Friday, March 13, 2015

The Slippery Slope of Education Legislation

I will be the first to admit that I am not very up to date on current news or political issues, so I apologize in advance for my ignorance. However, something has recently come to my attention that scares me. 

Earlier this year, the Kansas senate approved a bill that will allow teachers to be prosecuted for distributing harmful content to minors. The teacher could be sentenced to six months in jail. The problem with this bill, is how to interpret the phrase "harmful content." According to the bill, any teacher who provides materials for students that can be considered offensive by "any reasonable person" can be sent to jail. Supporters claim that the bill is necessary to ensure that our students are protected from being introduced to any kind of pornography in school. They claim that teachers will not be prosecuted for teaching works of "literary or scientific value." 

However, the conditions of the bill are highly subjective. Schools are a melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities. Different people are offended by different things. Parents have different values and opinions that they want passed down to their children. My classes recently finished a unit on Asian literature where we studied Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist texts. What if a Christian or Muslim student is offended at the fact that we read an excerpt from The Analects of Confucius? If I were a teacher in Kansas, this bill gives the state the right to prosecute me for simply teaching my curriculum. “It’s going to cause teachers to be afraid to teach great literature, display or talk about great art,” said Dave Kirkbride, KNEA South Central UniServ (quoted from ksn.com). 

And all of this started with a sexual education poster. A poster that had no images at all, only text. Granted, it was a mildly explicit poster, and from what I've read the teacher was heavily reprimanded. But one poster was all it took for someone to decide that teachers could be sent to jail for their content. And we don't even know the story or the context behind the poster. One person wasn't satisfied with just the teacher responsible getting in trouble. They had to take it farther and assume that all teachers are corrupt. All teachers aren't able to be trusted. All teachers need their content monitored for the safety of our children. 

I haven't been a teacher for very long, so I don't know much about the "good old days" of teaching; where teachers were considered professionals and were trusted to do their jobs well and to uphold integrity in their classrooms. I understand that the world we live in is changing, and that not everyone can be trusted. I also acknowledge that I am blessed to work at a school where my administrators are always supportive and always have my back. They trust me and they will defend me. If I am struggling they won't condemn me, they will do everything they can to give me whatever I need in order to succeed. I feel safe, and I know that I can go to them for help without fear of being written up or looked down on. It makes me a better teacher, because I know that my administrators are a tool I can use to improve my teaching ability. I recognize that this isn't the case everywhere, and that is so sad to me. 

What scares me about this is the fact that, technically - according to this bill - a teacher can be sent to jail for up to six months for teaching basic reproduction processes in a Biology class. All it takes is one person who has an issue with the content. Those of us who teach novels like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, 1984 by George Orwell, and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley can be prosecuted for teaching novels with "inappropriate content." These are novels that I read in high school. These are novels that I enjoyed so much, I had to go back and read again as an adult in order to make sure I fully appreciated them. These are classic pieces of literature that I truly believe every person should be introduced to at least once in their lives. There is mature content in these novels. I wouldn't consider teaching them before high school; maybe not even until junior or senior year because at that point there is a certain level of maturity expected. Teenagers are introduced to more pornographic content on the radio, so by the time they are 16 and 17, they are more than capable of reading a novel like 1984. Plus, if we're being truthful, is there a piece of literature that exists that doesn't offend someone? What would I teach in my class? Even some grammar rules are ambiguous and up for debate. (I don't know about you, but I have some pretty strong opinions about the Oxford comma.) 

Imagine what it would be like if your doctor wasn't allowed to have malpractice insurance. What if he could be put in jail just because of an accusation because someone didn't like a drug he prescribed? He would be too afraid of the repercussions to treat you to the best of his ability. I realize it's a loose analogy, but work with me. In the same way, this bill will cause teachers to be afraid to do their jobs.

I know there are creeps out there. I know that the world we live in isn't perfect. I'm just afraid that we are trampling on personal freedom with legislation like this. One of my friends and co-workers said it best. She pointed out that public education is under attack. She's right. Our principal sends us updates on bills and legislation related to education on a regular basis, and more often we see that our government no longer trusts our teachers or our education system. We are seeing people who have no experience teaching in a classroom making rules and regulations for those of us who do.  

Where does it stop? When can teachers breathe again? When can we feel safe in our schools and our classrooms? When can we feel trusted? Where did the autonomy go? And why stop there? Why not start prosecuting newspaper editors for printing content that is considered offensive by a "reasonable person"? Why not start regulating what we allow people to blog about or post on the internet? Why not just have senators who have never taught in a classroom start determining our entire curriculum? (Oh wait...they already do that!) An entire AP US history curriculum has been put on the chopping block because it included all aspects of American history and someone felt we should only be teaching the parts that make us look good. When do we start banning books, like they do in countries where citizen's freedoms are severely restricted? We should never be ok with that. No one has the right to tell us how to think, what to like, or what should offend us. 

I shouldn't have to worry that doing my job will put me in jail, simply because someone doesn't like the book we're reading. There are better ways to handle issues with content. We have alternative book options for students who don't feel comfortable reading the novels we read in class. This is a much more reasonable solution than jail time. I am afraid this is the direction that education is going. It's eerily similar to the dystopian future Orwell created in 1984. Big Brother is watching, and Big Brother tells you what to believe. If you're like me and you had to study that novel at some point in your education, then you recognize the similarities. Unfortunately, someone is trying to take that privilege away from future generations of students, which is exactly what George Orwell was afraid of, and why he wrote the novel. 

The minute we stop thinking for ourselves, the minute we allow someone else to tell us what to believe, how to feel, and what should offend us; that is when we have truly lost all hope. That is when we lose our rights and our liberty. It won't happen all at once; it will be slow. We are the frogs, and legislation like this is the pot of water, slowly increasing its temperature until we become so complacent, lazy, and comfortable that we don't realize we are being cooked alive.

If you would like to read some articles on the Kansas Senate Bill 56, here are a few links:

The Slippery Slope of Education Legislation

I will be the first to admit that I am not very up to date on current news or political issues, so I apologize in advance for my ignorance. However, something has recently come to my attention that scares me. 

Earlier this year, the Kansas senate approved a bill that will allow teachers to be prosecuted for distributing harmful content to minors. The teacher could be sentenced to six months in jail. The problem with this bill, is how to interpret the phrase "harmful content." According to the bill, any teacher who provides materials for students that can be considered offensive by "any reasonable person" can be sent to jail. Supporters claim that the bill is necessary to ensure that our students are protected from being introduced to any kind of pornography in school. They claim that teachers will not be prosecuted for teaching works of "literary or scientific value." 

However, the conditions of the bill are highly subjective. Schools are a melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities. Different people are offended by different things. Parents have different values and opinions that they want passed down to their children. My classes recently finished a unit on Asian literature where we studied Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist texts. What if a Christian or Muslim student is offended at the fact that we read an excerpt from The Analects of Confucius? If I were a teacher in Kansas, this bill gives the state the right to prosecute me for simply teaching my curriculum. “It’s going to cause teachers to be afraid to teach great literature, display or talk about great art,” said Dave Kirkbride, KNEA South Central UniServ (quoted from ksn.com). 

And all of this started with a sexual education poster. A poster that had no images at all, only text. Granted, it was a mildly explicit poster, and from what I've read the teacher was heavily reprimanded. But one poster was all it took for someone to decide that teachers could be sent to jail for their content. And we don't even know the story or the context behind the poster. One person wasn't satisfied with just the teacher responsible getting in trouble. They had to take it farther and assume that all teachers are corrupt. All teachers aren't able to be trusted. All teachers need their content monitored for the safety of our children. 

I haven't been a teacher for very long, so I don't know much about the "good old days" of teaching; where teachers were considered professionals and were trusted to do their jobs well and to uphold integrity in their classrooms. I understand that the world we live in is changing, and that not everyone can be trusted. I also acknowledge that I am blessed to work at a school where my administrators are always supportive and always have my back. They trust me and they will defend me. If I am struggling they won't condemn me, they will do everything they can to give me whatever I need in order to succeed. I feel safe, and I know that I can go to them for help without fear of being written up or looked down on. It makes me a better teacher, because I know that my administrators are a tool I can use to improve my teaching ability. I recognize that this isn't the case everywhere, and that is so sad to me. 

What scares me about this is the fact that, technically - according to this bill - a teacher can be sent to jail for up to six months for teaching basic reproduction processes in a Biology class. All it takes is one person who has an issue with the content. Those of us who teach novels like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, 1984 by George Orwell, and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley can be prosecuted for teaching novels with "inappropriate content." These are novels that I read in high school. These are novels that I enjoyed so much, I had to go back and read again as an adult in order to make sure I fully appreciated them. These are classic pieces of literature that I truly believe every person should be introduced to at least once in their lives. There is mature content in these novels. I wouldn't consider teaching them before high school; maybe not even until junior or senior year because at that point there is a certain level of maturity expected. Teenagers are introduced to more pornographic content on the radio, so by the time they are 16 and 17, they are more than capable of reading a novel like 1984. Plus, if we're being truthful, is there a piece of literature that exists that doesn't offend someone? What would I teach in my class? Even some grammar rules are ambiguous and up for debate. (I don't know about you, but I have some pretty strong opinions about the Oxford comma.) 

Imagine what it would be like if your doctor wasn't allowed to have malpractice insurance. What if he could be put in jail just because of an accusation because someone didn't like a drug he prescribed? He would be too afraid of the repercussions to treat you to the best of his ability. I realize it's a loose analogy, but work with me. In the same way, this bill will cause teachers to be afraid to do their jobs.

I know there are creeps out there. I know that the world we live in isn't perfect. I'm just afraid that we are trampling on personal freedom with legislation like this. One of my friends and co-workers said it best. She pointed out that public education is under attack. She's right. Our principal sends us updates on bills and legislation related to education on a regular basis, and more often we see that our government no longer trusts our teachers or our education system. We are seeing people who have no experience teaching in a classroom making rules and regulations for those of us who do.  

Where does it stop? When can teachers breathe again? When can we feel safe in our schools and our classrooms? When can we feel trusted? Where did the autonomy go? And why stop there? Why not start prosecuting newspaper editors for printing content that is considered offensive by a "reasonable person"? Why not start regulating what we allow people to blog about or post on the internet? Why not just have senators who have never taught in a classroom start determining our entire curriculum? (Oh wait...they already do that!) An entire AP US history curriculum has been put on the chopping block because it included all aspects of American history and someone felt we should only be teaching the parts that make us look good. When do we start banning books, like they do in countries where citizen's freedoms are severely restricted? We should never be ok with that. No one has the right to tell us how to think, what to like, or what should offend us. 

I shouldn't have to worry that doing my job will put me in jail, simply because someone doesn't like the book we're reading. There are better ways to handle issues with content. We have alternative book options for students who don't feel comfortable reading the novels we read in class. This is a much more reasonable solution than jail time. I am afraid this is the direction that education is going. It's eerily similar to the dystopian future Orwell created in 1984. Big Brother is watching, and Big Brother tells you what to believe. If you're like me and you had to study that novel at some point in your education, then you recognize the similarities. Unfortunately, someone is trying to take that privilege away from future generations of students, which is exactly what George Orwell was afraid of, and why he wrote the novel. 

The minute we stop thinking for ourselves, the minute we allow someone else to tell us what to believe, how to feel, and what should offend us; that is when we have truly lost all hope. That is when we lose our rights and our liberty. It won't happen all at once; it will be slow. We are the frogs, and legislation like this is the pot of water, slowly increasing its temperature until we become so complacent, lazy, and comfortable that we don't realize we are being cooked alive.

If you would like to read some articles on the Kansas Senate Bill 56, here are a few links:

Monday, March 9, 2015

Why Blog? A "Thank You" to My Readers

Why Write?

I love this quote. "Your writing voice is the deepest possible reflection of who you are. The job of your voice is not to seduce or flatter or make well-shaped sentences. In your voice, your readers should be able to hear the content of your mind, your heart, your soul." - Meg Rosoff

I started this blog 3 years ago because I truly enjoy writing. For a long time the only people who read it were my roommates and my mom. I never expected much and I rarely posted. My reader base has grown a lot recently. I asked my students to start blogging and I promised them that I would blog right along with them. Since I require them to blog about once a week, I'm trying to do the same. I got back into this because I don't ever want to ask my students to do something I'm not willing to do myself. I am sticking with it because of how much I enjoy it. 

I write from my heart, and I write what I believe. Most of the time I have more questions than answers. I'm not trying to fix any problems. I write because that is the way I communicate best. I bare more of myself on this blog than I would be comfortable with in a conversation with most of you. I write because I want my students to see that you can write because it's fun and because you enjoy it. All writing isn't boring literary essays. All writing doesn't have to be formal. I write because I want to show you a reflection of who I am. I love what Meg Rosoff said, because I don't write in order to "seduce or flatter." I write because it is therapeutic for me. I am so grateful that so many of you have deemed my writing worth reading. It's humbling, and I am in awe of the amount of feedback I get for my blog. It's not all good. I've received my share of negative remarks and comments designed to lower my confidence and make me feel worse about myself. But I also receive praise, encouragement, and constructive criticism; the kind that is designed to make me better, not to trample my voice. 


This blog has given me confidence. Ironically, some of the negative feedback is helping me improve my self-image. I struggle sometimes with feeling like I am not doing things correctly. I struggle with whether or not I am a good teacher; am I saying this right, am I embodying the right ideals, do my students understand what I am trying to teach them, am I nice enough without being too nice, am I knowledgeable enough? I struggle with my decisions; are they sound, am I doing the right thing? Sometimes my confidence needs a boost. I've been learning lately that my confidence needs to come from within instead of without. I rely too much on praise from others instead of the assurance that comes from myself. There will always be someone who thinks I am wrong and who doesn't like what I have to say. That's ok. Each person has a voice. Mine is just one among the billions. And each voice deserves to be heard. People don't have to agree with each other in order to respect each other. 


I will blog whether people read it or not, because it is a form of emotional release for me. I try to keep it positive; I try to be transparent. I love writing as much as I love reading. I don't expect to make a career as a writer, and I don't think I would even want to. But it is important to practice the things we enjoy. It's how we keep ourselves sane. I am aware of how lame my interests are, but reading and blogging help me keep some of my sanity.  


"In your voice, your readers should be able to hear the content of your mind, your heart, your soul." I hope my readers can see my heart in my writing. Of course I hope you all like what you see, but if you don't that is your prerogative. I will respect your opinion and your right to disagree with mine. There is so much freedom in that understanding. We are all individuals and we are all different and unique. Find the way you best express that individuality and it will do for you what this blog does for me; allow you to express yourself and retain a bit of your sanity in a world where the voice of the individual is constantly repressed, where we are just one of billions. Find your outlet; the thing that allows you to be one in a billion, instead of just one of a billion - another person lost in the crowd. It doesn't matter if anyone acknowledges or notices. Do it for yourself, because sometimes that's more important than looking for recognition.

Thank you for your overwhelming support for my emotional outlet; this hobby of mine that helps keep me sane and that I enjoy so much. Thank you for taking time out of your day to read what I have to say; whether you agree with it or not, because I know you don't have to. Thank you for your support and thank you for your criticism. I appreciate all of you for making this blog so much more than I ever expected it to be.

Why Blog? A "Thank You" to My Readers

Why Write?

I love this quote. "Your writing voice is the deepest possible reflection of who you are. The job of your voice is not to seduce or flatter or make well-shaped sentences. In your voice, your readers should be able to hear the content of your mind, your heart, your soul." - Meg Rosoff

I started this blog 3 years ago because I truly enjoy writing. For a long time the only people who read it were my roommates and my mom. I never expected much and I rarely posted. My reader base has grown a lot recently. I asked my students to start blogging and I promised them that I would blog right along with them. Since I require them to blog about once a week, I'm trying to do the same. I got back into this because I don't ever want to ask my students to do something I'm not willing to do myself. I am sticking with it because of how much I enjoy it. 

I write from my heart, and I write what I believe. Most of the time I have more questions than answers. I'm not trying to fix any problems. I write because that is the way I communicate best. I bare more of myself on this blog than I would be comfortable with in a conversation with most of you. I write because I want my students to see that you can write because it's fun and because you enjoy it. All writing isn't boring literary essays. All writing doesn't have to be formal. I write because I want to show you a reflection of who I am. I love what Meg Rosoff said, because I don't write in order to "seduce or flatter." I write because it is therapeutic for me. I am so grateful that so many of you have deemed my writing worth reading. It's humbling, and I am in awe of the amount of feedback I get for my blog. It's not all good. I've received my share of negative remarks and comments designed to lower my confidence and make me feel worse about myself. But I also receive praise, encouragement, and constructive criticism; the kind that is designed to make me better, not to trample my voice. 


This blog has given me confidence. Ironically, some of the negative feedback is helping me improve my self-image. I struggle sometimes with feeling like I am not doing things correctly. I struggle with whether or not I am a good teacher; am I saying this right, am I embodying the right ideals, do my students understand what I am trying to teach them, am I nice enough without being too nice, am I knowledgeable enough? I struggle with my decisions; are they sound, am I doing the right thing? Sometimes my confidence needs a boost. I've been learning lately that my confidence needs to come from within instead of without. I rely too much on praise from others instead of the assurance that comes from myself. There will always be someone who thinks I am wrong and who doesn't like what I have to say. That's ok. Each person has a voice. Mine is just one among the billions. And each voice deserves to be heard. People don't have to agree with each other in order to respect each other. 


I will blog whether people read it or not, because it is a form of emotional release for me. I try to keep it positive; I try to be transparent. I love writing as much as I love reading. I don't expect to make a career as a writer, and I don't think I would even want to. But it is important to practice the things we enjoy. It's how we keep ourselves sane. I am aware of how lame my interests are, but reading and blogging help me keep some of my sanity.  


"In your voice, your readers should be able to hear the content of your mind, your heart, your soul." I hope my readers can see my heart in my writing. Of course I hope you all like what you see, but if you don't that is your prerogative. I will respect your opinion and your right to disagree with mine. There is so much freedom in that understanding. We are all individuals and we are all different and unique. Find the way you best express that individuality and it will do for you what this blog does for me; allow you to express yourself and retain a bit of your sanity in a world where the voice of the individual is constantly repressed, where we are just one of billions. Find your outlet; the thing that allows you to be one in a billion, instead of just one of a billion - another person lost in the crowd. It doesn't matter if anyone acknowledges or notices. Do it for yourself, because sometimes that's more important than looking for recognition.

Thank you for your overwhelming support for my emotional outlet; this hobby of mine that helps keep me sane and that I enjoy so much. Thank you for taking time out of your day to read what I have to say; whether you agree with it or not, because I know you don't have to. Thank you for your support and thank you for your criticism. I appreciate all of you for making this blog so much more than I ever expected it to be.

Monday, March 2, 2015

An Open Letter to My Students

Dear high schooler,

I've been where you are. Not that long ago I was 15, starting at a new school with new people in a new place. I was nervous, I was afraid, I was a little excited. High school seemed like such a big deal. In fact, back then everything felt like a big deal. Every minor detail of your life was life or death; who your friends were, what they thought of you, getting a boyfriend or girlfriend, homecoming, football games, the list goes on. 

I've had a student come into my room crying and upset because of something another girl said about her. I've had students who refuse to go to homecoming because they didn't have a date. I have students who could careless about their grades, but who believe that if they don't start on the football team next year then their lives are over.

Obviously, all those things are important. Your friends, your grades, your athletic ability all are a part of defining who you are. But here's the thing that I didn't realize as a high school student:

High school doesn't really matter.

If I walked into class one day and told you that, some of you would probably flip out. It's hard to get a grasp on the fact that everything that seems like such a big deal at this time in your life actually isn't. Most people don't really become the person they are going to be for the rest of their lives until their 20s. I was a very different person at 16 than I am at 25. At 16, the most important things to me were my friends/boyfriend/social life and my grades. My grades were the easiest thing for me to control. I was a good student; I got straight A's and scored a 30 on the ACT. I graduated high school with a 4.0 GPA. Yet, in spite of that, I didn't get a decent academic scholarship until my sophomore year of college. And that scholarship was not based on my high school GPA, it was based on the grades I got in my first year of college. Also, I've never been asked for my GPA, college or high school, on any job application. It's important, but only for a little while.

When I think back on high school, the stuff that I made the biggest deal about were things involving my social life. My boyfriend and I fought because I wanted to go to the homecoming dance and he didn't, and there was no way I could go without him. That would be social suicide and miserable. So instead, I forced him to go and was miserable anyway because he was such a bad sport and whined the entire time. I would've had more fun just going with my friends, and I'm sure he would've had more fun staying home.
I cried for an hour about the fact that a girl I wanted to be friends with because she was popular, lied to me about being sick so that she wouldn't have to hang out with me. It was a really terrible lie because she lived across the street from me and invited several people over to her house 10 minutes after I called. I saw the cars. If that happened now, I would laugh and move on, because obviously why would I want to be friends with that person? I have better things to do with my time. It wouldn't even be an issue I dwelled on for more than 2 minutes. It's ok for people not to like me; not everything about me is likable. There's no point in forcing relationships anymore.
I thought that senior prom was going to be THE premier event of my life. Like, seriously, how could anything ever be any better? Every single detail had to be absolutely perfect. I don't even remember much about that dance other than the fact that the sequins on my dress made it extremely heavy. But my wedding. . .I can tell you every detail from start to finish. I will remember every moment of that day forever. And I didn't even meet the man I married until well after high school.
I had friends on the football team who were defined by how they played. One boy I knew got very upset after a game because he didn't play well, even though our team won. It didn't matter about the team's performance, all that mattered was him. He doesn't play football anymore and I doubt that bothers him much.

Looking back now, none of those things mattered. I have none of the same friends I had in high school, so all the friendship drama was insignificant. I keep in touch with a few people, but we are all in such different places now - literally and metaphorically - that we don't hang out the way we used to. The memories I cherish the most are the times I just laid back and had fun with those people. I remember our prom after-party at Lokomotion more than the dance itself. I remember wearing ridiculous outfits and screaming in the student section at football games, but I can't tell you which games we won and lost. I remember going to Braums after choir concerts and eating out on the patio, but I couldn't tell you every song we sang. I don't think I could tell you anything about the lives of the girls I always secretly wanted to impress; we aren't even Facebook friends anymore. The boyfriend issues that defined an entire era of my life are so insignificant now that it's laughable.

High school was fun. It should be fun. The melodrama of it all is part of what makes it fun. But when it wasn't fun; when I was crying on my staircase because I thought I had lost all hope of making friends, when I was upset over a boy, when I was bummed because I got 4th chair at All-State instead of 1st chair - those are the times I wish I had realized how little all of that mattered in the scheme of things. It's hard to see past high school. 

When you're sitting in my class, when the coach takes you out of the game, when your "friend" says mean things behind your back (or to your face), what I want you to realize is that this is a time to have fun and get ready for your future. I want you to understand that life will get SO much better than it is right now. So many of you think that this is as good as it gets. You couldn't be more wrong. I'm incredibly excited for you to experience life after high school.  I can't wait for you to meet your college friends. I can't wait for the moment you finally decide you know exactly what you want to be when you "grow up," and how you are going to achieve that goal. I can't wait for you to meet the person you will spend the rest of your life with. 

High school is not as good as it gets. Don't ever allow yourself to get to a point where you want to go back. High school is great, but life after high school is so much better. Your friendships are deeper, your decisions are more important because you are making them on your own, your experiences are richer. One day, you will look back and you will laugh at the things you once thought would make or break your life. Right now your world is so small.

Just wait.

It's about to get a lot bigger.

An Open Letter to My Students

Dear high schooler,

I've been where you are. Not that long ago I was 15, starting at a new school with new people in a new place. I was nervous, I was afraid, I was a little excited. High school seemed like such a big deal. In fact, back then everything felt like a big deal. Every minor detail of your life was life or death; who your friends were, what they thought of you, getting a boyfriend or girlfriend, homecoming, football games, the list goes on. 

I've had a student come into my room crying and upset because of something another girl said about her. I've had students who refuse to go to homecoming because they didn't have a date. I have students who could careless about their grades, but who believe that if they don't start on the football team next year then their lives are over.

Obviously, all those things are important. Your friends, your grades, your athletic ability all are a part of defining who you are. But here's the thing that I didn't realize as a high school student:

High school doesn't really matter.

If I walked into class one day and told you that, some of you would probably flip out. It's hard to get a grasp on the fact that everything that seems like such a big deal at this time in your life actually isn't. Most people don't really become the person they are going to be for the rest of their lives until their 20s. I was a very different person at 16 than I am at 25. At 16, the most important things to me were my friends/boyfriend/social life and my grades. My grades were the easiest thing for me to control. I was a good student; I got straight A's and scored a 30 on the ACT. I graduated high school with a 4.0 GPA. Yet, in spite of that, I didn't get a decent academic scholarship until my sophomore year of college. And that scholarship was not based on my high school GPA, it was based on the grades I got in my first year of college. Also, I've never been asked for my GPA, college or high school, on any job application. It's important, but only for a little while.

When I think back on high school, the stuff that I made the biggest deal about were things involving my social life. My boyfriend and I fought because I wanted to go to the homecoming dance and he didn't, and there was no way I could go without him. That would be social suicide and miserable. So instead, I forced him to go and was miserable anyway because he was such a bad sport and whined the entire time. I would've had more fun just going with my friends, and I'm sure he would've had more fun staying home.
I cried for an hour about the fact that a girl I wanted to be friends with because she was popular, lied to me about being sick so that she wouldn't have to hang out with me. It was a really terrible lie because she lived across the street from me and invited several people over to her house 10 minutes after I called. I saw the cars. If that happened now, I would laugh and move on, because obviously why would I want to be friends with that person? I have better things to do with my time. It wouldn't even be an issue I dwelled on for more than 2 minutes. It's ok for people not to like me; not everything about me is likable. There's no point in forcing relationships anymore.
I thought that senior prom was going to be THE premier event of my life. Like, seriously, how could anything ever be any better? Every single detail had to be absolutely perfect. I don't even remember much about that dance other than the fact that the sequins on my dress made it extremely heavy. But my wedding. . .I can tell you every detail from start to finish. I will remember every moment of that day forever. And I didn't even meet the man I married until well after high school.
I had friends on the football team who were defined by how they played. One boy I knew got very upset after a game because he didn't play well, even though our team won. It didn't matter about the team's performance, all that mattered was him. He doesn't play football anymore and I doubt that bothers him much.

Looking back now, none of those things mattered. I have none of the same friends I had in high school, so all the friendship drama was insignificant. I keep in touch with a few people, but we are all in such different places now - literally and metaphorically - that we don't hang out the way we used to. The memories I cherish the most are the times I just laid back and had fun with those people. I remember our prom after-party at Lokomotion more than the dance itself. I remember wearing ridiculous outfits and screaming in the student section at football games, but I can't tell you which games we won and lost. I remember going to Braums after choir concerts and eating out on the patio, but I couldn't tell you every song we sang. I don't think I could tell you anything about the lives of the girls I always secretly wanted to impress; we aren't even Facebook friends anymore. The boyfriend issues that defined an entire era of my life are so insignificant now that it's laughable.

High school was fun. It should be fun. The melodrama of it all is part of what makes it fun. But when it wasn't fun; when I was crying on my staircase because I thought I had lost all hope of making friends, when I was upset over a boy, when I was bummed because I got 4th chair at All-State instead of 1st chair - those are the times I wish I had realized how little all of that mattered in the scheme of things. It's hard to see past high school. 

When you're sitting in my class, when the coach takes you out of the game, when your "friend" says mean things behind your back (or to your face), what I want you to realize is that this is a time to have fun and get ready for your future. I want you to understand that life will get SO much better than it is right now. So many of you think that this is as good as it gets. You couldn't be more wrong. I'm incredibly excited for you to experience life after high school.  I can't wait for you to meet your college friends. I can't wait for the moment you finally decide you know exactly what you want to be when you "grow up," and how you are going to achieve that goal. I can't wait for you to meet the person you will spend the rest of your life with. 

High school is not as good as it gets. Don't ever allow yourself to get to a point where you want to go back. High school is great, but life after high school is so much better. Your friendships are deeper, your decisions are more important because you are making them on your own, your experiences are richer. One day, you will look back and you will laugh at the things you once thought would make or break your life. Right now your world is so small.

Just wait.

It's about to get a lot bigger.