Journal: Having a Good School Year (Originally for publication in the PHS Journal)

How Can I Have a Good School Year?

Stay home every day.

No, seriously.  If you are going to get up every morning and complain about how much you hate school and your teachers and every other person in the place, everyone would benefit if you would just stay home.  (Well, everyone except the overall U.S. economy, which really doesn’t need any more French fry distributors.)  Let’s just say that the school environment would be better off without your negativity, and most of us won’t be around to share your regrets with you later.

In all honesty, school is a difficult environment for everybody involved.  Everyone here is changing their life to fit into society’s idea of how school is supposed to work.  Most studies show that teenagers aren’t really capable of thinking clearly until at least 10:00 in the morning.  (Most teachers would admit that they aren’t thinking so clearly either.)  We all know that it’s counterproductive to sit inside all day, with fluorescent lighting and processed air.  No reasonable person would imagine that forcing 2000 people who have widely variable economic circumstances, personal standards, and belief systems into a building together for 8 hours a day is a sensible thing.  It’s like a crucible for creating tension, aggravation, and explosive outbursts.

But that is no excuse.  The reality is that we are here, and we each have a job to do.  Given that, let’s see how we can make the very best of it.  For me, it seems that we benefit most by setting high standards.

Expect a lot of yourself.  Every great social movement or accomplishment begins with one person who is willing to set a higher standard for his- or herself than is expected by society at large.  Begin by determining that you are going to do your level best on a daily basis.  In every class, activity, and extracurricular, be the person who is going to set the pace.  Every class would be better if each student was determined to be the best in the class.  Every class would be better if each teacher decided to be the best teacher in the building.  Imagine how awesome the school would be if every teacher were teaching at full capacity because every student was totally committed to learning as much as possible.  Imagine your sports teams if every player and coach was pouring their heart and soul into every minute of every practice and game.

Expect a lot of your friends.  Most of us start off with noble ideas of doing great things, but we often associate ourselves with people who bring us down.  Decide to push your friends into being the best they can be instead of allowing them to pull you into foolish actions that will diminish you.  Most of us get into trouble at some point or another because we take the path of least resistance, trying to be “cool” or fit in with a particular group.  What if every group was totally committed to making every one of its members the very best person they could possibly be?

Expect a lot of your school.  Until you graduate, this is your community.  It is only as good as you make it.  If people run the school down, or the teachers, administrators, or students down, it still eventually comes back to you.  There is no credit in being the “best of a bad lot,” but there is true nobility in making everything in your environment better.  Demand that your friends and fellow students achieve at their highest level and behave at their very best.  Demand that your teachers give you the best education possible.  Demand that your administrators deliver a school that is positive, safe, and productive.  Most importantly, demand of yourself that you reach the end of this school year a better, smarter, more productive person than the one who began it.  That is something you will never regret.

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