Post # 1
Not that many typically want to revisit their high school years…. but I am prone to reflect. This is compounded by the fact that I currently work in public schools, and part of the time at the high school level. I know there were certain social aspects about high school that were less than positive for me. Even though I’m done with it, young people are still compelled to go through the same system in some of their most formative years. I think it’s important to reflect and make changes for the better to benefit the next generation if at all possible.
So– like the title, I want to hear from you, especially if you can think of what would have improved your high school experience. If your experience was entirely positive, what do you think contributed to that?
Reflecting on my own experience, I went to a high school with a graduating class of around 100. The teachers and academics were fine, but the small school and community seemed to be focused on sports and achievements within that arena. The social groups that formed were one large group– what seemed like 50% or more of the students in a “popular” sports-related or charismatic or surface-oriented group, and then the rest divided into small groups of very diverse people with varying interests.
The social aspect was uncomfortable being that so many of the most vocal and influential students belonged to a group that I didn’t feel like I fit in to. Being that it was a small school, it felt like there were not many people to choose from who were interested in the same things or shared the same values. But I was able to make friendships with a lot of different people.
I think my school experience could have improved if there was more structure in high school. Elementary school provided some of the happiest moments of my childhood. When I think about it, I believe it was due to the structure of elementary school. As much as my high school self might have outwardly balked at assigned seating during lunch or some such thing, I think that would have encouraged more mingling and less of a formation of strict social groups. I’m the kind of person that is shy and someone has to take the time to get to know me in order to form a friendship. (Here is an insightful article on that front: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/11/11/why-some-high-schools-are-less-cliquey-than-others/)
Sitting in on classes, which is a part of my job now, I think certain teachers could take more control over their classes. Sometimes high school students are given a little too much independence and treated like adults. They are still learning. For instance, a few students blatantly interrupt a teacher during the middle of what is essentially a short lecture to ask a question that may or may not relate. The teacher pauses and answers their questions without addressing what in the outside world would be considered quite rude behavior. I think secondary teachers still need to be willing to train and correct students. They are afraid to be confrontational, and yet it doesn’t need to be confrontational if handled appropriately. Even though they look like adults, they are still in the process of becoming adults and have a lot of learning to do. Basically, I think there is a hands-off method I see employed when I think students would benefit from more structure.
Post # 2
I had a terrible time in both primary and high school. I was bullied terribly to the point that I couldn’t go out at lunch time because I would get food thrown at me. I was even beaten up (black eye and swollen cut lip) during a lesson while the teacher just ignored what was happening. I tried to commit suicide twice due to the bullying but failed (am thankful for that now). I was in a school with 1700 students and everyone knew me. I had year 7’s run me over with their bikes on my way home when I was in year 10. I was hit by a car in year 8 and someone actually kicked me whilst I was on the floor waiting for the ambulance to arrive, made it look like an accident, but like anyone could trip over anperson in the middle of the road.
What would have made made it better is if the ‘anti bullying staff’ actually did something instead of telling me to avoid them ( like I could avoid everyone??? )
Post # 3
Beth7210 : That is so awful! 😢 I’m so sorry that the kids were so cruel and the adults so negligent. Has that community done anything since to combat bullying?
Post # 4
I had an okay experience in high school. I went to a large public school with about 600 kids in my graduating class. I wasn’t popular, but I wasn’t bullied or an outcast or anything so it was fine. I was in marching band the first two years, so that gave me an immediate group of friends. I don’t feel traumatized by high school at all. Middle school was way harder for me socially.
That said, I am fascinated by high school dynamics and I love reading young adult fiction. I dunno why exactly – I just find that age group really intriguing. Even though my own experience was pretty tame and I don’t really have major regrets or anything – I love reading books about other young people dealing with the slings and arrows of high school.
Post # 5
xdanielle : I’m not sure to be honest, I moved 200 miles away when I was 19 and never looked back! I hope so. But at the time they went on about a zero tolerance on bullying and it made me laugh! My parents had the threaten to press charges against the school for the incident during the lesson and even then the girl who did it only got a week suspension
Post # 6
My experience was pretty good (which is saying a lot because it was in a fairly rough town, and because high school sucks). The school was about 93% economically disadvantaged, and 97% racial minorities, meaning I was nornally the only white person in my class and also one of the only students who lived in a house rather than apartment. My graduating class was ~340. It was definitely the sort of atmosphere where you’re more likely to make friends if you fail your tests and made fun of for getting A’s.
There was no “popular group” and we didn’t have sports. Kids who played sports were bused over to different schools in the district at the end of the day. The school was designed to get us thinking about careers, and we had the option of picking from artsy programs, medical programs, or technology programs. So I basically spent the entire time segregated with other artsy nerds with the same personality as me. And since we were all in our own little groups and none was more popular than another, it worked great!
I also had the option to take dual credit classes (college credit). And I also ended up graduating early. So as a junior when I graduated, I’d already almost finished my freshman year of college. I got my Associate’s 6 months after graduating. Not a bad way to do it!
My experience didn’t really need to be improved. Even from an educator perspective, it was perfectly fine.
Post # 7
I went to a very diverse high school in a very diverse city. with thousands of students. There really weren’t any “popular kids” rather just a group who thought they were hot shit but they were the only ones. Bullying was rare, in fact, the only fight I can recall was between two students who were actually not from our school, during a basketball game. It was rare to have more than two classes with the same friends, we were not semestered so we took 8 courses from September to June. The entire school didn’t fit in the cafeteria, so lunch was wherever you could find a place to sit down which was restricted to the ground floor, cafeteria or outside in the field.
The petty drama actually came mostly from teachers who picked on students for sport. The faculty was mostly white so the diversity of the teachers did not match the students. A memory that sticks with me was when an Indian student once wore perfume to class and was humiliated by the teacher when instructed to go home and shower instead of trying to “mask her stink with perfume”. That maybe contributed to the healthy camaraderie amongst students. We had a common enemy and were all just trying to survive, together.
Post # 8
I still, at 36 years old, have nightmares there has been some mistake and I have to go back. And I’m furious and terrified. I was also very badly bullied. They tried to beat me up with baseball bats in front of my little brothers. They tried to run me over with their car while I was riding my bike. The put my head in my locker and slammed the door as hard as they could. The barricaded the cul de sac I lived on when I was on my way home and who knows what their plan was. My dad chased them off with a shotgun. They never got in trouble from anyone no matter how many times I or my parents said something. The ring leaders dad was the attorney for the small town where we lived and therefore got them all out of trouble every time. I ended up leaving town to live with my aunt and uncle to get away from it. I am very thankful for that opportunity, I moved from very rural AZ to wealthy northern MA. The kids there weren’t exactly warm and friendly lol. But at least I found where I fit within that school and made some friends. I moved back to AZ to go to college. The girl who made me life so miserable died of pneumonia this winter. Everyone on FB was talking about how sad and tragic it was and honestly j was kind of relieved. She stayed a horrible human her whole life. My DDs experience is shaping up to be very different than mine and i attribute that pretty significantly to her school. She goes to a charter performing arts school. All the kids are there because they want to be. They are all passionate and involved. The staff is awesome. My daughter does NHS and student council and participates in everything. It makes me so happy to see her having what I would consider to be an idyllic HS experience
Post # 9
I really enjoyed high school. I moved to a public school beginning my 9th grade year from a tiny Catholic school. I hated the private school which only had about 25 students in each grade. I was bullied and found it difficult to make friends with such a limited group. There were also very few clubs, sports, or fine arts programs to belong to. When I moved to a public school it was like a million opportunities opened up for me. I was definitely not popular because I was fairly shy, but I was able to join so many different organizations that I made friends is many different groups, so I was never lonely in high school. There were also so many different class options available to me that weren’t available at the private school. I now teach high school in a school that has a lot of diversity in terms of both race and socio economics. Most of the students are involved in extra curricular s in some fashion, so there’s a niche for everyone if they want to find one. I’m not naive enough to believe there’s no bullying, but my students know I don’t stand for it if I see it happening.
You mention classroom management in your post as well. Until you run your own class it’s easy to judge teachers for not having control. However, classroom management is the most difficult part of teaching. We have to constantly filter what we say and how we say it for fear that the student could twist our words and run to their parents saying we mistreated them. Unless you’re a teacher yourself, please don’t stand on a pedestal and judge.
Post # 10
My high school life wasn’t traumatic or anything. Just very lonely. Largely due to my mom’s desire to keep me isolated and partly because I had moved to some place where the social circles were already firmly established. We had moved to a town with a high crime rate so my mom was convinced that if she let me out of her sight, I’d start doing drugs. As a result, I wasn’t allowed to go to people’s houses or join clubs or sports. When I started high school, people tried to reach out to me but I was forced to decline various social invitations until they just stopped inviting me at all. My only social interactions were at school and I couldnt build on joint experiences so was forced to smile politely when they joked about something that happened after school or at practice.
What I would have done differently? Rebelled.
Post # 11
It was okay, largely because I was on the swim and track teams and both of those did pretty well while I was there. So even though I was a weird kid who loved drama class and comic book and sci-fi, I had a kind of protective shield that most of my fellow geeks didn’t get. And I lived in a sort of bubble where I didn’t realize it (swim and track were perfect for me since I didn’t understand other people at all – with those sports you’re still on a team but you do your actual athletics alone). I was a junior before I understood that my sweet nerdy crew got hassled a lot less when I was with them than when I wasn’t – the bullies really didn’t know if I was uncool enough to attack or if my teammates would have a problem with that. So they’d just avoid me and I was oblivious enough to think that there wasn’t really a bully problem at our school.
I feel bad for teachers, because there isn’t a lot they can do to manage an unmanagable student. The whole teacher-student dynamic is built around maintaining the sometimes fictional understanding that the student ultimately respects the teacher and want them to like him. If that’s destroyed, the teacher has very little recourse. I remember once a teacher ordering a student to go out into the hall (standard punishment for garden-variety crappiness in our school) and the student just refusing to go – curling his feet around the chair legs and saying “What are you going to do? You can’t touch me.” And yeah – tiny 60 year old woman up against a hulking 18 year old. She really couldn’t make him move. That said, violence can and should be dealt with and if it can’t be in the moment than it should be asap. That inludes emotional violence.
Post # 12
xdanielle : my highschool experience was ok. It would have been better if my parents realized that I was a different child than my brother and it was ok that I only had a small group of friends or that I wasn’t into sports. I didn’t need to be pushed to be someone I wasn’t.
Post # 13
I went to a girls only high school, where entry was via an academic exam. The school (and students) were very attainment focussed and highly academically competitive. In general the teachers were great, and really encouraged personal academic interest, but it felt like a pressure cooker- everything was about grades. Artistic interests were not hugely supported, and if you got below a B it was like the end of the world. The biggest difference the school could have made is if they provided some sort of mental health support and education for the students- being under that pressure constantly can take a massive toll and a lot of my friends and I have a massive fear of failure and anxiety over achievement as a result.
On the plus side we had class with the same people pretty much the whole way through, with small classes, and I made some amazing friends who are still my closest girls 16+ years later.
Post # 14
I went to public school through 9th grade and then switched to a catholic high school. Middle school was miserable for me, all my friends started engaging in risky behaviors that I wasn’t about (smoking, dating 18 year olds, etc.). I was super depressed and lonely, which is why my parents offered to send me to another high school. High school was ok the first two years and pretty great the second two when I lost weight and was more confident and had a great friend group. I did a lot of extracurriculars and so did everyone else so I had several social groups. There was some bullying, but I didn’t experience a lot of it, there are only a couple instances I remember.
The only thing I wish was that my high school had more opportunities, like taking college classes, more electives, etc. We were small, so we only had bare bones curriculum and a few AP courses available.
Post # 15
I enjoyed high school and would love to relive those days. I was super goth and had pink hair but I still had a lot of friends in a lot of different groups. I only wish I would have enjoyed it more and maybe tried just a little harder in my classes. But over all, fun experience.
My classmates/school were very accepting of me. Despite being the creepy goth kid I ran with all the cheerleaders and football players. I also was in theater so I had that crowd too. The only people who didn’t like me and attempted to bully me (I say attempted because they were weak and I just made them look stupid) were the other “goth” girls who disliked me because their boyfriends all wanted to date me. They would leave me misspelled letters in my locker calling me a “hore” and fat and the like but they lacked the creativity or intelligence to impact me in any real way. It’s kind of hard to really feel bullied when your bullies can’t even spell the words they’re trying to call you.
But, I have a pretty thick skin so maybe that was part of it too. I really didn’t do a whole lot, went to school and stayed home writing in my xanga and discovering films. I maybe went to a handful of parties (wish I would have went to more) mostly because I didn’t drink and that’s all anyone did there. Did theater and art, hosted the talent shows, did choir for a year and rapped a TLC song on stage during that. Did backyard wrestling with a bunch of guy friends.
Idk, it really wasn’t as bad as I thought it was at the time. Maybe that’s just older, wiser, more steady me looking back. If I could go back now with all the knowledge I have now i’d be unstoppable.