Personal Development, Teen (YA) Topics

The biggest things I learned during my first decade of public schooling

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.

Mark twain

Public education teaches a lot of students many, many things over the years. And I’m not talking about curriculum topics. Most of us hate or hated going but can’t deny the practical knowledge it’s given us in preparing for the “real world.” It isn’t pretty and it comes with a fair amount of tears, broken friendships, angry tirades, and fighting. You either hate it or you love it and those feelings of hate only grow as you age. Let’s just say that little Kindergarten me didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I hate some aspects of how I handled situations growing up but would I do it all over again? Likely yes. Because I wouldn’t be the young woman I am today without the street and school smarts I gained from public education.

School work isn’t everything– It’s only as much as you make it out to be

This one is for all my student readers out there. Most of us growing up have had it ground into our mind that education comes first and that all your homework should be completed before anything else. Sure, C’s get degrees but “A and B’s get you money and a successful career” so cancel those plans and get back to work. Study, study, study so you’ll ace that Chemistry test. And have you even really started studying for final exams if you haven’t started crying yet? Maybe you didn’t grow up like that but chances are you have more than a few friends who did. Some people put their all into preparing for and completing school work. The pressure to be “smart” and even at the top of the class is all too real. You’ll notice though that most students who meticulously complete every assignment are more stressed than anything else and seem to be more focused on deadline than actually living and enjoying life. Hello? You only get to be a kid or teenager once so balance is key! Yes, education is important–but so is making memories and spending time with friends and family. I’ve noticed that while teachers may appreciate you going “above and beyond,” most of the time I’ll still get a good grade by just doing good work. Teachers just want to see that you grasp and comprehend the material. How you’re willing to demonstrate that is up to you. A good grade is still a good grade no matter how it’s achieved. (I’m not promoting cheating but still!)

Don’t rely on others (for borderline anything!)

This one’s a bit tough but it’s safe to assume most of you have already realized this. At the end of the day, you can really only rely on yourself. And yes while this definitely does apply to group or partner assignments, I’m talking more about the social aspect. People change up on you from one day to the next so you always need to have a backup plan. People move and situations change so keep yourself in a situation where you won’t feel abandoned or lost.

You’re going to burn out if you strive for perfection

I’m a bit guilty of being a perfectionist myself. Sometimes you just want to do it all. You don’t want to say no to anything and you want to do your best at everything. I hate disappointing people, and if I’m being honest, I set high expectations for myself. Fortunately, I’ve toned it down over the years since the stress is truly not worth it. There’s no point in constantly pushing your limits if you’re not happy with the way things are going anyway. If you have this image in your mind of this “perfect” person you want others to think you are, then you will never be satisfied. Ever. You’ll be frustrated and disappointed. You’ll be tired and worn out from never giving yourself time to rest. I’ve had times where I’ve cried multiple times in just a few days from the pressure I put on myself. And other people are going to pressure you too and they’re going to compare you to others but it’s up to you to know your limits. You need to balance your responsibilities and allot your time wisely. You can’t say yes to everything.You can’t expect 100s on everything. It’s okay to gets D’s or F’s occasionally. They don’t define who you are and they don’t make you any less of a success. You can’t beat yourself up about forgetting things either. No need to feel guilty about not being the “perfect” friend.Take breaks and enjoy your youth. No one expects you to have it all figured out now.

If you don’t give yourself an off day, then no one else will

This is one that applies equally as much to work. I’ve learned it during high school but this realization hits people at different times. Unfortunately, people are more concerned with their end goal than they are about you. I’m one of those students who basically never misses a full day of school. In 6th and 7th grade, I think I maybe missed 2 or 3. In 8th and 9th, I missed none. And in 10th, my current grade, I’ve missed one due to strep throat. I felt pretty sick but I didn’t actually miss any school until the doctor officially told me that Thursday, after being picked up early from school, that I had strep and shouldn’t go back until Monday. So I missed that Friday and I finally got the rest I needed. That’s because if you show up to school, people assume that you are willing to put your all into your work. Surely you didn’t feel that bad if you showed up today. Your teacher sure as heck isn’t going to expect anything less from you. You can really only rest when you make the decision yourself to put your health first. Only you know your limitations so don’t expect breaks from people. Certain things just have to be taken, not given. If you choose to constantly run, then people are going to keep pressuring you for more. It’s human nature to ask for more from someone who’s proven that they can do more.

It’s too easy to overthink things and focus on the negative

Our minds don’t waste time keeping up with what goes right. They find comfort in blaming the world for what goes wrong. In school, your friend group can feel like your everything so if anything goes amiss, then you start panicking. You go into overdrive and tend to make the situation into more than it is. You let one bad thing ruin your day. You start making unnecessary recovery plans and assuming that the worst that could possibly happen is going to happen. That might be slightly dramatic but you get my point. Most of the time your problems are a lot smaller than you think. I know that’s the case with most of the conflicts I’ve had in school.

Your association can make or break you so choose your friends wisely and love yourself first

I’ve had so many friend issues over the years that it almost made me think this whole “making friends” thing wasn’t worth it. Almost. The fun solid friends I’ve had have far trumped any of the bad ones. They can make your school experience so much more fun. But they can also make it a lot more stressful. You need to be fully aware of what you’re getting yourself into when you settle down with a friend group. If I’m being totally honest, you may be safer in the long run by not even “settling” down with a friend group. Personally, I don’t think you should ever get too comfortable with the same circle of people. It’s best to hang out with a wide spectrum of people so you never become too dependable on one or two friends. They can change up or change classes or be absent and you could be left in a really vulnerable or boring place. The people you hang out with rub off on you a lot. As much as we may hate it, hanging out with negative unhealthy people can break your school experience. If you allow them, they can really damage your mental health. The key here though is “allow.” You need to be confident enough in yourself and comfortable enough spending time alone before you get comfortable hanging out with others. You got to be your own best friend first and then only spend time with people you enjoy and who make you feel good. Egotistical people who are easily jealous and don’t care about your success cause unnecessary stress during the school day. Friends have the potential to make social situations and school as a whole so much more fun, so don’t get stuck with “friends” who wreck your experience.

“forever” isn’t very long

If you’re anything like me, you’ve likely noticed how fast time seems to be flying. When you’re young, it seems like school is going to last forever. In your mind, you have all the time in the world. Your friends say they’ll be your best friends forever, your lil boo things say they’ll be yours forever, and your social situation seems like it’ll be the same forever. But forever is more like a couple of months, or possibly a year. No matter how solid things seem now, they’re bound to change at some point. I’ve learned to take promises with a grain of salt. It genuinely seems like I was just in middle school with 5 years left to go. I remember how stressed I was from the people around me and feeling like things were going to be like that “forever.” Now I’ve got 2 years left and I haven’t seen a lot of those kids in years. Time doesn’t really fly, but your life kinda does. So don’t wait around or live your life like anything’s permanent. Because your circumstances can and will change at any moment.

What were some of the biggest things you guys learned from your time as a public school student? Any more words of advice? Make sure to let us know!– Class