Dear High School Girl

just breathe

I am just a teacher of high school students. I am not cool, or hip, nor do I really try to be. At the end of the day I am just a young adult who loves learning, books, and people in general. Lately, though, I have felt something else tugging at my heart. Yes, it is good enough  that I teach my students about American Literature, it is good that I hope at the end of this year they will have hopefully enjoyed reading The Great Gatsby more than they enjoyed watching the movie. I know those are fine things to want, however, they are not enough.

Lately, in the light of Miley Cyrus, Amanda Bynes, and other female celebrities who have caused a collective head shake from most of society, I have been thinking about my high school students, specifically my female students. In thinking of them, I have decided to share my thoughts, even if they aren’t really wanted, I want to share them.  So here we go.

Dear High School Girl,

I remember, because it wasn’t too long ago, what it was like to sit where you are sitting. A lot has changed since then, but really, a lot of these have stayed exactly the same.

I remember being worried about so much more than I thought adults had any idea about. Going to school wasn’t just going to school. It was a popularity contest, a fashion show, a gossip magazine. Sure, I spent a lot of time in the classroom. The classroom, however, wasn’t just about learning. It mattered who else was in your class, who you sat by, and especially who you chose to be partners with.

I remember all of those things. I know that high school is about a lot of things outside of the classroom, and now, as a teacher, I try to remember that when you come into class late or you forget to turn in your homework. I recognize that there are pressures on you that really shouldn’t be, but they are.

I know that high school is hard. I know that there is an immense amount of pressure on you to be a certain person, do certain things, and go to certain places. I know, I know.

I know that high school can produce a lot of pressure to fit in and to make choices you won’t be proud of later on in life. I know that, too.

I know that high school can be filled with some of your best memories, but also some of your worst.

I have to say something though, about high school.

There is life after high school. 

High school isn’t the end all and be all. High school is definitely not the best years of your life, and if someone tells you that, they are a liar- or have had a really weird life after they graduated.

Life goes on and it definitely gets better. 

Here is my plea to you, high school girl: don’t let high school define you.

Enjoy your years. Make good friends. Pay attention in class. Learn all the lessons you are taught.

If you make mistakes in high school (which you will), don’t hold them against yourself forever. You are 14 or 15 or 16 or 17. You are young and mistakes will happen. Learn from them, move on from them.

The person you are RIGHT NOW is not who you will be in another four years. Don’t beat yourself up and hold yourself back because of something that happened long ago.

All you can be is the best version of yourself. You will probably get your heart broken or your feelings hurt. You most likely will lose friends and gain friends and I can bet those things will happen quickly. Don’t let someone else define how valuable you are. What you wear, where you live, what you drive: those are all trivial things. What matters is how you treat people, and how you treat yourself.

So high school girl, I just want you to know, that life does go on. The weight of the world may be on your shoulders right now, but eventually, you will see, there is so much more beyond the doors of your high school.

Signed, A teacher who used to be a high school girl.

P.S. I hope at the end of this year, and every year, I teach my students to believe that there really is life after high school.

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