Why They Can't Think and How to Save Them
To say I had a rough time in high school would be an understatement. A lethal combination of an undiagnosed learning disability on top of nonexistent self-esteem made me basically useless in the classroom. I couldn't focus, I couldn't care...sometimes I just slept. The teachers let me. I got average to below average grades. My teachers and guidance counselors dismissed me as lazy and unmotivated. What I was was scared. I was anxious and depressed all the time, and I didn't understand why.
I first met Mr. Baird when I was in tenth grade. I don't remember how, but somehow I was one of two tenth grades in a Creative Writing class--the other kids were juniors and seniors. And yes, I found the majority of them to be terrifying. I was quiet. I doubted myself.
Mr. Baird saw something in me. He recognized in me a bravery that I didn't know I had. He encouraged me to pursue writing, which barely survives as the sole thing that I know I'm good at. He introduced me to the school's literary magazine, The Criterion. He spoke to me with actual interest, and never once was anything but genuine. It was Mr. Baird who encouraged me to keep writing in college, despite an entire school trying to convince me that this would be a foolish investment. By my senior year, most of my peers were frantic to get into AP classes so that they could get into good schools. Mr. Baird (thank god) told me not to-not because he didn't believe I could, but because he knew what was important was my passion. Most people think this is crazy, but when my best friend didn't get into AP English, Mr. Baird was THRILLED-for the same reason.
My guidance counselor told me that with my grades, we should probably look at "a lot" of safety schools. She told me "NYU" would be a reach for me. I wasn't encouraged. I wasn't motivated. I was being further convinced by the school that I was useless, and the damage of that has had lasting effects. When I talked about going to a liberal arts college, I was treated like a mentally ill person talking about delusions of grandeur.
Of course pursuing a liberal arts degree is "risky" in this day and age, but that depends on your definition of "risky". Never for a second do I ever look back and wish I'd taken an "easier" route. I am incredibly blessed to have had someone like Mr. Baird to recognize my strengths, and help me cultivate them.
I think (and hope) that I'm unrecognizable from the freaked out sixteen year old that first took a Creative Writing class at AHS. I've found my voice. I've graduated with a B.A in Literary Studies, and have had my plays produced. That's not to say I'm not having a difficult time. But I wouldn't be happier doing anything besides what I love. What I wish for every high school student is the opportunity to nurture their talents, and not be chided for being different. I know that my high school experience-as difficult as it was for me-is nothing compared to others. What the adults need to know is that teenagers are also human. And remember that they were once confuse and frightened like us.