Monday, December 19, 2011

A Conversation with a Teen About High School Here

I had an interesting conversation with a seventeen year old high school junior. He is American born but has also lived overseas and attended school with kids from all different countries. He has lived in more than one place in America. Presently he lives in the same Texas suburb as I do. He also has been homeschooled, in earlier grades. He was mature and happy to talk to me, and he was friendly. He was not the stereotypical teen who will not look an adult in the eye or have a conversation.

I asked how he felt the overseas experience was, as a teen, since my husband had interviewed for a job in Dubai. He said it was one of the best experiences because it was transient, there was not a firm pecking order or cliques since kids moved in and out. He explained that he felt that he was judged truly based on who he was as a person not based on some other characteristic, and he liked that.

Our town has two high schools. Each has 8000 students with a graduating class of 2000. Yes, I said each, it was not a typo. In this town that just ticked past 100K inhabitants we have 16K who are in grades 9-12 in public school, and even more teens attend private schools or are homeschooled. (I wonder how many minor aged children are here all total?) This is a family place as you can see.

I asked him what it was like in the high school here. I said I asked as I wondered how my kids may fare in the school here, should they ever wind up there. He said the school here was a not a place that he was enjoying. He said it was a socially brutal place with a ton of cliques.

At that point his mother walked up and we started talking. She agreed that the social climate was nasty. She said something interesting, after asking who my son was, and I pointed him out, and she looked at him, she said he would probably do just fine in school since he is a handsome kid. I got the sense that life is much harder if you are homely. They both also said something to imply that the wealthiest kids in town were at the top of the pecking order and that anyone below them were looked down upon.

I graduated from public school in a class of 250. I cannot imagine what a school that has 2000 in each class would be like. How are the kids not lost in a sea of bodies? How can students ever get repeat classes with their old friends? How can kids cultivate friendships that are based on shared experiences if they probably don't get to see each other in multiple classes and year after year? How do the kids not feel lost and unattached?

If my kids wind up in school I wish it could be a smaller school!

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

This was back in the early 80s, but I was in a school of 6,000 for 7th and 8th grade. There were 1,000 kids per grade, 7th - 12th. It was very big and overwhelming, but I did find a group of friends with which to hang out those two years. The other advantage is that with so many students, there were many opportunities to engage in all sorts of activities. The after school groups were plentiful and varied. I don't know if that's still true in this day and age. I appreciated the chance to be involved in the drama department, which had a sizable budget, even for the secondary school kids. We had two theaters, one for the middle school and one for high school.

I was also one of those not so handsome/pretty kids (and nerdy to boot) and it's brutal no matter where you go. In my high school, there were 1,600 kids with 400 per grade and you had the same social issues, just with smaller packs of kids.