I submitted this as a scholarship essay in response to the prompt: “If you could tell your school board anything that could be done to improve your education, what would it be?” I thought I might as well share the unfiltered opinion of a public school’s overachieving senior while I still hold that title.
I have always thrived on learning, my status as a student being a segment of my identity that I treasure with the utmost pride . Before I entered Kindergarten, my head was buried in the catacombs revealed to me by books; I scanned every corner of my suburbs for secrets in the stars, every inch of the eyes of my elders for a taste of something new. I am beyond in love with thought and the art of its elaboration, and my soul holds onto the bubbling hope that I always will be. Education is a double edged sword: the weapon that is used to rebel against the world, and the glue that is used to rebuild it.
My personal education has been deep and thorough, and is a focal point of my prayers and my thanks. I am blessed to have had the opportunities that I have had, inside a building that is cool in the summer and toasty in the winter, with teachers who are passionate about polishing my lenses so that I might see the world clearer, in technicolor. I hold immense gratitude towards my school system for fostering my ability to think.
Yet over the years, the strength of my passion for learning has flickered. I have felt myself wading in the shallow pools of self-doubt, being drawn further into the deep by the occasional subpar test score or the crimson stains of a teacher’s pen scarring my own heartfelt words on a final essay. By the end of elementary school, I had drawn a shaky line in the sand between my grades and my self worth, and oh, how the tide would come to blur it. I watched dullness creep into my eyes as sleep crept out of my life; my midnights, once spent dreaming, became pencil leaden and heavy. Schoolwork occupied all of my time and seized most of my thoughts. My classmates and I no longer worked for the thrill of it, for the absorption of information, the swelling of our cerebrums. We worked for the ‘A’, and then we worked for the next one. In one ear and out the other. Defenestrating our days to the consistent sound of a bell. Taking in fluorescent light more than sunlight. And no one ever told us not to.
No one ever told us that an average grade point average doesn’t make us average, or that a 4.0 doesn’t make us superior. No one ever told us that being an honors student means nothing if you can’t carry yourself with honor. No one ever told us that Advanced Placement and Advanced Personality are two entirely different entities, and that only one will take you further than a university quad. No one ever told us that a family member in the hospital takes precedence over last night’s calc homework, or that emotional wounds from a trying week should not be overlooked in an effort to meet the due date. No one ever told us that this is all for us, but simultaneously and quite frankly, it is schematically all for nothing. That this high school biome will dissipate. That humans do not remember in grades or ranks but in faces, in smiles, in gentle touch.
Why has no one ever told us?
When asked if and how my education could have been improved, I will always reply that it likely couldn’t have. I know how to graph a derivative and cite MLA and find needles in textual haystacks. I know how to solve for ‘x’ and how to talk before a crowd and how my muscles work so intricately to fly across this keyboard with such precision. My education, in itself, was grand. It is us, the students, its recipients, who need to be altered. We need to be told that we are enough, that we surpass enough merely by waking up day in and day out and sitting in that desk and trying. There is a drought of assurance and love despite a pounding of consistent tension in today’s classroom.
If you want to improve our educations, improve us. Tell us that regardless of our grades, we are good. Tell us that we can learn all there is to learn about the world, but the real miracles are inside of us, and if we delve into the valleys that lie dormant between our heartstrings, we will never go hungry for lessons.
And then, watch our eyes and ears finally flare back open, the innocence and joy in simple learning rekindled by an innocent and simple faith in ourselves.
And then, watch us thrive.