christmas vacation, and those with this idea didn’t seem to appreciate it at all.
That’s the way it is with a lot of things in school: the mindset you go into something with correlates with how much fun you get out.
Ryan: Switching classes should be easier
In late December and early January, students have to decide what their classes for next year will be — nine months before those classes start.
Many people would say this this too early to choose classes and that people change their minds. That is exactly the reason I like choosing classes so early. I get a sort of buyer’s remorse for classes after I pick them, and I then reconsider in the months after my decisions.
My problem with this method is how hard it is to switch classes after the initial course selection. Six months is a long time, especially for a teen, and people can change tremendously in that time. Within one month of choosing classes, I was already thinking about taking a 7 a.m. gym class and another Advanced Placement class, and adding a half-credit course.
Because of my desire to switch and add classes, I have to talk to the school counselor and the person in charge of scheduling for next year. This is a lot of hassle for everyone involved for some changes that would better my education and challenge me more. All of these changes are purely academic and would better myself. It can be and should be easier to switch classes.
Edson: Friend pool has been shrinking
As the year goes by, I have noticed how I no longer have as many friends as I once did. One of the many things I learned from my freshman English teacher was that the number of friends one has freshman year will be significantly less during senior year.
When I first heard this, I just simply could not believe what he said. I had a vision in my head that by the time I would graduate, I would be the most popular kid at school and everyone would be my friend.
If I sit and think about all of the friends that I actually have, I could only say that I have two friends whom I can count on, and I know they will be the ones to be there for me through everything. The problem isn’t that teenagers simply stop trying to make new friends once they find their friend group; the problem is that people begin to realize they don’t have the time to please everyone.
My schedule currently consists of school, work, soccer, and going to the gym. I have no time to spend with my family or friends, which makes me very upset because this is the last year that I have to spend with them. There have been several times in which my father stayed up past midnight waiting for me to come home.
Even though he doesn’t tell me, I can tell that it is hurting him that he and I are no longer as close as we once were. As much as I want to keep everyone that I know in my life close to me, I know that it is impossible to make time to keep everyone happy. Although I don’t have many friends now, I would rather have one true friend than have many fake friends.
Mackenzie: School motivation is running low
I have taken on a severe case of what high school graduates call senioritis.
It is a disorder which envelops the mind and body of a current high school senior, preventing them from caring anymore in school, encouraging procrastination and the technique free spirits like to call “winging it.”
Yes, I was a 4.0 student all throughout high school. I tried in all of my classes, took the prestigious Advanced Placement and College Credit classes, even though they weren’t required, and was glued to textbooks 24/7. Friday nights were spent in my room, solving algebraic equations and writing multiple page papers on rhetorical strategies and their effects on thematic works.
However, times have changed.
Freshman year, I was a shy little girl. I lacked a great amount of self-confidence, and I often felt lost, as if I didn’t fit in. Sophomore year got a little better, but again, I was “wrapped up in my teenage years,” where every little thing seemed like the absolute end of the world. Junior year, it was getting better. I was beginning to gain more self-confidence, yet I still tried to “fit in” and be like others.
Senior year, I have had a slight epiphany.
Maybe something occurred over the summer; I don’t really recall. However, I went into senior year with a completely different mindset. It is hard to explain, but I don’t really care that much anymore. Yes, that sounds rebellious, and I’m sure the comment will be frowned up by my Dad if he reads this (which he will), but I am more content with my life now than ever before.
Freshman through junior year, I had to be the best, perform the best, and ace absolutely everything. I tried too hard and burnt myself out. This year I want a break, mentally and emotionally. I still take pride and dedication in my work, but if I get a B on a test, the last thing I do is stress about it. For tests and quizzes, I’ll still study, yes, but I sure as heck will not devote hours and hours upon end in an attempt to memorize every little detail.
Now, I roll with the punches, and it is the best decision I have ever made. I can focus on many other aspects of life, and I don’t feel guilty for portioning a few hours here and there out just to do the things I like. Lately I have been thinking that although school seems to be such a huge portion of our lives, it really is only a miniscule fraction. There is so much more “life” beyond hours spent in school, learning material we may or may not even end up utilizing in the near future.
I look forward to attending college, getting a great job, finding the love of my life, and having children. Never once in my life, as a child, did I say to myself, “Wow, I am looking forward to maxing out my stress levels every single day throughout high school.”
No, I look forward to the beauty and unexpected nature of what the future has in store.
Doug: Stricter teachers produce more learning
From the critical opinion of a relatively self-absorbed minor, it has been made obvious to me the fact that a grand majority of high schoolers find delight in the art of conversation during classes, rather than engaging in the course material or lecture of the day. This year, I haven’t noticed a single example of total classroom participation.
However disheartening this may be, I have been given no choice. No matter what the circumstance is, many of my fellow students will talk incessantly when given even the most meager of opportunities. I’ve grown tired of listening to other kids’ conversations, rather than the lessons of my teachers.
With the problem of talking in classrooms, I often ask myself: Is it the responsibility of the teacher to maintain a fair academic setting? Or is the success of the class dependent on the individual motives and determination of the students themselves?
As discussed during many of my conversations with teachers, it is incredibly difficult to get a class to work, let alone concentrate. Talking and texting are both huge issues in all of my classes, no matter how serious the course or material. This is a depressing concept because many kids refuse to learn when their phone or friend takes precedence during the class period.
From my perspective, I really respect the educators who use their entitled seniority over their students in order to eliminate these unnecessary classroom disturbances. In the “stricter” classes which I’ve attended, the teachers who remove the distractions of cell phones and classroom chatter are always the most successful. Unfortunately, these teachers are often few and far between, as educators must conduct themselves carefully in order to maintain a happy balance of both trust and deference among their pupils. With this in mind, I find that I prefer the more staunch classes because they demand an aura of respect for both the educator and the education itself.
For all intents and purposes, I do not wish to spread the belief that classes are commanded by the students; however, it truly is impossible to teach students who have no desire to learn. If a class is immediately commandeered by its teacher and taken into a state of educational enlightenment, it is readily apparent that this is the result of not only a strong teacher, but also a strong class population.
Furthermore, if a class is hastily thrown askew by cellular activities and the latest gossip, it will not achieve its full potential, no matter how hard the teacher may try.
Abby: Will I take the right classes?
Every January, a counselor comes to one of our classes and tells us the same thing: It is once again time to sign up for classes. In past years I liked signing up for classes. Most were already laid out for us, for we had a certain number of required classes. I filled the few remaining credits with easy classes like most of my classmates.
Senior year is different. For required courses, I must take .5 English credits and then either Government and Economics or AP Micro Economics. That leaves six credits to fill with what I want to take. Most would think this is great that I get to take six credits of easy classes, but that is not how I see it.
I want to go to a four-year college after high school. Unlike some of my classmates, I am not sure where I want to go or what I want to do after high school. I have no idea what classes to take that would help me get ahead because I don’t know where I am going. I am young for my grade, so I feel like a 16-year-old trying to figure out her life for the next five years. I have so many options to consider. Do I want to take youth options, or maybe an independent study? What classes look good on a college application? All these questions swirl around in my brain as I scan the huge list of classes.
I don’t have an answer to any of those questions or a clue where to start. In one year I have to choose where to go for the next 4 years, but what if I choose a school and then change to a major it doesn’t have?
I get hung up on the “what ifs” because I like to be prepared. I like going into a situation fully aware of what’s going on, and with college I’m going in blind. None of it matters, though, because I have deadlines. There is a deadline for my class sign ups that I met. I signed up for classes I had an interest in, such as history and English. There are deadlines for college applications that I will have to meet.
I will just have to be OK with not always being certain of what I am doing and hope for the best.
Michael: Semester switch isn’t always easy
Honestly, January is one of my favorite months of the school year. It’s the first day of second semester, and I’m actually pretty happy. To me, the start of a new semester is a fresh beginning. Most of my schedule gets flipped, flopped and turned around. Some things remain constant, but the rest gets turned on its head, and the result is glorious.
I really do love the start of a new semester. It is a new beginning in most cases, because even if the class hours aren’t all switched, I will have new people entering and other people leaving my classes. Sometimes, I have new classes altogether, all of which contributes to an overall feeling of a new beginning.
It’s only a bit chaotic for the first few days, though, if even that for me. Even when it happened my freshman year, I already had a fairly good idea of where I was going and what I was doing. It breaks the monotony for a little bit, and then just instills a new kind of cycle to replace the old one. It’s a vaguely enjoyable cycle, if dull and uninspiring, given that I get to see different friends on a more regular basis now.
Of course, a couple of hints of sadness come with that new beginning of this cycle. I will lose out on classes that I enjoyed and made friends in, for each class has its own inside jokes and humorous bits. One such class was Creative Writing, led by an amazing teacher that I didn’t have time to mention in November: Mr. Hall. Fresh out of college, he’s still learning his style of teaching, but he’s got the feel for his Creative Writing class. I can say, in no uncertain terms, that it was one of my favorite classes of first semester.
Alas, it’s now second semester and the class is gone and my schedule is all flip-flopped. With this flip-flopping, many of the friends that I might have had in a prior semester are now gone, and worst of all, sometimes my lunch even gets switched up, which is perhaps the most annoying part because now some of my friends have the lunch I had first semester while I no longer do.
Lunch has led to a cool pattern in which freshman year I had second lunch one semester and third the next; then, sophomore year I had third lunch first semester followed by first lunch. This year, I had second lunch, followed by third lunch. To me, that’s amusing because it’s cyclic, and it kind of also represents the moving cycle of life in high school, and life overall. Things tend to come and go in cycles, and lunch is just one of them.
Kiera: We all care about something
Whether you jump back ten years, or jump forward ten years, I think a high school environment will always hold some common characteristics.
Most students WANT the same thing -- it’s a simple thing -- which is to succeed. Whether kids express their goals or not is beside the fact, for everyone has them. That is common ground between teenagers. However, in our school and others across the country, cliques have and always will exist. It would be nice if everyone could just be diverse and get along with everyone, but unfortunately that’s not possible with how judgmental we can be. Friend groups, labels, and stereotyping of students by their looks and interests aren’t going away.
I would like it if students were more aware of the common interest we all have. Succeeding gives all of us a sense of self-worth. Even the kids who come off as if they don’t give a crap or have no passion about anything still have something that is important to them.
The least teenagers should do in school is show some respect and mind their own business. Students need to be aware that people come from different places with different experiences, and we can’t assume that they don’t care about anything. That bothers me about teenagers. Maybe they don’t care about school or academics in general, and it’s often obvious to point out those who don’t, but everyone’s got a passion for something different, and we need to respect that.
We live in a generation where we know nothing about people we don’t talk to nor do we care. If we need to know what they’re like, or I guess you could say if you’re curious, you can look them up on social media or hear it from the latest gossip. This is what it’s like, and it’s pretty sad. Rather than acknowledge the people we don’t exactly understand, we are caught up in our own friend groups and the things that only interest us.
In the end, we all care about something. I think it would be beneficial to make more effort to indulge in the appeal of others without judgment. This way, maybe the students who act out can find a reason not to because people care about what they care about.
High school is about finding your passion within what you care about, but it’s not always so easy.
Ian: Grades create lots of pressure
The end of the semester is bittersweet for students.
Finals are over. We get an extra day or two off, allowing us to take the gas off of the academic pedal, and this is good.
The bad part is something I hold a grudge against. All of the grades reset at semester. This is a blessing and a curse. All of the work we put into first semester is final by the end of January, meaning a fresh start and a clean slate for those who haven’t done too well first semester.
However, this sort of peeves me off because I try really hard to keep my grades as high as possible, which results in a lot of headaches and stressing over the littlest of point values. Furthermore, some classes that I signed up for next year I may not even be able to take because there are certain requirements for grades this year that transfer over to next year.
On a more positive note, I will say it is nice to switch teachers and classes and hours at semester.
I couldn’t handle doing the same schedule every day all year, so the change is very refreshing. The people in the classes change too, and I get to be with new people.
I would like to say that I think grades are too important. What we are more or less told from the time we are in elementary or middle school is that good grades will lead to a good job, and the good job will lead to a happy life. Bad grades mean a person will not get a good job and be a failure. This is why grades make me nervous, for life won’t be good without good grades.
Grades dictate future classes, putting more pressure on the student. I know for a fact that I am not the only one who has this feeling. Grades matter too much in high school.
Jade: Learning what I know, don’t know
Change has always been hard for me, especially when it comes to routine. I love routines and growing accustomed to something and holding on to that. I like to feel comfortable and know my surroundings, as I feel most people do.
When I first started high school, I had a lot of strong opinions and viewpoints that defined my personality. I tend to come off unhappy and cynical, and last year I was. I refused to open my mind and heart to new exciting ideas and experiences, and that really hindered my chance at making new friends and enjoying life.
Now, being in high school for a year where everything is constantly changing and creative minds and diversity are everywhere, I have been taught to expand my own visions and learn something that has nothing to do with curriculum.
First, I have learned to listen more than I speak. Also, I have realized that no matter how strongly I feel about something, I am not always right. It has helped me see the beauty in everyone and everything. For example, when I took new classes such as American Law, I learned so many new things I had no idea about but I thought I did. Becoming educated on something new and interesting allowed me to realize that I don’t know everything and that I shouldn’t argue like I do.
I’ve become more excited to share my ideas and dreams as well as hear about the other people around me share theirs. It’s really important to care about everyone like they are a friend because those are the steps needed in order build a better community and society.
After picking up writing again, I have decided to start my own project, allowing me to express what I believe I am good at as well as appreciate what others are good at. For instance, I was always jealous of a friend who is a great artist, and I wished to be as great as her. However, until she told me that she wished she could write like me, I had no idea that I was actually good.
A majority of people are blinded by things that drain the life from them such as work, school, the Internet, and TV. Yes those things are important, but what’s more important is that people take the time to live their lives and be happy.
Maya: The academic breaking point
Everyone comes to a point in their lives when they realize they’re on the edge of a precipice: new, mysterious, and frightening.
In high school, that edge is between being a teenager and being an adult. Realizing that falling off into adulthood is inevitable is an eye-opening moment for many high schoolers. They begin to plan the future, focus on grades, and think about getting a job. Perhaps they stop focusing on frivolous drama, and they look for new friends as they realize they may have outgrown their current friends.
Finding new friends who fit with their brand new outlook in life can be surprisingly difficult, especially during sophomore year when everyone is at different points in their maturity. Some students still don’t know how to do laundry, some have jobs with future plans, and some still think a grade point average of 2.0 will get them through college. With similar interests added up in the friend equation, finding an ideal buddy is like trying to find a specific needle in a haystack made of needles. This leaves many students feeling stuck hanging around with old friends. At some point, a student may have no friends as they search for new ones that fit just right. Although, having no friends for any amount of time is detrimental on a high schooler’s mental health.
Now with their new friends in tow, students look to the future where careers and colleges await them. Grade point averages begin to matter as some students realize early that their D-average isn’t going to get them to where they want to go in life. Unfortunately, some of the low-GPA sophomores don’t wake up and smell the ugly roses of reality, and they will probably hit the wall of doom in their junior year. The wall of doom is the place where it’s too late to raise GPAs, leaving students in the no-college zone.
Sophomore year is really the year that determines a myriad of aspects in each student that will shape their future. Whether they’re on the path of “Do you want fries with that?” or “Yes, I want fries with that” can be predicted by this point in the year, and it can be scary watching friends choose the minimum wage path when other friends want them to succeed.
Unfortunately, there’s not much to be done if they don’t want to try in school, and there comes a time when everyone silently accepts this.
Naixuan: Thinking about responsibility of driving
Driving is a goal in almost every child’s future.
The freedom of being able to drive a vehicle by myself is a satisfying idea. But lately, I have researched that in America, our driving age of 16 is significantly lower than other countries. I wonder if that’s a good or bad law.
Upon receiving my temps, I realized that driving comes with a lot of responsibility.
One wrong turn can result in a fatal car crash, endangering not only me, but many innocent people. Are teenagers ready for that kind of responsibility? Can we handle the stress of knowing that we hold the lives of everyone who is riding in our car? It is an interesting question to ponder.
Personally, it would be convenient to be able to drive, but a teenager has so many distractions around. After driving for the first time, I can understand why it is fun. The thrill of the engine purring underneath my fingers is quite an exquisite feeling. Having the power to go anywhere I want and the experiencing the thrill of going fast are great.
Going fast, however, can be a problem. Many young lives are lost due to speeding accidents. I recently lost a dear friend to a car accident. The mixture of speed and icy roads cost him his life.
To go back to the earlier questions, I believe that it is OK to drive as such a young age. But I also believe that many precautions should be taken. One wrong turn can cost a teen not only his or her life but also the passengers in that car, and life is something that cannot be taken back.
The only thing we can do is educate our future generations on the dangers of driving. Remind them to buckle up and turn their phones off.
We as humans only get one life. Let us make sure the teenage generation stays healthy and alive.
Ryan: Lessons in how to study
The first semester ends mid-January. Normally, in years past, I have rejoiced at being halfway through the school year. This year, however, I got done with a much-needed winter break and was immediately swamped with the task of reviewing for all my classes because finals week was our second week back from break.
Needless to say, I was stressed.
Over the next week and a half, not a minute went by where I did not feel the pangs of anxiety over the amount of reviewing I had to do for finals. I realized something then that I carried over to the end-of-the-year finals: It is better to start reviewing much before one has to because it will save time and stress down the road. By starting studying earlier, I was able to actually have time open going into finals week.
It shows me that high school is less about the books and more about the life-shaping moments. To all the other high schoolers and school-aged kids: take everything you witness and experience and use it, learn from it, and improve yourself with it. Seize and use every opportunity that is presented. It is the only time we can learn about time management (which I still poorly lack in) in a trial by fire.
I learned to study earlier because I had such a miserable time with my first finals.
Aaron: More respect would go a long way
This month, my little brother and I each had birthdays. The dinners and desserts were great, but through the celebrations, gifts, and other birthday-oriented routines, I couldn’t help but consider something I had heard a few weeks before.
It was shortly after the end of Christmas vacation, toward the end of the day. I had forgotten my hat in the locker room, so my mom told me I could run in and get it, but to be fast (a car full of hungry brothers was waiting for my return). As I jogged down the math hallway, I had to stick closer to the wall in order to avoid running into two custodians and their cleaning equipment. That’s when I heard the dialogue that would be turned over in my head for the rest of the day.
“Hey, happy birthday! I just remembered as soon as I saw you!” said one to the other.
“Thank you!” the recipient gushed.
“What are you doing special for your special day?”
“Well, I’m doing the toilets in a minute, but that’s not very special, I guess.”
It was obvious from her tone that she was only half joking.
“Yeah,” her friend sighed. “Well, that’s how it goes these days, isn’t it?”
And as I rounded the next corner and was fading out of earshot, I heard the last comment made by the lady whose birthday they were discussing.
“Actually, my friend sang happy birthday to me today, and that was really nice. That was the first time somebody did that for me in oh, I don’t know, 15 years or something like that,” she said.
It goes without saying that I felt bad; anybody would have felt bad. I guess that adults don’t really do anything for their birthdays, but it seemed terrible to me that someone hadn’t even been sung to for years.
During the rest of my walk to the locker room, I realized that we as students often don’t give nearly enough respect to the staff that work at our high school. After lunch, garbage can be seen congregating on many of the tables with the carefree expectancy that the custodians will pick it up.
And it’s not just the custodians. Students talk back to teachers without stopping and thinking of everything the teachers are doing for the cause of the kids’ education. Coaches are argued with; lunch ladies don’t even get a “hello.” And possibly most of all, kids respect one another so minimally that sometimes it’s hardly noticeable.
If there’s one thing our school needs, it’s more respect. It’s a concept that’s been drilled into our heads since we were in kindergarten, yet it’s an idea that’s disregarded as much as it’s taken into consideration. I know it sounds like a cliché, but in my opinion, if everyone would just do their part to be aware of how they are respecting others, our school would drastically improve.
Dalaney: Finals week is very stressful
The two scariest words any high school freshman can hear are “finals week.”
They terrify even seniors. As an incoming freshman, I had no idea what finals would be like. I just knew that they were coming fast. Even from the beginning, people would ask, “Is this on the final?” or “Will we need to know this to pass the final?”
It frightens us. Last week I experienced my first finals week, and it was exhausting. The weekend before was total shutdown -- no phone, TV or Netflix, and no friends. It was me and my books. After the weekend I spent studying for the tests, the next days involved a lot of caffeine.
Finals are an important part of high school life, but not one we often like to acknowledge. As a rule most students hate finals, as they probably should. In the words of my fellow students, finals can range from “totally sucking” to “OK.”
The greatest number of tests that we have on one day is three. Each test is an hour-and-a-half long and is as many questions as that teacher wants. The finals are comprised of everything we learned that semester. In my case we had tests the day before our finals just so our teachers could count them.
My final experience was like nothing I have ever had before. The weekend before was so hard to study, and I over-worried about what I would need on the test. I worried that I would think that something wasn’t going to be on the test, and then it would be.
Finals week is very stressful for most students, and it should be. Finals make sure we remember what we learned. Anyone can memorize a few formulas and mathematical equations, but we are lucky enough to be able to learn, so we should be able to remember something from a few months earlier.
Mackenzie: Frustration with some teachers
Something that really frustrates me these days is teachers who are unwilling to teach their students to the fullest extent. I had not noticed the issue as much in elementary or middle school, but as I near the end of high school, the issue is very apparent.
Perhaps it can be due to the fact that I am maturing and more susceptible to noticing change around me. As children, we partake in school for small, miniscule reasons. We are obligated to go, and we look forward to nap time, snack time, and read aloud every day. We hit upon every subject, in a very general way, as one teacher preaches to us from the front of the classroom every single day. We aren’t very wise yet and only focus on little, unimportant things.
As high schoolers, we begin to specialize in what we desire to learn about and define our futures around. We experience several teachers throughout the day, some better than others, and it is easy to spot the best from the worst, due to their attitudes and comments toward teaching within their classroom settings. We develop a higher level of care for our learning, especially since we know it will benefit our lives to come. When teachers refuse to share that same level of care and admiration for learning, putting a significantly lower level of effort into their profession, adversity can form.
In a way, I do understand why it may seem teachers aren’t “teaching” as much in high school. Teachers argue that they are “removing the training wheels” and letting us dive into material by ourselves. Now, that is not necessarily an issue. However, it becomes an issue when a student struggles, asks for help, and gets denied when the teacher shrugs the issue off to the side. Let’s be fair here: If a teacher decides to remove these “training wheels,” at least give some kind of a warning first! I don’t see where the satisfaction lies in watching a student fall off this bike. One cannot just throw a child into the world and say, “All right, Bud, you’re on your own.”
Teachers need to be role models for the students who sit before them. The words spoken by teachers are gospel to kids these days. Students are counting on their teachers to provide them with knowledge and credible information. If students are constantly teaching themselves, who is there to solidify the answer being correct or not? Students could be learning the entirely wrong way to walk through a math problem, close read an excerpt, or learn the science behind how the earth came to be.
We high school kids can be annoying. I get it. However, that does not give a professional permission to bash their job in front of us and complain about their salary nonetheless. I’ve been confused as to why teachers continue to do this. Certainly, not all teachers do this, but some do. I say it is entirely fine to point out the flaws and imperfections of the teaching profession as a whole, but please do not drag your students into it. Complain about it in the break room with all of the other teachers. It isn’t fair to discourage kids from teaching, simply because of salary complaints, benefit complaints, etc. If you do not like teaching, do not be a teacher. If you do not like how much money you make, change your profession.
I do not know all of the politics and controversy surrounding teaching, but from a student’s viewpoint, those are my solutions. Maybe a student’s dream is to become a teacher. Please, do not place barriers in front of a student’s journey. If teachers are constantly ripping on their profession, I do not blame the future generations for not wanting to be teachers. However, if we have no teachers as the future arrives, who will teach us knowledge? Who will supply children with the gift of learning? No one.
A plethora of unemployed people in the U.S. today would take anything and be grateful for it. So why are some teachers complaining? I do not understand it. Teachers, please be eager to come to work every day to share your skills with the world and those who look up to you.
Edson: Teachers can offer wise advice
Before I became a senior, teachers were just another body in the room. I would never attempt to view them any differently because I had such a fear of them.
I was also worried that I would get ridiculed by my classmates if they found out that I talked to teachers for guidance. As the finish line came closer upon us seniors, I discovered that teachers are actually some of the best friends that one can have. During high school, there have been numerous times in which I felt that I could no longer move forward, and I actually turned to one of my teachers for guidance.
With age comes wisdom, and all of my teachers are a prime example of this. During times I felt like I had no one, I would prefer to go and talk to my teachers instead of my actual friends. I learned that teachers have an answer to most of my problems because they have also lived them. The advice that teachers would give me would be words that would help me keep moving forward. Even though they tend to give amazing advice, they also are great people to associate with because they only want the best for us.
There is not a single teacher that I have ever had that has hoped for me to fail or give up. A teacher is a person who is there to prepare someone for their future and hope for them to be successful. Although I will miss all of the friends that I have made throughout high school, I will actually miss my teachers just as much. I will miss all of the laughter that we shared and the countless hours spent complaining about a test, but most importantly I will miss the friendship that we built.
Thank you to all of my teachers for making me the person I am today.
Luke: The end of a hockey career
The ending of a sport is quite a surreal experience. It is the first time in my life that I will have to stop doing something I love to do and have done for a long time.
I have played hockey for the last 15 years, spending at least 200 hours each year on the ice playing the game. Now that my competitive hockey career has ended, it is strange to think about doing anything else in the winter to spend my time.
A sport usually ends in a final-game loss and is followed by tears. Then, teammates and coaches give some encouraging words to make each player feel better. This doesn’t help, as I began to realize that everyone can’t say what was always said before -- “There’s always next year” -- because there isn’t.
Then, the memories ran through my head from my whole career, from the earliest memories of just starting out to the current one I was are living at that instant. After this, I began to think of some of the regrets from throughout my career. Everyone had some; usually, it’s not playing as hard as I could during certain times, and that if I knew now what I knew then, I would not have taken any practice or game for granted.
But anything I want to change at this point I can’t. All I could do is sit in the locker room and accept that it is over.
Kiera: Lessons need to be practical
There are teachers who work to teach students, and those who work to indulge them with knowledge. Anyone can be taught to memorize, but successful memorization depends only on how much time is put into doing so. However, when we’re taught to actually understand something, it makes life and learning easier in the future by experience and recognition.
I want to leave high school knowing a lot. By this I mean that I want to be aware of my surroundings, where I can interpret them, and how to apply what I learned in high school to things in the real world. Isn’t that what high school is about? “Preparing us for the collegiate level” is what the curriculum is supposed to accomplish. However, in most classes, I can only think, “College is going to kick my butt.”
Like most of the other students I know, I’m used to memorizing. I take the notes, do the homework using my notes, and cram a day or so before the test. The art of cramming is important. Any high schooler will tell you that. Having a good memory is really the key.
From what I’ve heard from college students, they are not given the same luxuries as in high school such as pre-made note packets. Basically all the resources that are easy at-hand aren’t as easy to get in college, because we have to make them ourselves. Therefore, memorizing the night or period before the test won’t exactly make the cut. Yikes.
Nevertheless, I think that teachers need to work on connecting the learning to what we can apply to the real-world and try to create an environment that we can relate to so we’re more interested in what we learn. Things that I will remember when I’m thinking of how to solve something, speak something, or write something will go a long way, because I will need those skills whether figuring out an actual math problem or planning out a route home without a gps.
Some teachers most definitely succeed by teaching in this manner -- the manner where students get something more than just how to solve the quadratic formula. These are my favorite teachers.
Abby: New friendships always forming
Do you know what it’s like to look in the eyes at someone you used to know and have absolutely nothing to say? This is what happened to me the last weekend in February.
While eating with my family at a bar called The Rite Place, I ran into my best friend from 4th to 7th grade. I said hi and asked how she had been, but then came a pause of silence and I didn’t know what to say. I looked at her and realized I used to know her so well, and now I know nothing. I don’t know what classes she is taking, who her friends are, or even what she likes anymore.
High school is a time where everyone changes.
I know I did.
High school is a whole new ball game, and though we don’t notice it right away, we slowly change. I started making different friends, ran for student council, and really got into cross country and track. I didn’t see any of this coming in middle school; we all thought everything would stay the same.
Another one of my friends and I made ourselves a promise that we would always stay friends at the end of freshman year. It’s now junior year, and I barely talk to her. Boundaries we always imagined no longer exist. We hang out with upperclassmen and underclassmen, not just kids in our own grade. We find who we are, and we care less about what others think. We gain in this wild adventure we call high school, but we also lose something.
We lose not only the people we used to be, but the people we used to know. This separation doesn’t happen on purpose. It happens slowly. Friends stop hanging out as much, or they join different clubs and take different classes. Then, one day, you look at your once best friend in the eyes and understand you are now strangers.
It’s a weird feeling, but I wouldn’t say it’s bad. I have new friends. They are my support system when I need them. My new friends can’t replace the memories I had in middle school, but they can make new ones with me. My old friends are no longer my old friends.
I have learned that sometimes, in order to find who you are, you need to let go of the person you used to be and the people you used to know. Friends will come and go. It’s a waste of time to try and hang on.
Michael: Friendship is a tough road
A lot happened in February. Emotionally, I am on a rollercoaster; perhaps a sine wave would be a better example. I hit peaks, and then I fall down, and it constantly repeats with no end in sight.
In fact, this happens daily. Often, I’ll wake up in a decent enough mood and by the end of the day, when I take my shower and head to sleep, I’ll feel lonely and abandoned.
It’s kind of funny, to me at least, that I talk about feeling lonely. After all, from an outside perspective I certainly don’t seem lonely: I have plenty of friends whom I talk to at school, and people genuinely seem to at least somewhat enjoy my presence. But it all just feels kind of like a façade to me -- it feels fake and non-real sometimes. For all of the people who talk to me at school, there’s no one that actively seeks me out to talk to outside of school. If I want to talk to anyone, I have to reach out to them. Often times, this makes me feel like people only talk to me outside of school out of pity and whatnot. Add on the fact that I have lost several friends recently, and it all makes me feel unimportant and replaceable.
I know that I’m not; after all, no one is. We all live life with our own experiences and our own thoughts, but that’s not the level of replaceable that I’m talking about. I’m talking about being replaceable as a friend. From what I’ve seen so far, I am. I just want to be proven wrong. What I mean is that I want to feel like people care about me, but so far nothing has proven me wrong.
I think that’s what hurts the most.
Ian: Leaving home on the horizon
I am almost halfway through high school. This really hit me lately, and I’m not sure why. It seems like not so long ago I was just starting freshman year, and now it’s third quarter of sophomore year. In less than six months, I will be an upperclassman.
This just sort of gets to me. I’m thinking about the future more and more, and in a little over two years, I’ll be out of the house in college.
I’m not ready for that.
Maybe at the time I will be, and maybe by then I’ll know where I want my life to go, because I really just have a general idea right now.
I know I want to go into the sciences and do research, but I’m not sure how to get into that or what college is the best for that. My family and I have seen a few colleges over the last couple of summers because of travel, but I have absolutely no clue where I really want to go. My family is traveling a lot this summer, so maybe I will find my future school on one of our trips.
Then there’s the whole ACT thing that every student at the high school takes in March of junior year. That already gives me anxiety. The results of that test are seen by every college or university we apply to and show how prepared we are for higher education and how much we know.
Everyone and their mother has told me that I want to get the highest score possible in order to get into a good college. And the fact that one number can sway a school I would love to go to either accept or reject me adds a lot of pressure to one test that is only 215 minutes long.
So, needless to say, I am nervous about that.
What I have concluded is the best thing I can do in high school is focus on now and the near future. It helps a little to put the far future out of my mind and focus on what is directly in front of me. It is incredibly difficult to micromanage every little aspect of life, and with school adding so much, it gets hard to keep up with it all.
But managing it all can be done, and every high school student has to do it.
Naixuan: Relationships have positives, negatives
Love is a heavy influence on my generation. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and the idea of roses, chocolate, and even a giant teddy bear is a much-advertised image for love.
Like many parents, mine were always against the idea of a boyfriend. They believe that he will distract me from my studies. For many years the debate of the relationship was a sore topic at my house. In many conversations, we not only fought but many tears were shed. That’s when I asked myself, Is a high school relationship really worth all this work?
In all honestly, I can see where my parents come from. Having to deal with another human being is not an easy task. When we are in “love,” we are easily distracted and think about them all the time.
During our high school years, we need to realize that working hard now determines our future. In addition, most of the time high school relationships do not last. People would argue that teenagers are too young to understand whether love is true or not, so why put ourselves through the chance of heartbreak?
But on the other hand, I can also see why so many teenagers want a relationship. Often times, high school can put a huge pressure on us: grades, looks, tests, etc. Many times our parents, being from a different generation, really don’t understand how to help us.
Having someone our age who cares for us is an amazing feeling. Thinking that I have another person to rely on is also very appealing. Societal pressure can convince students that all their friends are relationships, and they should want one to fit it.
Many times, teenagers are judged by the decisions they make regarding relationships. So before being critical of a relationship, sometimes it’s a better idea to listen before speaking, especially those who don’t know the whole story. Although everyone in our country is entitled to their own opinions, sometimes it’s better to keep harsh words to ourselves.
Maya: Relationship practice for later on
When one thinks of high school, the thought of romance and teenage love is prevalent in most people. However, the “romance” of teens is not very romantic with the awkward dates, cheesy pick-up lines, and nervous minds.
In fact, high school relationships are a lot like learning to ride a bike or potty training. One has to start with training wheels and pull-ups similar to how teens have to start with short one-week relationships. The one-week training periods typically burst at the seams with drama, and they are filled with awkward hugs and kisses. Soon, they upgrade to two weeks, a month, a few months, and finally a year. Although some parents don’t like the idea of their teen dating, it’s important to have these training relationships so later on their relationships are more successful.
There are four main types of high school dating lives that I have come to know. A common type, the relationship-hungry tend to flock from person to person, not giving a single care to what their parents think. Another is the loners, who don’t date anyone for different reasons; however, they typically do have relationships, just not often and not for very long. Then, there are the conspirators, who don’t want their parents to know they’re dating. They often sneak around with their significant other, telling their parents that they’re going to a friend’s house. Lastly, the married folk, who have been dating for what seems like an eternity in high school time; furthermore, they often make plans for after high school together, including getting married, hence the title. Each type has flaws and shortcomings, although some have more drawbacks than others. Ultimately, they all get the relationship experience, whether it comes through rejection or planning a life with someone that will never happen.
One big part of high school dating is the development of sexual preference. Teens learn quickly what they like and dislike in their significant others, which can be anything from the gender they prefer to the color of hair they fancy. All of them are just as important and lead to smarter relationship choices later on.
After all, school is supposed to be for learning, and developing sexual identity is just one more thing to explore in the wider spectrum of knowledge. Combined with the relationship training, high school dating ends up being a great way to learn about ourselves more than ever before.
Aaron: Already thinking of next year
This month, I signed up for my sophomore classes. It was exciting, but it also felt too soon. We’re only halfway done with the school year, and already we’re looking ahead to the next one. This is typical, I suppose. The sophomores are already being asked to select their junior courses, the juniors their senior classes, and the seniors have been looking at colleges for up to a year already. After high school, does life seem to gallop on at this speed? I’m not sure, but my guess is yes.
Individual school days can seem like they take months to finish, yet months seem to pass in days. Time crawls and flies at once when one goes through the same school schedule every day every week, on and on until the summer.
The strategy adopted by many school-bored students is to fill the bare minimum requirements in their first few years and use their time as upperclassmen to relax in a low-key, low-work, all-elective schedule. This option could easily be my choice, since I already have several math credits and am on track to earn more credits than necessary to graduate.
Though the option is tempting, I wouldn’t be satisfied with myself if I elected to take the easy way out. Rather, I will feel more accomplished and prepared for life beyond high school if I make my schedule as challenging as I can handle. After all, what’s the point of school if learning all that you can isn’t the main priority?
While I’m not quite ready to look ahead to my sophomore year, the vision of next year is also refreshing in a way.
While I’m still loading up on difficult classes (some say I’m overburdening myself), I’m confident that I will able to make it through successfully with the help of the Drawing and Painting course that I signed up for, which I hope will be a relaxing and enjoyable break in a high-paced day. One thing I’m certain of, however: next year will be a challenge, but it will be over before I know it.
Dalaney: Quality of experience is up to us
I see two kinds of people in high school: The ones who are always busy with activities and homework and sports, and the ones with free time and no worries.
I know both types of people, but I am the kind who is so busy that I don’t really know what to do with my free time. High school offers so many things to do. I am in two of the busiest clubs, but I love them.
Since I came to the high school, I have joined D.R.E.A.M. Team and student council. D.R.E.A.M stands for “drug resistance equals achieving more,” and we run several events ranging from dodgeball tournaments to lock-ins.
Student council is another busy club. We meet once a month and do activities all the time, including most of the dances. I have met so many great people, and joining gave me the chance to interact with some upperclassmen. I met a super nice crazy junior named Abby, who I later learned is also writing in this book. We decorated for a dance and became good friends.
At our school we have over 50 clubs and about 20 sports. Add in all the after-school projects one can do, and high schoolers can be very busy. And yet some people find themselves with so much free time. I don’t know how, but I think I have figured it out.
High school is all about having the best time of your life, and a person can’t really do that when hating on school and clubs. We are lucky to be given so many opportunities to do what we love, but some spend so much time hating about everything that goes on in life that they don’t take the opportunities.
As I grow up, people either tell me that high school was the best time of their life or the worst. I have spent years waiting for it to come: Friday night football games, cool trips, fun dances, and best of all the friends you make for a lifetime.
I refuse to be that person who looks back on the high school experience and regret the things I didn’t do, because that’s the other thing I hear adults tell me: try new things, because if you don’t, you will regret it. We students are lucky enough that we can try so many things, but it’s up to us to make the memories and experience them all.
Ryan: Finding people with similar passions
In February, our school robotics team, Redbird Robotics Team 1716, was in full swing. We were fast approaching our “stop build” deadline (In FIRST Robotics, teams have just over six weeks to design, build, and test a robot for a specific purpose), and everyone was working hard on the robot or something else for the team.
While the team ‘veterans’ (second-, third-, and fourth-year members of the team) were designing and working on the robot, first-year members like me were busy trying to learn all about FIRST Robotics and everything related to it. On top of that, robotics was introducing me to a large number of people who thought similarly to me. I had a realization: Do something you love and you will gain.
When I do something I enjoy, I will put more into it. I will learn, grow and meet other people who share the same passions. A menial task related to a favorite activity seems very insignificant because I look forward to some part of it. In February, my menial task that I loved was grinding down 24 identical spare brackets for two hours at 10:00 at night on the last robotics build night.
I learned something else that night, something more hands on: how to use a grinder to take the edge off a piece of bent, cut aluminum. Because I enjoyed what I did, in this case robotics, I made friends with people who are like me, and I acquired new skills.
No one can hate something and expect to benefit from it.
Luke: The end is near, but questions begin
March is where I have finally started to see the end of the tunnel. School starts to be less and less important as I realize that I have been accepted to college and that my grades no longer matter.
Instead, my focus is pointed towards scholarships, whatever activity may be important at the time, and having fun.
As a senior, now that I can finally see the end, it is like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Whether a person had a positive or negative high school experience, seeing the end is enjoyable, as it represents something new to come with new people to meet and new ideas to explore.
However, this time can also bring with it a wave of anxiety and indecisiveness as my fellow seniors wonder if we had enough fun in high school or if we did enough. Depending on the answer, people could start cramming as much fun as they can into every weekend.
Also, it’s hard not to wonder if I made the right choice or not. Would this college be better for me? Is college even right for me? If only I did a little bit better in a sport or tried a little bit harder in class, would my life be completely different?
What a rush to feel that the end is near!
How will I handle this? Will I feel confident going on into college or will I go into it timid and unsure if this is for me?
I will soon find out.
Edson: A change in future plans
The person I become today is based on decisions I have made in the past. However, decisions I make today will greatly affect my future.
Choosing the right university was one of the hardest decisions that I ever had to make. The original plan was to room with my best friend since 4th grade and attend the University of Milwaukee. We turned in the housing deposit and were just waiting to graduate high school to begin our lives. Although we were both very excited to attend Milwaukee, I had an empty hole in my heart that wouldn’t be filled there.
Soccer was really the only reason why I even managed to make it this far, and when I heard about a brand new soccer team forming at Northern Michigan, I knew I had to take my chance. The only problem was that even if I wanted to have a chance, I would have to forget about Milwaukee and my best friend. I have been blessed with a caring family that supports me, and they all felt that Northern Michigan would benefit me.
After several hours of standing in front of the mirror, I knew exactly what I needed to tell my roommate as to why I would no longer be living our dream with him anymore. I waited for the sun to go down before I would pick up the phone. During the phone call, my voice kept on cracking and I couldn’t even get it out.
When I finally managed to tell him everything, I was surprised at his response. “To be honest, I would’ve done the same thing if I had the opportunity to play at the collegiate level.”
A so-so friend would have been upset with me for leaving him alone, but a true friend would be happy for me. I got lucky by having the best friend anyone could ask for.
Michael: Entry into the work world
I finally started working.
Back in January, I applied for a job, and in February I had an interview. I started working this month, and truth be told, I do really like it. I work at Subway near my home, and it’s my first job.
It honestly took a surprising amount of effort to get this job: I applied to four or five different places so far this school year, and I got two rejections and no responses from the others. If it’s going to continue like this after I finish my schooling, wherever I may roam, I can see why so many college graduates complain about the current economy.
As it stands right now, though, I can’t complain too much. It’s money, and like any true capitalist, I love money. I hate that I’m yet another cog in a machine, though. And I just know that for as much as I may love my job now, it’ll eventually grow into just another noise.
Again, though, it’s money.
Money is pretty nice -- getting paid regularly and then getting to spend it all willy-nilly because I’m a teenager with no bills to pay just yet. At the same time, it can get rather boring when there’s nothing to do and I’m just standing around, waiting to be able to go home.
Kiera: Playing sports has many benefits
March is one of my favorite months. It includes St. Patrick’s Day (I’m Irish, and my dad makes amazing Reuben’s), the start of soccer season, and spring break. St. Patty’s Day and spring break, however, are beside the point. Of these aspects, the start of soccer season is the most important to me.
I am not trying to insult those who don’t play sports, but they are missing out. Looking forward to a season all year, being with teammates I can call best friends, and of course competing (because I am extremely competitive) is an experience worth a lifetime.
High school is certainly full of opportunities besides sports. However, so many positive facets come along with being involved in sports. Whether playing, coaching, managing, or even sitting the bench (because everyone’s been there a couple times), sports is still worthwhile.
To me, playing soccer is more than just being able to say I play soccer or a sport in general. It’s not about status. I enjoy playing the game and getting better, and every time I improve, it makes me enjoy playing more. The involvement in a competitive sport gives a distinct drive physically that aspects of academics don’t offer. The drive to get playing time, the drive to get faster, stronger, and recognized, is something amazing that can create self-improvement.
Even though it’s very common for people to think the jocks are more popular and more important than everybody else (and I can’t say I disagree because of how much credit we are given, especially the football team), it is still unfair to jump to that negative connotation. Many student-athletes succeed in more than just sports, and not all of us are jerks!
The most exciting part about being on a team is that when individuals succeed, the whole team succeeds. Not to mention the social part of being on a team. Working together, communicating, giving advice, and most importantly encouraging one another makes us a whole lot better person and an athlete if done right.
It’s scary that I only have one year left to compete in a sport I love with my best friends. With that, it’s important to make the best of it.
Doug: Friend choices have strong influence
As always portrayed in the romanticized light of 90’s sitcoms such as “Saved By the Bell,” friends and acquaintances make up a large part of high school.
With everything, I believe that the value placed upon school companionship is often blown out of proportion; however, keep in mind that this opinion is coming from the kid who ate lunch alone in the library for a semester-and-a-half.
Since the first days of elementary school, I’d always witnessed classmates group together into certain conglomerations of other kids who share similar interests or backgrounds. Come the passage of time, I find it fascinating to see whether or not these early friendships have lasted; in my case, most have taken the latter route.
As disheartening as it may be to lose a friend, it can also be seen as an example of the turbulence of high school relationships. In my passage through adolescence, friends and total strangers have often been met interchangeably. The people who I now call my friends were probably once seen as outlandish or too weird, and this phenomenon has always intrigued me.
While recalling my group of friends from years past, I am always amazed by the fact that they’re usually quite different from the people whom I spend time with now. I am by no means saying that any one person or prior friend is greater than another; I only wish to express how unstable friendships are in high school.
In conjunction, it’s interesting to see how a student’s friends can have such a great impact on their overall school outlook; I am a firm believer that whom you decide to be friends with will determine your potential as a teenager. If a kid chooses to spend time with complacent people, it is oftentimes reflected within his or her academic and social well-being. Furthermore, the students who strive to better themselves and those around them are usually found within the company of other bold individuals.
On a lighter note, I think that this view of “ever-changing” friendships is one that is hopeful rather than dismal; the acquiring of new friends marks a personal choice to stretch one’s own boundaries. Instead of being upset over losing a friend, it is better to see it as a realizing moment -- one that allows us to be a better person.
Maya: It’s OK to take a different view from parents
Family is very important in many aspects in life, but a time comes when a high schooler has to look past his or her parents. No one is perfect, not all advice is good advice, and not everyone is the same.
Some teens learn this earlier than others, but even parents are flawed -- sometimes their advice is bad, sometimes parents’ views conflict with their teenagers, and sometimes parents want things that their teen does not.
Parental advice is iffy at best when it comes to life beyond childhood. For example, some parents may be OK with the consuming of alcohol, or they might be OK with a D- grade average. This does not necessarily mean getting drunk or barely passing school is OK. Teens have their own lives to think about by this point, and they need to think about their own future. What kind of person do they truly want to be? Do they want to be like their parents? Are their parents truly good role models? These thoughts cross the mind of almost all teenagers. At this stage of life, teens are formulating their own thoughts and opinions, which may conflict with their parents.
Beyond just minor conflicts, some teens have large differences in views compared to their parents. One that can cause a myriad of issues is a different view in religion. Personally, I don’t identify well with my parents’ religion. This can be awkward at times, and I’m sure it’s even worse for teens with a majorly religious family.
Another conflict can be a difference in social views, perhaps about politics or sexuality. Obviously, this creates tension between parents and their teens, leading to fighting or the distancing of a teen. Unfortunately, scenarios like the ones I mentioned are common and catastrophic.
Another commonality is parents wanting something their teen does not. Many parents want their teen to be in sports or become a certain career, and most teens may not want that for themselves. I have friends who tell me about how their parents want them to get a scholarship in a certain sport that they don’t even like. I’m unsure why they don’t just stop the sport, but the friend I did ask said they want their parents to be happy, even if that means staying in a sport they dislike. Personally, I think teens aren’t trying to be “rebellious” or “difficult,” but they sometimes come off that way as they sort through their own selves.
Becoming different from parents -- or anyone, for that matter -- is a part of growing as a person, and I see it as a sign of maturity. The ability to differentiate between one’s own opinions and views versus someone else’s is a large step in becoming an adult.
Without that development, there’d be no one to argue with, and what’s the fun in that? Absolutely none, which is why it should be encouraged more and frowned upon less.
Ian: Non-mainstream sports are good, too
I cannot believe I have gone all these months without mentioning lacrosse, considering it is the only sport I play. It is on my mind because lacrosse is just starting up for the year and we are practicing in the gym, the first year we have been allowed to do that.
The thing about lacrosse in our district as well as in northeast Wisconsin in general is that it really isn’t that big yet. It is not part of the WIAA (Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association), so it is more like a club sport.
Even then, at our school we aren’t even a club sport, so De Pere lacrosse itself is an organization loosely associated with the school, meaning we are allowed to use the football field and gym when they give it to us and are able to put equipment under the stands .
But to be honest, it doesn’t really bother me that it is not a school sport. I enjoy the club-like atmosphere of lacrosse, and I like that it isn’t as serious as sports such as football.
Most people who join our program freshman year have never played lacrosse before. I started playing between 4th and 5th grade, and a few other kids played before high school, too. Needless to say, we have different talent levels on the team.
The conference that we play in is called the WLF (Wisconsin Lacrosse Federation) and consists of teams from the Green Bay area, the Wausau area, and the Appleton area. We are one of the not-so-great teams in that conference, and last year I think we went 5-7.
It. was still a ton of fun, and I even got some varsity time because we didn’t have many defensemen, which is my position. That’s one aspect of lacrosse that I really love: Even when I lose, it is still fun for me because at least I get to play. I love that even though I am one of the more experienced people on the team, I still have things to learn and improve on along with everybody else.
I really like playing lacrosse in high school, even though we aren’t the greatest. It is a great fit for me, and the people on the team are so much fun to be around. It has been an awesome athletic experience for me, and I would encourage other high schoolers to look into not-so-mainstream sports a high school has to offer. Students may find one that they really enjoy that isn’t as serious as other, more official sports.
Naixuan: Trying to excel outside of classes
Extracurriculars always make a high school transcript stand out. In my case, during the month of March, my track and field season started. In addition, I went to state for solo and ensemble.
Having started track last year, I was very eager to start again. But due to transferring to a new school, I was afraid that I would have to work back up and compete with even harder competition. Going to the first meeting, I was very much intimidated. There were so many people there. Roughly 300 people showed up on the first day. Not knowing anyone, I awkwardly sat alone. Listening to the coaches talk, I knew that I would be in for a very hard year.
Last year at my previous school I ran short distance. Seeing that there were many short distance runners, I also made the decision to pursue triple jump. Though there were many barriers in my way, I still managed to have successful season.
Onto a polar opposite of sports -- music. Having progressed from regionals to state, I was both nervous and excited to compete at UW-Green Bay. This year I had two events: our group played Brandenburg, and my violin solo was Schindler's List. After performing with my school group, we waited eagerly for the results. We scored a 1, meaning that we did really well. Then, the time came for my violin solo. After performing I waited for the results, scared of what could happen. I ended up earning a 1*, which means that I was nominated for an exemplary award, the highest award I could win. Although I did not win the award, I was still happy with what I worked hard to achieve.
In both aspects, I learned that working hard pays off and to never let go of your dreams, because you never know. Life could always surprise you.
Aaron: Great classmates can make for a great class
I miss 7 a.m. gym.
We’re halfway through the second semester now, and I’m settled into the new routine and class schedule that came with it. I took gym early in the morning last semester to accommodate for my packed, maximum-credit schedule. Now I don’t have to wake up early to arrive at school before the rest of the student body, but I find myself missing the class, despite the extra sleep.
When I decided to take 7 a.m. gym, most people I talked to told me I was overloading myself. Or, they commented that they would never be able to get up that early to go to school. Phy. Ed., a class that many students loathe simply on the grounds of the widely detested concept of exercise, would be made even more torturous if one had to attend at 7:00 in the morning, they predicted.
They were wrong.
My class consisted only of hard workers who were willing to sacrifice their sleep schedule so they could attend school for an extra hour each day. Consequently, everyone took the class seriously, and that made it enjoyable. No one acted as if they were too cool to participate, or like school was just a forced regime of work that they had to suffer through every day.
Plus, I had plenty of friends who were able to take ordinary gym games and activities and make them high-paced, competitive, and fun. It seemed like we could make anything enjoyable, from routinely getting pounded in tennis by my state-caliber friend to competing in class archery tournaments to someone falling through the net in volleyball. The fact that I enjoyed being in gym with my classmates was certainly the key to my awesome experience in the class.
I was lucky to have several good friends in gym, but this isn’t always the case. Some classes simply don’t contain many people I know; I can try to get to know new people, but it doesn’t always work out. In gym, I already knew a good number of my classmates at the beginning of the year, which helped it become one of my favorites right off the bat.
If only this environment could exist in all of my classes, school would actually be a place that I would never be reluctant to go.
Dalaney: Lots of personal changes this year
As C.S. Lewis once said, “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different.”
High school is the same way. It has been six months since I started my freshman year, and in that time I have gone through a concussion, attended three dances, purchased more dresses and makeup than the rest of my life combined, and gotten a boyfriend. That is just the beginning.
I have changed so much from the beginning of the year, and I never even noticed until I took time to write this. The way I perceive things has changed, and so have I. My life is a whirlwind of changes.
Without getting into specifics, I came into high school determined to stay the same young, carefree girl I was. I had mixed emotions about it all. When I first realized it, I was sad that my innocent youth was all over, and then gradually I became more and more OK with what was happening. I was changing, and I finally figured out that that was OK. I changed for the better, and that’s all I ended up caring about. I tried so hard to be me that I never realized that when I was spending so much time trying not to change, I ended up changing in ways I wasn’t looking for.
Overall, I think I changed for the better. I like who I am, and I’m pretty sure I’m a good person. My freshman year is coming to an end, and I finally had to reflect on who I am and get used to it. Ninth grade was a scary obstacle that I have nearly conquered, and I came out better than I went in.
Edson: Not as much time for schoolwork
They say that the closer one gets to the finish line, the harder the race becomes.
The perfect example that I can use to relate to that is the term best known as “Senior Slide.” Urban Dictionary defines it as follows: “The magical part of your senior year in high school when things get a little easier and nothing you do matters.”
Grades were never of great concern for me because high school was easy for me. I was never a straight-A student, but even though I seldom brought my backpack home, I still managed to have a 3.6 GPA until junior year.
The biggest difference between senior year and the rest of the years is the amount of effort that goes into school. I used to be a student who would study for hours the night before a test, finish a writing report at 2 a.m., or spend five minutes before class to look over what the test was even about.
However, my senior year I managed to go the whole year without even bringing my backpack home once.
Instead of listening to what the teacher had to say, I began to think of how I had soccer practice right after class, or how I would have to rush to work right after class.
It’s not that senior slide is an actual thing; I just believe that as students get older, their plates begin to get fuller. Most people have jobs by senior year and also participate in many after-school activities. The problem is that even though teachers understand just how busy we are, they think it’s a good idea to assign us homework and have a test every week.
The benefit of attending DPHS is that the teachers care for us and make sure we don’t begin to fall of the bridge. I had several teachers who would take time out of their own schedule to work with me one-on-one to make sure I would understand the lesson.
Being a high school senior is not easy. We have to be able to focus in school and also keep busy with everything that happens outside of school. I heard that college can be very difficult because of the amount of work, but everyone that I have talked to has told me that the busier I become, the easier it is to stay on top of everything.
That is one of the things that high school has actually helped me with to prepare for the future.
Mackenzie: It’s almost time to leave here
Let’s just say I am very excited to graduate. Just a few more school days left, and I am finished with high school. It’s hard to believe, to be completely honest, but I am ready for it.
Last week, I attended the Scholarship Awards Ceremony here at school, and it only strengthened the realization: “Dang, I am almost done here.” In preparation for college and what’s to come, I have been preoccupied with how I am going to deal with what I am obligated to leave behind.
Granted, I am not leaving De Pere forever. It almost feels that way, for I’ve spent my whole life here. I’m ready for novel opportunities, though; I think my time here in De Pere has been long overdue. This city is too close-minded, too small. The people are decent, yet I’ve experienced everything here that I have needed to experience.
Madison holds the key to open so many doors for me. I am excited to start working towards my actual goals in life, solidifying a career in the medical field for certain. One of the things I disliked most about high school was having to learn a variety of topics, scattered all across the board, often for no purpose whatsoever. I know others would argue differently, but I have had this idea of what I’ve wanted to pursue since I was in 4th grade.
It’s good to have many interests, and I know this, but some interests hold more of my attention than others. I realize general education classes have to be taken in college as well, but I still feel as if that is better than learning in a high school setting. I feel too mature, too wise to be confined in classes for eight periods a day.
I just want to be free already, and the fight for freedom is illustrated within the ever popular Senior Slide. High school will always hold a bittersweet spot in my heart; however, it’s such a small fraction of my life that it’s almost impossible to dwell upon it.
Prom and Senior Ball -- yes, I will remember those experiences, but there are more dances and formal events to come. I am welcoming these experiences with arms wide open.
Abby: Teens have opinions that matter
As high schoolers we do not get enough credit sometimes. Teenagers get stereotyped constantly: All we care is about social media, we are either too stupid or don’t care in school, and we are reckless and cannot make important decisions.
Some teachers have gotten to the point where they treat us like 5-year-olds because the only way we will listen is if they raise their voices at us. This problem has been simmering throughout high school but came to a head this semester.
I want to clarify this. The reason we do not respect teachers who scream at us is not because we don’t care or don’t want to learn. The reason is simple: If you cannot give us enough respect to treat us like the adults you’re trying to prepare us to be, why should we listen to you as you belittle us? If you ask who the favorite teachers in the school are, they are the ones who treat us with respect, know that we care, and give us an outlet to voice our opinions.
I'm too young to vote in the 2016 election, but at least half of my peers will, and believe it or not, we actually do have opinions. In one class, kids voluntarily discussed the abortion issue -- not yelling and screaming at each other, but actually listening to the different sides. In another class, we talked about animal testing and the morality of the issue. We care who the next President will be because it affects us, too. Many of us in the next few years will enter a college of some sort and have to deal with debt.
Most kids realize that in the very near future these things will affect us.
By the end of high school, we are adults and if you want us to grow up, give us the respect that comes with it. I’m not asking you to treat us any differently from people you interact with every day.
Just listen to what we have to say, and don’t treat our opinions as if they are lower than yours. I’m not asking for everyone to agree with our opinions -- just listen and respect what we believe.
You’ll be amazed by how showing a little respect will get you a long way with us reckless, stupid teenagers.
Doug: The end of excessive celebration
The year has progressed steadily, and now it’s time to reflect upon something that is both a little abstract and a tad moralistic: As my academic clock progresses towards its inevitable conclusion, I have found that my age has become less important.
To elaborate, I feel as if the older I get, the amount of value placed upon a birthday or other personal accomplishment is being reduced. During my time spent in primary school, a clear decisiveness was placed upon such a special day; every kid’s birthday was an opportunity to cherish both their lives and the enticing food which they provided. From this sense, it makes the normal high school day a less interesting one, for how we celebrate these moments is representative of the end of childhood festivities.
On a less depressing note, the seemingly lackluster way that high schoolers are provided to celebrate their own personal “milestones” is an obvious shift towards a greater development of maturity. Rather than stopping the day’s activities in order to share food, drink, and song -- all of which were crucial to the childhood school-time birthday -- we proceed to rejoice for someone’s aging by simply recognizing them in a more personal way.
Instead of receiving a class-wide chant of “Happy Birthday,” the high school student is likely to hear such greetings from friends and favorite teachers. I think that this shift from the over-celebration of events in grade school to the general recognition that the high schooler gets is important: it allows for mysticism to be removed and replaced by maturity.
In the eyes of any high schooler, the transition from the festivities of prior education to the relatively drab contrast of high school marks a turning point in the adolescent’s life; it presents teenagers with the reality that they’re not always going to receive recognition on their own personal holidays.
In total, this conclusion to routine celebrations is having a greater effect on my overall maturity; it’s forced me to adapt my thinking in a way that is less dependent upon celebrations to be happy. A perfect example of this was shown by my 17th birthday, which has come and gone without anything too substantial having occurred; I received a nice meal and some personal gifts from my family.
Years ago this type of name day would have seemed tragically dull, but today I am grateful for the time that I was able to spend relaxing with my favorite people on earth.
Kiera: Prom is what we make of it
One simple word, not so simple dance.
I can promise that 95 percent of girls -- juniors, of course, with the additional lucky girls and boys that are asked by a junior -- are looking forward to this day all year.
I am among those girls.
The two outlooks on prom are both true to an extent.
One: It is extremely overrated.
Two: It is the most exciting day of junior year.
I can recall most of my female family members reminiscing about it to me, all for the right reasons good and bad. It should be a night to remember in my opinion. We only get one of these nights, and we have to make it fun.
That statement is true in general for high school -- you have to make it fun. Learning to enjoy the ride makes high school go faster and smoother.
The most memorable parts of the night are pre-prom and post-prom. Pre-prom consists of lots of time put into getting dolled up (I’m mostly talking about the girls). And LOTS of pictures. You know the parents -- they love the pictures.
Post-prom is all the games and food, the perfect way to entertain teenagers. Kind of ironic that it works out like this, with pre- and post-prom being more memorable, but that’s not to say the dance part isn’t fun. Dancing is always fun with your girlfriends and that one boy/girl during the slow dance (insert winky face). It’s kind of the same as all school dances with the corny music and awkward dancing because well, people feel awkward being so close to everyone else. Except at this dance, we’re all dressed to the nines, and that makes the night so much better.
Michael: The helpfulness of a haircut
April was a bit better, I suppose. Well, not really, but I want to pretend that it was so that at least this way, I can pretend like my life’s actually changing; then, maybe, I’ll be able to pretend like I am more of an interesting person than I truly am.
Hey, maybe I am a bit interesting. After all, I went to prom, even though I went alone and have no clue as to why I went. Prom itself was pretty miserable and boring. They played loud music, and I was surrounded by people who were having infinitely more fun than I was. I went mostly to say I went. Post-prom was a bit more fun, but I was still bored and lonely for a lot of it. I also took a lot of candy, a few balloon weights, and some cheap LED candles they had on the tables.
Don’t tell anyone, though.
The most interesting thing that happened in April was when I ended up getting my head shaved for a teacher at my school, Mrs. Melgar, who has cancer. A whole lot of us, both staff and students, got our heads shaved to show our support. Even though I’d never had her as a teacher, I still decided to do it mostly because I like to imagine that I’m a decent human being, and it was just the right thing to do. I want to help whoever I can, whenever I can. That’s just who I am.
This event, though, was simply miraculous in my mind. Our school and local community raised over $10,000 for Mrs. Melgar. When you factor in the prohibitive health care costs in America, sadly that does not cover as much as it really should, and I only wish we would’ve managed to raise even more money.
That does not change the fact, though, that $10,000 is still a lot of money to have been raised in such a short time, and it goes to show how thoughtful and caring my school is. The gym was almost as full as it was for an all-school assembly, which means that almost every student in the school donated something.
I’m honored to have taken part, even at the expense of all of my hair, except the cowlick in the front. It was a break from the monotony, and it was amazing at just how insane the whole event was.
Jade: For better or worse, relationships matter
There’s always the question whether high school relationships matter or not: friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, and even the ones we build with our teachers.
In four short years they won’t matter, right?
That’s the one comment I wish people wouldn’t make. It baffles me how people can throw away four years of their life away, including everything that has happened to them during that time and how much they’ve grown as a person.
Everyone who enters a person's life affects them for the better -- friendships, heartbreaks, and love. It’s what helps people learn and become who they were meant to be. I will always remember the amazing people that I’ve met and learned so much from because without them I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I wouldn’t know so much.
I’ve expanded so much as a person that it shocks me how much I’ve changed in a single year. Like when I decided to go hang out with friends one night instead of stay at home watching television.
Or when I actually said what was on my mind in American law class, where the room is filled with juniors and seniors and me the dumb sophomore, instead of sitting in back and letting everyone else do the talking. I stopped holding myself back and decided to experience life by actually living it.
High school does matter when it comes to our own development and what we choose to do with our lives later on. Morals and values change, and we begin to see a whole new way to look at life all because of the people we’ve met and grown with.
After growing apart from people I thought were meant to be in my life forever, I realized that people do change a lot, and I won’t always be the same person. Things I said I’d never do, such as talk to the popular crowd or the goth kids, I did because I learned that life is greater than stereotypes, and I shouldn’t let them decide what I should or shouldn’t do.
All my life, I have never had anyone notice me for anything. Each year for softball I have to prove myself over and over, and no matter how well I do, I am still placed behind everyone else. My freshman English teacher liked how I thought and believed in me, and no one has ever done that. When he asked me to be part of this project, there was no way I was going to turn him down. It really made me feel important and that my talents actually matter.
The people and relationships in high school do matter and are important because they can instill something great that we never thought possible.
Ian: The DPHS band experience
One of my many passions associated with high school is the trumpet, which I have been playing since the start of fifth grade.
When we start intermediate school (grades 5-6), De Pere students are offered the opportunity to start doing more specific music classes that are built into the school day. These choices are band, orchestra, and choir, or a mixture of two of the above. The names of the groups are somewhat misleading due to orchestra being for string instruments alone, while band is for wind instruments as well as percussion. Clearly, I chose band.
I chose to play trumpet because a colleague of my father was selling one for $150, so in essence the instrument chose me.
From fifth through the eighth grade, everyone in my grade was either in one big class for band, or one of two classes that had band every other day. So really we were all at basically the same level, save for those who took private lessons.
At the high school level, there is somewhat more. There are four band classes at the high school: freshman band, sophomore band, wind ensemble (junior and senior band), and jazz band. Freshman year, I did freshman band, but that was only because I was not aware that jazz band was a class instead of a club like most other schools.
Freshman band was a fun experience for many reasons. Since many people, not all, started in the fifth grade, people were quite solid on their instruments. Along with that, several of my friends were in band that year, so that made it that much more enjoyable. The music in band is somewhat simple, and there is not a lot of music theory, but what I really enjoyed was pep and marching band.
I loved that the music we played in pep and marching band was so much more popular and fun.
What I would really love to write about is jazz band. This year I chose jazz band instead of the sophomore band, and so far it has been an amazing experience. The music is more challenging, and I get a ton of experience with soloing and improvisation.
Not only did I have friends who also switched from band to jazz band, I have made new friends in jazz band from every other graduating class at the high school. I will be genuinely sad when the jazz band final ends because the group has people whom I got know that I haven’t even known that long. It was more than just playing music together every day; it was about connecting with classmates through music, and that was an awesome experience.
I have only been in jazz band for about seven months, but I already see that I have become a better musician because of this class.
That is one reason I will be in jazz band next year.
All in all, high school band has been a tremendous experience.
The benefits are nearly endless, including building self-confidence, making friends along the way, and creating lifelong loves in music and performing.
Ryan: Lessons from the tennis court
In April, I started tennis at my school. I have played tennis since I was about four years old. I thought freshman year tennis was going to be a piece of cake because I had a lot of experience with it.
When I got onto the tennis court, after a little bit of playing, I realized I really needed to improve my game.
So I did.
I practiced as much as I could in order to improve. When practicing outside in Wisconsin in April, the high possibility of snow is a fearsome prospect. On some days, I played outside for three hours in miserable conditions.
This might sound like I hated that practice. It is quite the opposite; I loved every second of it. The cold and the knowledge that I was improving gave me the ultimate satisfaction. Working for something that I really wanted and slowly seeing it materialize in the form of more skill was amazing. I realized that this is an idea I could apply to more parts of my life. This cycle of hard work and dedication is something I will try to bring with me into everything I do.
Aaron: It’s tough for everyone to have the same pace
Throughout the first semester of the year, geometry was one of my easiest classes. Everybody has his or her strengths and weaknesses, and I happen to be good in math, so I was able mostly to daydream through the class every day without a hiccup. After the conclusion of finals week (which was a new experience in its own right), my teacher approached me and asked if I wanted to try something different. She suggested I spend the class period in the library instead of the classroom, working at my own pace instead of keeping with the class. I welcomed the opportunity with open arms; it would be more interesting, I thought, if I could go over the lessons myself and accelerate through the rest of the mathematical wisdom the textbook had to offer.
Over the past few months, I’ve been working solo in geometry. I managed to finish the curriculum a few weeks ago, and I just took my final last week. I feel very lucky to have been presented with this opportunity as I know several other people who experience a similar level of boredom in their math classes.
On the other hand, I don’t think my math teacher had the resources to prepare something for me after I finished with the class. Recently, I’ve been reading an FST textbook for 53 minutes every day, which isn’t exactly captivating. It seems that my teacher isn’t quite sure what to give me that will benefit me for my later math classes but also doesn’t subject me to the monotony of my present activities.
Overall, I’m very glad to have been able to work at my own pace. I wish there were more opportunities like this elsewhere in the school, for students who are just itching to go faster and for those who wish their teachers would slow down. With more individualized programs, this could change, and I hope it does sometime in the future because expecting every student to learn at the same rate is unrealistic, impractical, and unfair.
Some would say that the way to create an education system in which curriculum speed was determined by individual capabilities is online schooling. While this is a realistic option, I don’t believe it is the only way. My little brothers attend a school where “gifted” students are assigned classes of difficulties that line up with their academic ability; thus, every student is at least accelerated one year above the curriculum normally taken by a student of his or her age.
Their hunger for learning faster is satisfied, and they still get to enjoy the social benefits of a typical school. What if this environment could be mimicked not only for students with above-average abilities, but also for those struggling with the normal pace of school, as well as everyone in between?
Dalaney: I can’t be involved in everything
April is busy, for me at least. Soccer season has begun, school is picking up as teachers try to cram in the last of their lessons, and clubs are in full swing.
This month has made me realize that I am a VERY busy person. I get home at six o’clock or later every night, promptly eat dinner and do homework, and then fall into bed and go asleep. I try to squeeze everything in, but that doesn’t happen. Not that I’m trying to complain or anything, for I love everything that I’m doing, but it gets harder.
This experience has opened my eyes to understanding that I don’t -- and really can’t -- have to do everything. Coming into freshman year, I had the next four years planned out. I wanted to get a 4.0 freshman year, with it gradually increasing as I was planning to take two AP classes sophomore year and more in future years.
I wanted to join Student Council and be on it all four years, be a D.R.E.A.M. Team officer all four years, and eventually join National Honor Society. During junior year, I wanted to be on Link Crew, a mentoring club for freshmen, and be on prom committee.
It was a lot, but I was determined to succeed. I was determined to have every opportunity I could on my college applications. I know it’s weird. As a freshman I was thinking about college, but that’s how I work.
However, I began to learn, gradually, that I didn’t need all of that. I learned to let things go, and to sound really corny, go with the flow. As I began this process, I came to realize that writing is something I would like to continue throughout my life. Upon realizing this, I started writing a book by myself, and with that I went to seek help from a former teacher whom I was close to.
As I began writing, it took up more of my time, and that teacher helped me discover that I didn’t need to accomplish all of these things, that as long as I did what I loved, and at least tried new things, I didn’t have to conquer the world by senior year.
I discovered that he was right.
I ended up getting yet another concussion at the end of April, and I realized that these goals weren’t as important as they once seemed. I mostly dropped out of Student Council in order to have time to catch up on my schoolwork. I fortunately was able to stay in soccer and focus on what was really important. I still have aspirations for school, but they are a little more manageable.
Edson: The ‘last time’ for many things
Looking into the distance, I never would have imagined just how near the end is. It felt like just last week I was playing soccer for De Pere and getting ready for the cold winter to arrive.
However, everything was different this year. All of the events that happened this month would be for the “last time.” During the last month of high school, I made sure to treat everyone as if it would be the last time that I would ever see them.
I would walk around the halls of the school with a big smile on my face, saying “hi” to everyone when those awkward hallway encounters would happen. I made sure not to disappoint anyone, including teachers, because I wanted to make sure the name Edson Torres would bring a smile to anyone when they heard it.
The name and reputation I wanted to leave behind were very important to me; however, I was also worried how I would remember myself.
I used to try very hard to be around all of the popular kids at our school.
As my high school days came to the end, I began to appreciate all of my friends more. They were the ones who cared about me and supported me through everything.
Every weekend I would make sure that we would hang out and do something together because we are all going our separate ways in a matter of months.
Doug: The wheel of success doesn’t stop
My junior year has been the most bizarre time of my entire life, and I often find it hard to cope with how much my life is and isn’t changing around me; in this time, it seems as if the only thing that I can focus on is how I need to be the best person that I can be.
Rather than accepting myself for who I presently am, I’m thinking about how I can better myself. Part of me wants to believe that this is my inner drive for success, and the other part is wondering why I can’t just enjoy my personal surroundings at this moment in time.
Factoring in the insurmountable weight held by my grades and my personal involvement within my classes, I’m really quite amazed by the amount of work that it takes to be a prosperous student. In addition, social standings like “friend groups” and whom you’re currently dating really play a huge part in determining one’s own perceived worth in high school.
Success is something ingrained into the minds of all students. Without a doubt, the students with the highest grades and the ability to maintain social respect will always be seen as the more fortunate ones.
High school has taught me and my peers to strive to be the best person possible, but this tactic can sometimes lead to disappointment when it fails. All told, I often struggle to maintain the set expectations of my high school environment; rigorous testing and teenage social standards definitely aren’t helping either.
Within my school’s high expectations, therein lies the pursuits of both educational growth and personal betterment -- both are moralistic at their core. I’m always receiving both obvious and subliminal incantations of these ideas in the following: school pep rallies, academic ceremonies (which I haven’t attended), standardized testing such as the ACT, and many other causations. In all of these examples, it’s apparent that those who do better in these given functions are going to be more successful.
It seems to me like the only thing that my high school can focus on is improvement; never has there been a time when I’ve felt satisfied with my accomplishments for more than a short snapshot. I can’t explain how stressful it is to be in such an environment, one that is based off academic and social accomplishments which determine how well a student is doing. For someone like me who strives for personal growth, this endless pursuit of high school success can become a heavy burden.
I wish I could provide a solution to this issue, but I feel as if it is entirely dependent on the student: some kids simply worry more than others. Although rather personal, my quest for academic success has shown in my many trips to the guidance counselor.
The pursuit of success in high school is largely what we make it; for me, I’d like to think that these struggles help to give me some form of callous, some consciousness towards the value of success.
Michael: The ups and downs of a year
I hate May. I also love May.
May is an extremely swingy month for me in almost every aspect of the word. Some days are really good. Some days are really bad. Most days are just average. For a really good day this month, I had my birthday on May 1st. My birthday party was unbelievably fun. So many people showed up and I genuinely loved it. It was the single-most fun day I’ve had this year so far, except for maybe a school ski trip I had in January. In May, I also had a date. Though it didn’t really lead to anything but another rejection, it was so unbelievably fun that it made two or three hours blur into nothing.
The average days composed of the same parts they always have: boring school, boring work, and boring free time. There’s honestly not much to talk about when these days drone on day in, day out. The idea of same thing, different day really does ring true far too often for me. I love the idea of doing things spontaneously, but I just never do them.
The topic of never doing things brings me to the worst days in May. Despite listing it up above, my birthday was one of the worst days as well. Not because of anything that happened, but what I realized happened afterwards: for another year, I have failed to write a book and send it off for publishing. Truth be told, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve just never had the motivation to succeed. Another bad day in May was when I realized that, in a few weeks, I will not see my friend regularly anymore because school is letting out. The end of the school year opens the doors for days that often leave me all by myself.
If I’m to be honest, May was a month that I almost gave up in. I almost called it quits and let life have its way and stop caring and stop trying. I didn’t, but I came close.
Though I have my moments like that every month, May was worse than usual. The scarier thing is that I had three months with heavy moments like that this year. The past two years, I’d only had one. I really, really hope that it’s not like this for everyone.
No one, in my mind, deserves to feel this way, but I know it’s not just me. Too many of my friends act the same way and make the same jokes that I do. I worry about them all the same.
People always say that it gets better and that life will carry on and that it’ll get happier, but I’m scared that, in my case, they may be wrong.
Jade: Losing excitement for a sport
I’ve stressed the importance of doing the things that make us happy a lot, including the idea that if something isn’t fun anymore, then don’t do it.
I’ve played softball since I was about eight and always loved it. As I got older, though, the game grew more intense and less friendly. Coaches were about politics more than talent because it didn’t matter how good you were. If you weren’t kissing someone’s butt, you got nowhere. Suddenly, softball was no longer the fun game it used to be. Instead, I found myself growing more and more stressed thinking about it. I was losing the drive, passion, and love for the game.
I felt pressure every at-bat and every play in the field because I had spectators who would gladly pull me out any chance I gave them. Being human, I can’t be perfect all the time, so I made mistakes that cost me playing time. Routine mistakes that I wasn’t the only one to make either.
I had lost my love for the game about a year ago but was too afraid to say anything, I felt I wasn’t going to be allowed to quit anyway, because I had nothing to replace the sport. The only reason I had was that I was fed up with it. I didn’t mind the team, but I just didn’t enjoy what I was doing anymore.
I don’t have anything to replace it, but do I really need to? I’m sure something will pique my interest as time goes on, but if I’m this miserable, do I really need any other reason than that? Plenty of kids don’t play a sport.
Doing something I don’t like to do anymore is wasting money and time, so there is no point for me to play anymore.
Naixuan: School work habits are hard to change
The end of the school year is fast approaching. The pressure for students is high and the motivation to achieve is low. It was during this month that I realized how important GPA is.
Many kids promise themselves that for the first year of high school they would slack off, in hopes to work hard for the second year. I figured out this year that many of those kids did not start to work harder the second year; instead, their first year habit carried onto their second year.
This proved devastating to their GPA.
Working hard during our high school years is not a waste of time. In fact, if we don’t, we might regret it for the rest of our lives. It matters not if we are naturally gifted in some aspects. If students work hard and try their best, good things will come.
I had to learn all of this the hard way.
Relying on my talent to pick things up quickly, often times I spent more of my time playing than studying. When it finally hit me that I should work harder, I was already in a devastating spiral. Forcing myself to start studying was one of the hardest things I’ve done.
But it paid off in the end, and I proud of it.
“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” – Mr. Tripp
Maya: Life skills should be a separate class
“Kids nowadays don’t know a hand from a foot. They have no respect for anyone!” says every person who has ever complained about this generation.
Thankfully, it isn’t true for many of the teenagers I know, and most of us know a whole lot more than hands and feet. In fact, we are pushed to learn a bunch of subject matter we probably won’t use outside school, but at the same time, we aren’t taught a whole lot of practical knowledge.
Every year at DPHS, we are forced to take at minimum six classes per semester, which leads to 12 a year and 48 in a traditional high school life. That is a large amount of new information being shoved into our brains in a relatively short amount of time. With classes ranging from human anatomy to creative writing, there seems to be a limitless amount of knowledge to be gained in those four years.
However, none of those 48 classes are Life Skills. There is not an all-encompassing class at my school that teaches us how to pay taxes, how to change the oil in our car, AND what to cook when all we have are bread, ramen noodles, and beans in the pantry.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to test on these skills, making a standardized class nearly impossible to make. Sometimes schools need to think beyond tests and letters on paper. What’s best for the students should be the first priority on the school’s mind, but I am not seeing that in my schooling when I see no comprehensive life skills courses offered.
Therefore, the reason older folks tend to see the new generation in such a negative light is due to the fact teens and kids are being taught book smarts, not street smarts. Their apparent lack of respect and common sense stems from this. With the way schools are set up, a change from standardized everything to more flexible learning is probably not going to happen any time soon, but it needs to if schools want to produce well-rounded students.
Mandating a semester course that teaches basic life skills beyond schooling would be a good start.
Aaron: Baseball team is a cast of characters
This spring, I decided to go out for baseball rather than track, and I’m glad I did. Playing baseball is one of my favorite things to do, and though my batting average wasn’t very impressive and I only started about half the games, I had an awesome time.
As the season wound down this month, I realized something about my team that made my experience tons better and is a component of not only sports but, generally, all of high school itself.
After talking to my parents after a game, my mom made a comment that really got me thinking. “You really have all kinds of kids on your team, don’t you?” she said. The more I pondered her observation, the more right I realized she was.
In fact, the variety of personalities on my team was a chief reason why the baseball season had been so much fun. And we really did have “all kinds.”
One of our team’s best hitters, “Victor,” was uniquely flashy and aggressive. He lowered his shoulder and flattened fielders when he ran the basepaths. He wrote things on his helmet like “Hit me it feels good!” and “You scared yet?” (These are the watered-down versions; his use of the English language typically was a bit more colorful). He mocked our opponents, practiced in socks, and unleashed a massive amount of power every time he hit the ball.
Then there was “Will,” a short, shy kid from China who took a while to adjust to the speed of the game. He was extremely nice, but timid and absent-minded, the polar opposite of Victor’s personality. Over the course of the season, Will managed to slide into first base, bring sushi to a doubleheader, fall down while practicing outfield, and drink hot tea during practice (this caused another teammate, who was expecting cold water, to gag).
By the end of the year, Will’s baseball skills had improved exponentially, but his personality remained the same. I could go on about every player on the team, but the contrast between them summarizes the array of personalities.
The variety that I experienced on the baseball team was not unique just to the one group of athletes. High school envelops more people than ever before into one school; kids from other middle schools combine with the rest of the student body to make a massive potential for meeting new people. Multiply this capacity times four grades, and you’ve got a diversified group of people who cannot be categorized, simply because the school has so many students.
This new world of others leads to better friendships and makes high school, overall, a much more enjoyable place to spend 1,260 hours each year.
Dalaney: A hearty mix of good and bad
April showers bring May flowers, or so the rhyme goes.
That rhyme implies that things will get better and prettier, and the world will be great. Oh, how wrong they are, whoever they are.
May was not a good time in the life of this freshman.
On April 22, I was diagnosed with another concussion, so it was back to worrying about my grades, horrible headaches and sitting in class doing nothing.
In addition to my concussion, I also started to lose one of my friends. She and I had been friends since the second grade and it was hard watching her become this person I didn’t recognize anymore. She started becoming a person I didn’t want to be around. She was acting very differently than the person I became friends with.
The loss was hard on me, and that, along with the concussion, made May a very difficult time. Things got a little better as the year was coming to a close, but then came second-semester exams and last-minute attempts to bring up my grades.
During this time I learned a valuable characteristic about myself: I am a true procrastinator. I studied very little for my exams.
Eventually, I was cleared from my concussion about three weeks after I got it, and I rejoined soccer. This was the first positive of May, and it was the start of many good things to come. I got closer to people that I cared about, and my friend started to kind of come back down to the world in which the rest of us lived. She wasn’t completely back, but it was a start.
May did indeed have its ups and downs, but I was beginning to expect that out of high school.
Just when I thought everything was fine and dandy, life decided to throw a wrench into it.
Mackenzie: Leaving high school behind
Since my senior year has concluded, I’ve already had an eventful beginning to my summer.
I’ve strengthened relations with strangers, whom I now call close friends, and forced myself out of friendships that were more toxic to me than anything. I have also found happiness in little things and appreciation in those who appreciate me and show care towards me. I’ve also experienced some hardship, but I see the sun still rises each day, so life is good.
A while ago a man backed into my car as I was pulling around him. I cried, as any girl would, not only because I was in shock but because I was sad. I love my car and have dedicated a significant amount of time to it. I also cried because I was at a loss as to how to deal with the situation at hand. It’s scary being exposed to something for the first time. In that moment, everything happens so quickly.
After the accident, and the paperwork, I drove away feeling crappy, considering the damage done to the right side of my bumper. However, certain people in life, who are given special places in my heart, have the ability to make the event somewhat better. I believe that we designate compartments of our heart to these people for a reason, hold them close for a reason, and it’s our job to figure that out.
I ended up calling my best friend, who is not only my best friend but my boyfriend as well, balling while babbling a recap of what had occurred to him as he listened patiently, saying, “We’re going to fix it, relax, calm down.”
And we did.
I sat on the curb outside of his house at 11 p.m., exhausted, staring into the street, as he began to buff scratches out of the bumper with his hand. That night, I found out this boy’s purpose in my life. It took a while, yes, but as life progresses, the qualities of the people we care about become more and more obvious.
I dedicate this summer not only to bettering myself, but also to bettering how in touch I am with myself and what goes on around me. May these few months before college bring many more learning experiences.
Luke: At last, headed off to college
As of June 6, 2016, I am an official high school graduate. It feels weird that at my age and with my education, my grandparents joined the workforce and stayed for 50-plus years.
However, I am not my grandparents; instead, I will be attending college, leaving most of my friends behind but also bringing along some nice senior-year memories: Winning conference in football, beating Notre Dame in hockey, senior ball, wild weekends with the boys, and many others.
Academically, this year wasn’t too difficult or remarkable. It was like many years, except that midway through I experienced a sudden drop off in the amount I cared about my grades. I picked a college which, at least for me, wasn’t as hard as people said it was going to be, and worked through the applications that way too many people complained about.
When I was a freshman, I always hated when other people would say that high school goes by fast, but it does. The old saying is true. This year has been average in many ways. It was not the best year of the four, but it was cool to make some big decisions and start to shape my own future.
I’m done, and I’ve changed a lot. De Pere High School was a big factor in this change. The classes I have taken have given me new points of view to consider and ideas to explore. The school has given me sports and other activities in which to thrive.
However, it wasn’t so much the curriculum or the good equipment but instead the people at the school who give us new experiences and challenge the way we think or approach a challenge. Many teachers, coaches, and friends have given me the opportunity to learn from them, adding to my character as a young adult.
Edson: Graduation is start of my future
As I stood in the gym waiting for my name to be announced to receive my diploma, I began to think about how fast time really moves. The graduation ceremony felt like it was almost a dream, and I was waiting to wake up.
Every year that I spent in high school, I learned something new that would get me through the next year.
My freshman year I learned that popularity should not be my first priority. There was a time where I was trying so hard to become friends with popular upperclassmen that I forgot who my true friends were. When the upperclassmen forgot about me, I was alone until my friends forgave me.
Sophomore year I learned the hard way that “love” most likely does not exist in high school. Being a young boy in high school, I began to have interests for females. However, my interests in them happened to be larger than their interest in me.
Junior year was very important to me. Although many people really begin to focus on their school work because that is the year that colleges look at, I took it as a way that college athletics would begin to look at me. I would train every day to improve my game, and it the long run it paid off. Soccer became my best friend. I learned that we all need that one thing we can do to keep our mind off whatever it is we may be going through.
Just because high school is over does not mean that the book is ready to be closed. There is a difference between the end of a chapter and the end of a book. For all of us seniors, we are ready to begin the next chapter in our lives. I have been blessed with extraordinary teachers, friends, and family who have made me prepared to take on the world and see what is in store for me.
Then, I heard my name.
The time has come. I begin to walk, looking over to my shoulder as everyone begins to clap and cheer for me. I smile at them and then look forward. I know as soon as I receive that diploma everything will change.
I am upset knowing that my high school days are now over, but then I remember that what’s in store for me is far beyond anything that high school has to offer.
My life begins today. The future is now.
Kiera: Realizing what is, isn’t important
If I could describe my junior year in one word, it would be “realization.”
This year was a whirlwind of hardships and successes that made me come to my senses about my friends, future, and education. I had many decisions to make.
I have learned a few things, good and bad. I came to recognize who my real friends are, and that I don’t need a lot of them to be happy. Friends come and go, which is hard to wrap my mind around sometimes because it seems like we spend so much time trying to make friends and impress people; however, by the time I am on the last stride of high school, the ones who stick around are the ones who matter.
Cliques are only so important freshman and sophomore years. This year I really had to stop and think who wants to be in my life, and who will positively impact it as my true friend, rather than just to say they’re my friend. I had to make the decision to be happy with who my friends are rather that who they are not.
Secondly, high school is so focused on “preparing” for the future (whether we think we are prepared or not). However, I don’t think it’s more about the preparation, but figuring out what the future holds. Not necessarily what I want to be or where I want to go, but the type of person I want to be and what I believe success means. It is hard to try to find ourselves at 16 years old, but hardship and experience pave the way for who I am and who I will become.
Lastly, I’ve learned that education is very important yet very stressful. Junior year is the point where I should be ready for standardized tests and AP classes, but everyone develops at their own pace. However, it was a year to realize I need to study and work hard to do well. It’s not as easy as freshman classes where we just had to show up and pay attention.
All in all, I realized that the little things aren’t so important anymore. Additionally, it’s crucial to know when to think but not to overthink. High school is still high school! We need to have fun with it and not be stressed out all the time. There are ups and downs, but if we focus on the ups (and cheer loudly at football games), high school isn’t so bad.
Doug: Learning occurs outside of class, too
The end of the school year, in my opinion, is characterized by a sort of emotional medley consisting of both intense joy and a creeping melancholy. On the good angle, the temporary conclusion of my academic responsibilities brings a great sense of satisfaction and a calloused form of achievement. Nothing is quite as gratifying as finishing the school year with the knowledge that I worked as hard as I could.
In contrast, the final days of my junior year have passed with a bizarre sense of trepidation towards my own future, as my upcoming semesters represent the final act in my high school career. At this point, I find it strange to believe that I will soon be free of the high school ecosystem, one that I have come to see as both a bittersweet captivity and as a lovely opportunity for growth.
I have felt a certain reservation whilst reviewing my junior year; never once in my life have I felt such a wide range of different emotions, nor have I ever learned so much about myself. From beginning to end, I have been presented with numerous things that have forced me to adapt.
My junior year has been quite the wake-up call, as I’ve been taught the truths of growing up. The joys of a first love, the beginning of a new job, and the principle loss of many friendships have helped me to mature.
This is not to say, however, that I am totally prepared for the life of an adult; it only shows that I have a long, long way to go before I can truly claim to have learned everything from my high school experience.
Rather than look upon my junior year in high school as a passing phase -- something that was required, instead of granted -- I would like to see it as a means of transition. Met with astounding highs and crippling lows, I have been able to learn more about the way that people’s interactions define their perceptions of community and humanity.
From an educational perspective, I truly believe that these past nine months have given me a fair share of knowledge; whether or not it is applicable to my future circumstances, only time will tell.
It would be fatalistic to measure this year in terms of academic growth, for I have learned many things which have no pertinence to the classroom or to any sort of curriculum. Truthfully, I know that the lessons given by my teachers -- outside of the lectures and syllabuses -- are far more valuable than any project or required reading. But, I do not deny the importance of structured education; for within the structure of learning, there inspires the application of adolescent creativity, which needs no format.
Abby: My hometown is actually OK
Ask most kids at De Pere HS what they will do after high school, and the most common answer is “to get out.” Most kids want to leave De Pere and never look back.
My father was one of those kids many years ago when De Pere was much smaller, but the answer was the same. To anyone who asks me what my plans are for post-high school, I will probably respond that I have no idea what I want to do or where I want to go, but I too will say I want out.
I want out of De Pere not because I hate it here or I can’t stand the people. I want out so that I can experience life away from home.
I’ve never been on my own, and college is my chance to experience independence. I’m not sure what my future holds or where I will go after college. I think that will come with what career I choose to go into, but part of me wants to come back.
My family has been in De Pere since 1905 when they moved here from Sheboygan County. Whether I like it or not, I have history in De Pere. My family is here, and unlike some of the kids in De Pere, I have grown to love it here.
I love that in downtown De Pere I know all the different streets and the fastest way to get home or to the store. I love that I can ride my bike to different places in De Pere without any trouble. I love that it’s quiet and I can get away from all the noise. The aspects that turn people off to De Pere are what make me love it.
Saying all of that doesn’t mean that this will be where I settle down. I have never known anywhere else but De Pere, so I want to explore. I want to live other places and experience what the world has to give. Maybe I will find some place I love more, or maybe after I have explored my different options, I will come back. One thing is clear to me, though: I won’t forget De Pere or try and put this place in my past.
This is my home, and no one can convince me any differently.
Michael: It was a year of change
We’ve been out of school for two weeks now, and really, I miss school. For as much as I hated it, I miss it now.
Seeing my friends every day had a certain charm to it that I am really, really missing right about now. It’s as good a time as ever to reflect on this school year: What was different?
If I wanted to, I could be pessimistic and say nothing at all changed, and I honestly may not be all that wrong. I took seven classes and got all A’s and B’s.
If I tried a bit harder, especially in math, I could have rocked a solid A, but I didn’t. That begs the question of why, but I feel that may be obvious enough: I gave up and stopped trying my best academically.
That’s not how I want to look at this year, though, because some things did change; I changed too. I got over some of my social cowardice, and that is major for me. I made friends and adapted myself to be a better person as much as I could. I decided on my future as well.
But most importantly, I did not give up this year. I had many moments when I wanted to, and a few where I was dangerous close to, but I didn’t. I kept moving forward and persevering, and I kept being me.
I can look in a mirror at the end of all this and smile at the possibilities as to who I may become.
I may not have written as much as I wanted or finished all of the projects that I wanted to, but that’s all right.
Though some moments may look dark to me, I know that I just have to face my fears and disappointment head on and push on through them because I feel confident in saying that this is no longer my darkest hour, and though I may still feel loneliness, I know that wherever I may roam, I will be myself, and I’ll turn out just fine.
Jade: A time to learn about ourselves
My final thoughts on high school are we grow a lot as a person during the four years, and that figuring out who we really are is much harder than one may think.
When put into certain situations that may be stressful or tiring, we learn about who we are meant to be. The ups and downs are extreme at this age, and it takes a lot to keep going and not lose our minds.
A person can change, and so can one’s friends. I lost a good friend because we had gone separate ways; we chose different friend groups and different hobbies. Our ideas of fun didn’t match up. I no longer had someone to tell everything to, but that’s OK because we have to move on.
High school is the one step before moving on.
There’s a reason life can be written like a book: it’s entertaining and different from everything on this planet. We have no idea why we are here or if our life has any impact on the universe as a whole, yet we cherish every moment and try not to waste our time. We build careers and personality, and then we find love and settle down in a place to call home.
No matter how hard high school may be, the light is at the end of the tunnel because life is so much bigger than school: It’s exploring the world and connecting with new people.
This year I have made some new friends that I think have a good chance at becoming lifelong relationships, and they have helped me have a bit of fun. I have gotten out of the house more through sports and just being introduced to new people each year. I don’t feel as alone anymore.
Bad things are always going to be around, but that’s what happens when billions of different minds and thoughts are thrown into one planet. The important part is to focus on what makes life worth living and how to help others make theirs worth it too.
Time goes by quickly, but if we can find a way to slow it down and take our time, there is no point in rushing anything.
Don’t get caught up in negativity. Just be happy and be you.
Naixuan: A vow to learn from mistakes
Summer: One word, six letters. It is the goal of every student’s school year.
This school year has been a wild roller coaster ride. Many tears were shed, along with many fun memories to treasure.
A year at De Pere High School has taught me a lot. Being a transfer student was a very difficult task. From language barriers to emotional struggles, this year was a life-changing experience. Simply put, I had to learn the hard way that it’s OK to stand back and relax sometimes.
Next, I learned that time management is very important. Often times I caught myself really close to crossing over a deadline that was set a long time ago. Also many times due to my careless nature, I got points taken off for little things.
Most importantly, I learned that no one can and should work alone. At the beginning of the school year, I was dead set on working through high school alone -- just me, myself, and I. This proved fatal to my sophomore year.
Although some people can be a pain sometimes, in many situations it’s much safer to work in a group rather than bare all of the stress and work alone. Alone I am breakable, but together we are strong.
I couldn’t have done any of this without my friends, teachers, and family, and to them I would like to say a simple thank you. Finally, like many people will realize, time is the one thing that can’t be taken back. Although many mistakes were made this year, I can’t dwell on these errors.
Rather, I have learned my lesson and hope that I have understood, using the newfound information to never make those mistakes again.
When writing the book of life, never let someone else use the pen. This is my life, and it’s time that I take charge to become the person I want to be. With the support of my friends and family, I hope to rise to the top and never let anything push me down.
Ian: With more freedom comes more responsibility
This was a pretty great year. I would rate it 10 out of 10. This was probably my best year of high school, even though I’ll only be a junior in the fall. I am glad I did this project. There were times this year where I was really not into writing these blurbs every month, but this has been one of the biggest things I have ever been a part of.
My biggest takeaway from this year was balancing my time. This year in March I got my driver’s license, and many of my friends did as well. This created more opportunities to lose focus on school responsibilities and expand the social aspect of high school.
Besides a social life, I had lacrosse in the spring, jazz band performances, and choir concerts and rehearsals to juggle along with studying and homework. All of this is hard to manage, but this year in particular I really got it all together and always made sure schoolwork was first before anything else. When I made sure I had adequate time for homework and studying, I found that it was easier to go out with friends in between other activities.
High school is a great time to explore interests and make friends. It doesn’t seem that long since I was starting freshman year, and I’m already a junior.
I’d like to thank you, the reader, for supporting our project. My hopes are that this was a good read for you, even though none of us are even close to established authors. Once again, thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed.
Maya: Help can come from many places
Another year of schooling has come and gone, but it’s not any of the learning or hours of homework that stick with me. This year I’ve learned some valuable lessons that can’t be taught but have to be discovered. The main concept I have come to realize as a sophomore-soon-to-be-junior is everyone needs help sometimes.
In school, help comes in the form of tutoring from friends or teachers. For example, my Spanish teacher made a point to talk to her if we ever needed help in any way shape or form, and she reminded us of this a few times a week.
When students have that borderline grade, they just need a little shove to give them a GPA boost. Maybe they’re struggling with a new formula in math or can’t remember why Virginia was named Virginia. When they ask for help, it’s more than just figuring out the formula: it’s developing the ability to rely on others for support.
Outside of school, help comes in many forms. From the cranky neighbor down the street giving you lawn tips while yelling at you to stop squishing their grass to a sibling who’s helping you decide which dress to wear to the next dance, people sharing their knowledge -- be it proactive or not so proactive -- is an important part of learning. Spending time outside of school can teach many things no one can learn on their own or in a classroom setting.
Leaning on the community for help leads to new points of view, and it creates new ideas. Embracing this field of learning, students receive a more widespread mindset that will aid them in whatever future they’re heading towards. The act of trusting others to be there when they’re needed now or later is necessary to each individual or even society, and the sooner teenagers figure out the need for a diverse set of people to help them, the better.
After all, everyone has different information just waiting to be shared.
Aaron: Transition to summer is so sudden
As I look back on June, it’s always interesting to reflect upon the recent and instant transition from the scheduled, by-the-book school year to the first sedated, freeform days of summer vacation.
The galloping pace of school grinds to a halt all at once, and suddenly freedom rules and days move by like honey. Every year follows this trend, and every year I’m taken by surprise; this year, however, the sudden stop to school seemed especially dramatic.
During the last week of school before finals, all the freshman science classes built rockets, which we launched behind the school on a Thursday. We had been working steadily on them since the previous Friday, so we netted about five class periods that were solely devoted to the construction of the rockets. It wasn’t a project enormous enough to shift the class’s focus from the final exam, but the projectiles certainly didn’t come together by themselves. Between building the engine mount, fashioning the nose cone, and preparing the parachute, a fair amount of work needed to be done, so it was satisfying to see our finished creations take flight on launch day.
Over the course of the launches, I continued to see rockets begin their flights perfectly sturdy and nicely decorated, only to plummet down torn apart, bent, and blackened from smoke. It was odd to think that the project we had poured our time into for the last week was suddenly over. All of our work instan-taneously went up in smoke -- some rockets literally -- and in an instant, what was a rocket 15 seconds ago became a heap of smoldering cardboard.
Funny enough, when the semester exams were completed and summer was officially underway, I felt the same way about the conclusion of the school year.
School seemed to have dropped off the radar as quickly as the year had begun; one minute it was a regular part of life, the next second, gone.
Maybe it was the lack of an “end of the year celebration,” an event which was always a big deal in elementary school, that made the transition seem so sudden. Whatever it was, the adjustment to a summer schedule this year seemed strange when I went from a rigorous schedule of finals on a Tuesday to a Wednesday of complete freedom.
All the hours of homework, all the times in class I longed for the bell to ring, all the tests, quizzes, assignments, projects, presentations, now gone. It came as quite the surprise.
That said, I don’t feel that all my work throughout the year was for nothing. I’m proud of what I accomplished this year. Being in this new environment has made me a more independent, responsible individual. My work ethic has improved, allowing me to cope with a higher level of stress when the tasks piled up.
I’ve learned to organize and make sense of a teacher’s lesson in my mind, so I can understand it my own way. And perhaps most importantly, I’ve developed friendships and memories that I simply didn’t have in September.
Overall, with the exception of a few rough patches, freshman year was a great experience. And if the next three years will be anything like the first, high school will be a time I can look back on and smile.
Ryan: Overall, it was a good year
This is the end of my freshman year, and I am now a quarter through high school. It seems crazy that in less than two years, I will be looking for colleges.
I can say without a doubt that this was my favorite school year ever. I met new people and did new activities. The number of clubs and sports at our high school really allowed me to do my thing.
I look forward to school next year— from my classes such as Pre-Calc and AP European History to sports and clubs such as tennis and robotics.
I had more fun than any other year in school. My classes were mostly fun, the people in them amazing, and I learned the basics of classes I will be taking in the future. The after-school clubs gave me something to look forward to and I learned a great deal in robotics. As for grades, I feel like I could have done better.
My teachers were great, my friend group has changed and grown (after shrinking at the beginning of the year), I drifted away from some previous friends because I didn’t see them during the day, and I became better friends with people I saw regularly.
My clothing taste grew tremendously during the year as I got my own taste and made more decisions on what I am going to wear rather than just grabbing something out of my closet.
This is supposed to be the point in the book where the teacher reveals some great epiphany or life-changing revelation from the school year.
Sorry, but I didn’t have one.
Honestly, this year was just about the same as many others.
Some classes were inspiring and a joy to teach. Others were painful to get through. Some students were energetic and embraced learning to the hilt. Others couldn’t get off their phones and continued to plunge into the depths of academic apathy.
It’s hard to believe that I have been teaching for 18 years now. Each year gets easier, and each year I improve a little bit. Not that I can’t be better, for teaching is an endless and impossible pursuit of perfection, and I have learned which battles to fight and which ones to ignore.
I have learned that treating kids fairly is not always treating kids equally -- my job is to get the most out of each student. Some I have to scold; some I have to handle with kid gloves. Some require a mixture.
My first five years of teaching were mostly survival, and I think it’s that way with most teachers. We struggle to master the content of what we are teaching -- how to present the curriculum smartly and interestingly.
As an English teacher, I had to learn how to correct papers; it’s an underrated part of the job. Teachers can’t be too praiseworthy because a satisfied student loses the desire to improve; moreover, teachers can’t be too negative because dejected students who already think they are poor writers will give up, or in some cases, not even start.
Sometimes, I am a writing counselor.
Now that I have the content portion under control, I am able to spend more time on building relationships with kids. That, I am guessing, is the key to almost any business. I can have dynamite presentations and lessons (and I like to think that I occasionally do), but if I don’t know the kids very well, and if they don’t believe that I truly care about them, any success I have will be short-term. This book would not be possible if I didn’t know too much about my co-authors.
I don’t feel as burned out at the end of this year as I have in the past. I have learned to manage my workload, balance my family time, and rest when I need it. Correcting papers is the most draining part of the job, and I need about six paper-free weeks in the summer to rejuvenate myself mentally to be fresh again in September.
The highs of this job are always more numerous than the lows, and as long as I feel that way, I will remain enthusiastic about what I do. That’s one aspect I can always control.
Thanks for reading this book. The kids and I are quite proud of it.
– Rob Guyette
Other books by this author
De Pere High School teacher Rob Guyette has also written about the all-boys English program that he ran for five years. It is a free download.
About this book
All of the names have been changed in the on-line version of the book.
The students used their real names in the printed version.
Paperback copies are available for $10 + $3.00 shipping. Contact teacher Rob Guyette at if you are interested in a hard copy.
If you read this book for free but would like to make a donation to the De Pere High School journalism department, it can be mailed to De Pere High School, 1700 Chicago Street, De Pere, WI 54115.
Thank you for your interest in our book.
Remember what it was like to be in high school? Fourteen De Pere (Wis.) High School students will help you, in case you have forgotten. These students, collected from a variety of clubs, hobbies, and interests, take readers through their lives, chronicling their ups and downs through a monthly collection of 300-500-word essays. They will share the frustration and the fun, as well as the stresses and successes, that go with being a teenager today.