The freshman class has had its first tests of the year, and I’ve woken up to a harsh reality: high school.
I’ve always been an “intelligent kid,” a straight-A student at the top of the class. I’ve been accustomed to receiving 100 percent (with a little smiley face and an “excellent” or “well done” at the top) on every test, and not having to study to earn that!
Of course, there would be those few big history or science tests where I’d have to look over my notes and frantically memorize empty definitions, but never would I consider sitting down at a desk to study notes or making strange mnemonic devices (“You are ugly, Bieber and Kardashian”) to memorize the order of the major cities in Mesopotamia.
So I waltzed into my first test under the false pretense that if I did not finish it, I could come back at break. I assumed that a time constraint was a loose suggestion, and not an actual law that needed to be followed. That permanence, steadfastness and consistency were new to me.
Although some of my classmates who had already taken the history test were harbingers of fear and anxiety, I was suspicious of their stories of hand cramps and barely finishing. None of the readings or quizzes had been tricky. How hard could this be?
That afternoon, I walked into Ms. Nellis’s classroom, arranged in a very unusual setting. In place of the open, cozy desk arrangement stood a militaristic line of desks. I sat down in the front row and was handed the test.
Eleven short answer questions and a map. This couldn’t be too hard! I looked at my watch and saw that I had the full period, no rushing needed….
I was not expecting to actually rush, forget to write down numbers, not read directions, write incoherent sentences and not finish it. I don’t know; maybe I should have done some hand stretches or something (that would have helped my shaky hands).
Upon receiving my grade the next day, I found out that directions are there for a reason. In my hurried frenzy, I had glanced over the directions. Therefore, because of this I didn’t fully answer the questions, thus lowering my score.
Also, the map section was one-third of my test grade. I had already done poorly on the map assignment, so I was not expecting to do well on the test either. In middle school, maps were less than 10 percent of my grade, and I could redo them if my grade was very bad (which I didn’t do as much as I should have). Now, not studying the map is like not studying one-third of all the test material!
A day later, after partially reviewing my physics notes and finishing up the review packet, I waltzed into Mr. Mangold’s class. Although not as nervous as earlier, I realized that time flies when you’re having fun (or when taking a physics test; they’re synonymous for me).
After what seemed like 15 minutes, Mr. Mangold said that there were only 10 minutes left! And I had just reached the advanced questions. My stressed-out mind decided to take a hiatus at that time, so I spent those last 10 minutes in vain. When I got my test back, I saw that what I had written the day before was chicken scratch!
But it doesn’t stop with the tests. The courses themselves are harder; even the teachers say so!
I remember on the first day of math class, teacher Patricia Jacobsen said to my Algebra II Honors class, “This class is going to be really challenging, and for some of you it will be your first B, first C or first D in math.”
As you can guess, my cortisol levels rose exponentially, and I became extremely nervous. Getting my first B or C sounded absolutely horrifying. I received my math quiz grade on Monday and… .
I’m not alone in this feeling. Freshman Jack Christian was always on the High Honor Roll in middle school, but even he was shocked by high school.
“I couldn’t even finish (the history test)!” Christian said. “I knew all the information, but time just ran short!”
You might be asking me, why are you here, then? This is a college-preparatory school. Or you may think that I’m just organizing a pity party. But in reality, I am here to say how much I appreciate this change.
This is tough love. Although right now I may be worrying about grades or wondering if I am just a closet idiot who hid her lack of intellect for years, I am confident that I will succeed.
“You’ll acclimate,” Jacobsen said. “We (the teachers) have been through (high school), so we know what you’re going through. But that’s the beauty of it! Some things may be hard, but you’ll work and you’ll get through it.
“The main thing that high-school teachers want to teach you is that you learn by making mistakes. The goal of high school is to make mistakes, and find out how to fix them.”
It’s like when a wrestler lifts weights to prepare for a competition. The first few times he adjusts the heaviness of the weights may be a little painful. But eventually he’ll be able to raise the bar even higher.
Whether I still need to get acclimated to high school or actually start really studying, I’ll find out. But one thing’s for sure: I will make mistakes. But so will every other person. No one is exempt from failure, but everyone has the opportunity to learn and fix their mistakes. That’s called high school.
And it’s only the beginning. By the time senior year rolls around, I might look back on my freshman year (hopefully by then working well) thinking about how easy school used to be.
Then I’ll be a freshman again in college, maybe receiving some less-than-satisfactory grades and probably thinking, “So, I guess this isn’t high school anymore.”