College is a big transition for anyone, but for some of us, it’s more than just moving away from family and friends. It marks struggle.
I can’t tell you exactly when the cause of this struggle first began, but I remember recognizing it in primary school. As early as second grade, I was routinely pulled from class with a few of my classmates to go sit in the library because we were gifted. In other words, the school thought we’d be better off goofing around in the library than being bored by the material our peers had not yet mastered.
The special treatment continued through primary school, where I was allowed to check out books several grade levels above what my classmates were reading. I remember being stunned that one of my classmates was reading Junie B. Jones in the fourth grade. I had finished that series in kindergarten.
Middle school came, and in eighth grade, a few of us were exempt from one hour of English and instead were forced to take high school French. Whatever.
Then there was high school. I was writing papers like they were nothing because, by that point, I had realized that I could get away with turning in something that was significantly less than my full potential.
I could make something up about a blue curtain representing grief and hidden emotions, and my English teachers would lap it up. I was separated into a smaller, select group of students within my pre-calculus class because my teacher thought we were too smart to sit through his planned lesson.
To some of you, this probably sounds like privilege. Teacher’s pet, you might call me.
Well, I don’t see it that way, especially now that I’m in college.
In my first semester of college, I took ENGL 212. I was shocked when my professor returned our papers and mine had a “B” scrawled across the top. You see, grade school never gave me the opportunity to learn how to take criticism. None of my high school English teachers had ever pushed me as hard as my college professors did.
I floundered through my BIOL 111 class, not knowing how to really study because I’d never needed to study before. I’d never had a teacher pull me aside after class and suggest tips to make studying easier.
I felt embarrassed when, a few weeks ago, I came to the conclusion that I needed to go to the math and physics tutoring center to get help. I’d never really needed help in grade school, and I felt like a huge disappointment that I couldn’t do my homework without assistance. The tutors were very nice and extremely helpful, but I resent the attitude my school district gave me toward asking for help. It shouldn’t have to be a humiliating, sneaking-in-and-out experience.
And the biggest coup d’etat? Maybe I was once so far ahead of my peers in regards to reading level, but now, I’m average at best. It’s a hard pill to swallow, and I’m a bit upset that my school district did this to me, to my peers. I look around and see my friends struggling too, ashamed when they get a sub-par grade on a test, bewildered and not knowing where to turn when it comes time to studying.
Schools need to stop singling kids out for special treatment and start thinking about the prideful, anxiety-stricken young adults they’re creating.