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School, a chance to explore or a chance to conform?

I am currently a high school junior and growing up everyone always said the high school years are the best of your life. However, I could not disagree more with that. In school, I have one class that I actually learn something in and the rest is just review for me and I'm simply bored out of my mind I just want to get out of the four walls of school and learn outside of when the civil war happened or the present tense conjugation of leer or read Robert Frost for the millionth time. Personally, when I get bored I selectively choose not to do anything I'm not forced to do and of course that lands me in heaps of trouble because I turn around and I'm failing a class that I'm "good in". Let's take the current English example, we start a new semester and we're not learning anything we just sit there until the idiots and fools understand (a problem with having the honors and regular kids in the same class). When they finally do understand we sit as the teacher goes over something I learned years ago but has never even been mentioned seemingly to anyone else. So my question is what am I exploring, what is so wonderful about it? My feelings are that the production of C students is on the rise because no one cares enough to produce anything better therefore you just have kids fitting a mold instead of breaking it. While I recognize something like K12 as an option, most parents don't and refuse to let their child participate in something like that besides the fact that they are literally suffering in school, this could be because they are super artsy, want to explore, are bored or are just too smart or like me are a deadly combo of all of those things. Every parent gives their own reasons for example, socializing or my dad's favorite "online school isn't perfected yet".

Thoughts and experiences encouraged.

  • Jan 28 2013: Melia, the older you get, the more you will realize your education is in your own hands. Regardless of what school you go to, what is important is the education you walk away with, not the degree you get given. If you are sitting in a class bored, try challenge yourself. Analyze a segment you aren't assigned. Read books not assigned. If you need some guidance or direction, ask your teacher. Even if they don't grade it, remember you are doing it for your education.

    All the best in your endeavors! Oh, and even if you already know the material, there usually is something you pick up the second time that you didn't on the first time.
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    Jan 27 2013: Melia, I'm trying to figure out why the honor kids and the regular kids are in the same class. Do you live in a small town where there aren't enough honor kids to make a full class? Or what is it? If you do live in a small town, maybe you could try to appreciate some of the good points of your small town, because I'm sure small towns do have good points, for example there may be more of a sense of community and knowing each other. Also, maybe you could talk to the regular kids more, share more of what you have, help them step up their game.

    You could attempt to graduate early and go on to college, or start taking college courses while in high school. You could talk to your counselor about your situation and unhappiness. Course you may be bored in college too. Maybe school isn't your place, and you should get in the working world. What is your ambition? You seem really cool and high-feeling. Maybe you should pursue acting, as that's pretty challenging. I live right on the edge of L.A., and sometimes work as an extra in TV and movies.

    I still believe you should do the exercise I mentioned below, try to put yourself in the place of your teacher, as it may help you develop empathy for them.

    If you want your conversation to run longer than the six days it has now, you can press edit and add more time to it.
  • Jan 27 2013: To hit you with another cliche (sorry) school is what you make of it.
    I haven't been in high school for a large number of years however I have never really been out of school. That is because I choose to learn subjects that I want to keep up on and to expand into subjects I have never studied before.
    Your father is not up to date with online schools. I got a master in computer systems (with an undergraduate degree in Geology so they don't have to be contiguous) from an online university. Their programs can be superior.
    Back to high school. You must know that your teachers know much much more than they are teaching and the students that excel in life do not sit back and take the pablum that is being fed. They go out and demand a real education.
    By real educaiton I don't mean facts and figures, but a good foundation in theory and the skills to continue learning outside the class room.
    Try doing some real research into a topic and find what you are being taught is outdated (most of it is probably 20 years old so that shouldnt be too hard)
    Show an interest to the teacher and you will find yourself suddently talking to someone who know vastly more than you thought.
    That's when school starts getting interesting. The more you want to deviate from the standard, the more you will be able to if you show real interest. If your just rebelling then you will be on the fast track out.
    I made it a career in school (K through Graduate school) to never do what was considered normal and I was successful starting in about grade 9.
    Class will always be a drag, but its what you do outside of the class work that will define you later in life.
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    Jan 27 2013: One thing that should be noted is that there is a lot that you dont know; and the same applies to others. You have to understand that the school is not about you, and sometimes you would have some advantage over others. There is no need to think of some persons as 'fools''or 'idiots''.
    And even though schools are part of the education system, they are not the end of it; so the common idea of blaming teachers or the school curriculum for stunted intellectual growth is just simply ridiclous.

    I see schools as community of learners; learning takes place not just in the classroom but by interaction; and yes, one-on-one interactions are better than online interactions. Because people are much more not who you think they are online than in real life.

    But, yeah, the school system is not for everybody, Some gain a lot from it, some do not. It's all about attitude; and it's all about the individual's path in life.
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    Jan 26 2013: Well, my first thought is to ask you to try to imagine yourself as a teacher in one of the classes you dislike. Think of yourself as an actress, and you're playing this teacher. What thoughts are going through your head? What is your background, where were you born, how did you grow up, what made you decide to become a teacher, how did you choose the particular subject you are teaching? What do you think your purpose is a teacher, why are you teaching? Do you like teaching? Why? Is it just a paycheck? Why? What are you trying to accomplish in any one hour in a classroom, let's say that particular hour where Melia Person is one of your students.
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    Jan 26 2013: One more thing. You should always take a broad statement like "High school years are the best time of your life" or "schools are just about learning to conform," with a very big grain of salt. They are only cliches.

    How happy the high school years are compared to later years depends on how well the atmosphere at school works for you, how well you get along with parents and peers, and what sort of options you have after leaving school. Lots of people love school and learning from lots of different people and situations and in community, and lots of people hate any kind of structure or being asked to learn things that may be difficult for them or that they cannot see the benefit from at the time. Some people are bullied or get sucked up in drama.

    The high school years were not the best years of my life and I don't think for any of my three. And it is worse for young people who struggle at school, who go to bad schools with poorly conceived ideas about things like discipline, or don't have a lot of flexibility in the environments in which they can learn.
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    Jan 29 2013: There are many gifted kids in your position. Are there others at your school with whom you could collaborate in pursuing independent, supplementary learning and projects? I have worked with groups of kids like you, both through the university (drawing kids from the region) and within the school district for many years.

    What city/town do you live in?
    • Jan 30 2013: I live in Los Angeles. Unfortunately there are no others at my school with whom I could collaborate with, however many days I wish there was.
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        Jan 30 2013: I grew up and went to high school in Los Angeles. At that time we had several levels of gifted programming in public school. I guess things have changed.

        Are you in the Los Angeles Unified School District? The only reason I am asking is that I am going to try to figure out the best resources available where you are for someone who is already a junior in high school. The online resources (EPGY and CTY) that are tailored to gifted high school kids I have already shared and are worth a peek.

        Because programming for gifted adolescents and teens is an area in which I am a specialist, I can typically find things quickly that would take much longer for people not in the field.
        Here is a first link to look at. If after you look at this page, you click the link near the top that says Program Options, you can see what the menu of offerings is that may be available to you with the LA schools. The big IF is whether these are still options for someone already in 11th grade. Most kids will have accessed much earlier.

        Here is a link for what UCLA offers gifted kids, and others as well, in k12:

        You probably know that UCLA is a world class university.
    business( probably on etsy) and I need for the sake of my soul to get out of my own head. Look the problem isn't that I don't know what I want to do (to some degree) it's that I've got no one to back me up on this journey and I don't know if you guys know how difficult it is to try and change your life and enlighten it and be happy when you have no one to back you up. Some people have said oh you should supplement your own education, why do you think I'm on TED instead of Facebook? Someone mentioned getting the course outlines from my teachers and working ahead and that sounds exactly like what i'm going to do because that could help me a TON and I don't know why that never occurred to me, so big thanks to whoever said that! Ummm TED lover, this may sound a bit strange but is there any chance at all that I could possibly get your email or something so that we could talk even after this conversation is over because you seem to understand what I'm going through and I would appreciate it if I could have someone in like you in my corner as I start to write a new chapter in the book of my life. If not that's totally cool because I understand the strangeness of the question, but I would really appreciate it.
    Big thanks to everyone for all your comments, keep commenting and posting opinions,
  • Jan 29 2013: The comments on this conversation have been absolutely amazing some of them just downright inspiring. I didn't want to pose a question and start a conversation I wasn't really going to be involved with so let's talk, shall we? TED lover, I think you are amazing and have brought up points that I can't believe someone who doesn't know me came up with. TED lover is correct in the aspect that I don't have anyone around to talk about it that understands. I have tried multiple times and failed (miserably I may add) to talk about it with my mother who believes basically that if it's so easy I need to go to school and get straight A's and come home and shut up. With my mom there is never any explaining of I can't just sit there and get straight A's I COULD but I can't because school doesn't fit the whole world doesn't fit. Just as TED lover said "It's like being a three-dimensional being in a two-dimensional world." I talk about it with my dad and I get the same results, and with anyone else you can just forget about it. At times I have considered finding a job and working for a while saving my money and just dropping out of school and simply leaving and going to the UK or something. Recently I think about that option more and more often because I need to get out of my school, my world and most importantly MY HEAD. It's like there is a little me sitting in my head giving me all of these ideas, and it's simply confusing. Maybe as TED lover as said I "awakened", I never even fathomed that thought because I still didn't know what I was going to do to generate money in my life. There were some things that I did know however, I don't fit in my world or rule it (which doesn't make sense because by all accounts I should be the Queen, Princess, Lady, Countess, Duchess and Baroness of my world), I don't fit in at school (not because I have some smarter than thou attitude or because I don't have friends, I've got loads), I want to start a youtube channel, a blog, a jewelry/clothes
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    Jan 28 2013: Melia, I am not a expert, so what I give is an opinion. You may be a victim of the current system. There are only three powers in education 1) US Sec. of Ed (Arne Duncan) Do it his way or he withholds all your funding, 2) the textbook writers ... what they write will determine the testing questions 3) The test developers .. they write tests on the common factor all students have the textbooks.

    So here is the real deal. The teacher has few if any options ... basically they teach to the test as provided by the teaching guide provided by the textbook writers. As of last year Arne Duncan mandated Common Core Curriculums (unfunded) for all schools. Additionally, the requirement that teachers evals be based on student exam results. All of that is political eye wash and does not help in any way what you are experiencing ... if anything it makes it worse. If the teachers career depends on student test scores, you can look forward to a steady diet of teaching the test in lock step until every student says the same thing on que.

    Until change occurs ... you can do advance work through ... it is free and it is good. Talk to your teachers ... if they think you are ready they may let you do advance work.

    Look at the sample questions for the PISA exams and see if you can achieve at that level.

    It is my thought that schools let you down when they think the correct answer is the goal ... I believe that the true goal is application of the information.

    I wish you well. Bob
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    Gail .

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    Jan 27 2013: Milia,

    Private (boarding) schools like Exeter Academy (in New Hampshire) are very elite schools. Because their endowments are so high, they offer full scholarships for the talented - far more than most private high schools can offer. Most classes there are very different. Classes are about 8-12 students and they sit around a circular tables where discussion can take place.

    At Exeter, no classrooms have rows of chairs, and lectures are virtually nonexistent. (Imagine that!)

    Math teachers assign problems from workbooks that have been written collectively by the Academy's math department. From these custom workbooks, students are assigned word problems as homework. In class, students present their solutions of the problems at the board. In math class at Exeter, students are not given theorems, model problems, or principles beforehand. Instead, students learn theorems and principles as they work through the word problems.

    Literature involves group discussion of homework reading assignments. Same with history, etc.

    Small class sizes and round tables enable all students to participate. They also encourage teacher-student interaction. These classes develop self-confidence and self-esteem.

    My friend's daughter was so fed up with her own public education that she was ready to drop out of school - much to everyone's horror. She too was a rare talent. Her parents went looking for an alternative and heard about Exeter. She received a scholarship and hasn't regretted her decision. It still wasn't perfect. But it was much better. She also had some "catching up" to do. It was challenging, but by the end of the first semester, she was OK.
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    Jan 27 2013: Here is one perspective that may give you additional ideas, by David Foster Wallace: [Part of this was recently read at Aaron Swartz's memorial service, because he particularly respected DFW].
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      Gail .

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      Jan 27 2013: I used to be that man. I am so glad that I am no longer that man. I would not want that man giving advice to my child.
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        Jan 27 2013: Smart kids benefit from seeing lots of perspectives, I think. They will find truth in some and also things with which they will disagree. They need to learn to wrestle with ideas to understand different people's truths.

        Some people will say to make the most of situations in which you find yourself and to choose your own ways of viewing them.

        Some will say school is a fraud aimed at brainwashing and demoralizing you.

        If there is anything young people need to learn, it is to consider a range of views rather than to jump on board any easy one.
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          Gail .

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          Jan 27 2013: All kids, not just smart ones, do benefit from seeing lots of perspectives, I think. Melia is not just a smart kind. Melia is extraordinary.

          In my opinion, I do not offer any easy solution to jump on board with, and your suggestion that I do is a bit offensive. I offer the most difficult and rewarding - to discover self and hold self sacred. To not-sacrifice self on the alter of social/economic acceptance, which calls for mediocrity. To refuse to go to a miserable challenging job day after day because that is what is expected - just as sitting in class enduring old mindless lessons is expected when so many other learning opportunities exist. To have a different "default view" than the sad one that D Wallace maintains.

          Default views are "formed". It takes the ability to understand differences, to be sure. But to offer as wise counsel, words from one who devalues the individual so much as Wallace does, when Melia is already recognizing the devaluation felt every single day, does no service. It harms. It is another attack on the essence of who one is. It was a VERY bleak speech.

          You assume that Melia doesn't already know what Wallace talks about. I don't assume that. I may be wrong. I think that Melia has already figured much of it out.

          Does Melia need more education? Absolutely! No true education ever comes to an end. Does Melia need more structure than wanted? Yes. Discipline is an essential life-skill. Without it, life is too painful. But there are better ways to learn self-discipline than to spend 34 hours a week being emotionally and intellectually tortured!

          Wallace says that the individuals aren't the center of their worlds. I vehemently disagree. We are each the captains of our ships. Those who choose to settle carry that choice forward at a cost. There ARE other choices.

          Keep the dream alive, Melia. Here is a valedictorian speech that addresses your concerns, as I understand them:

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        Jan 27 2013: DFW did not go to an unchallenging day job day after day and does not recommend it to others. He certainly did not live a life about social and economic acceptance nor counsel that to others! He did urge a reflective stance that doesn't make assumptions about others blindly. And to call him or his worldview one of embracing mediocrity is, I think, very misplaced. It is easy enough to read up on him to verify any of this.

        Melia has options. Gifted and talented kids often find themselves in her position, depending on whether their schools have offerings appropriate to their needs, so there is an array of high quality avenues and resources to supplement, custo mize, and sometimes replace curriculum that meets the needs these kids have that others may not. I offered some of which I am very aware in my own response to her.
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          Gail .

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          Jan 27 2013: The difference between Melia and a typical gifted student, is that Melia is "self-aware". She has awakened. She has discovered her "SELF". There are so few people in the world who experience this, she probably has no one around that even knows what she means when she tries to talk about it. It is certainly obvious that DFW is not awakened, however happy or unhappy he is with his life. No awakened person would have given that speech.

          It would be nice if public education were able to address the needs of an awakened student. At present, it's just not possible - given that there is not so much as an acknowledgement that such a state of existence exists. She might well meet some mentors in college. I hope so. It would be a real shame to throw away (through misdirection) such a talent through lack of recognition of exactly what the talent is.

          Meanwhile, she is a captive in a world that doesn't fit, and that is a painful thing to endure. It's like being a 3-dimensional being living in a 2-dimensional world. She needs far more than just more challenging courses about things that will matter little in her adult life. She needs awakened teachers to make learning relevant - to introduce her to the depths and joys of her incredible mind. Her frustration tells me that she needs to understand so much that high school does not and cannot teach her. She needs to have subjects approached differently, with her unacknowledged abilities addressed. What teacher in a class of about 30 can give such specialized attention to each student? Especially if the teacher has never plumbed the depths of his/her mind and incredible powers.

          Thankfully, more and more people are waking up. She will find others from time to time. What to do in the meantime is the issue at hand. She must learn how to make the shift that high school doesn't address or acknowledge.

          Milia: Forgive us for talking about U in 3rd person. Just do the best you can. You'll survive to graduation. :-)
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        Jan 27 2013: You might be surprised at how many gifted kids are very much in Melia's position and reflect on and articulate their awareness in just this way. And there are college level and differently taught courses that such kids can pursue if they know how to find them. School districts often have specialists in gifted ed who know what is available locally and online. Truly gifted kids tend to be advanced metacognitively rather than only cognitively.

        David Foster Wallace was bipolar, a philosopher and creative genius, who took his own life. He felt the world's pains strongly.
        • Jan 29 2013: Out of of all of the comments I have read this thread is my favorite. Mostly because TED lover is actually someone who understands me, and the fact that she or he doesn't even know me just absolutely blows my mind.
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    Gail .

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    Jan 27 2013: Hmmmmm. You sound EXACTLY like me. The trauma that school did to me took years to get over. It was YEARS before I could even drive by a school without feeling tremendous sorrow for those poor kids who are being intellectually and emotionally abused inside those walls. I was SO bored.

    When, on my own (I was in my 30s) I began educating myself properly (and what FUN that was!!!), I discovered that school was never about education. It was about indoctrination. It's about teaching you how to see yourself as inferior and inadequate, and most importantly - how to be a good little "sheeple". It teaches conformity. It actively discourages individuality and creativity. It places economic considerations ahead of YOU.

    This being said, you are basically a prisoner there, but you CAN choose how to use your time. Invest yourself in your own education. But you have to see beyond those limitations that you have already accepted (without your awareness).

    In school, teachers are the superiors and you are the inferior. (part of the indoctrination) What if you change the dynamic? What if teachers are there to serve you rather than instruct you? What if you challenge the teacher to keep up with YOU?

    You are obviously very bright. (That is obviously being discounted - intentionally.) Do you learn better on your own? Ask the teacher for an outline of the curriculum and work ahead and in as much depth as you can - refusing to be held back because of your gifts. Take your questions to the servant-teachers even if you are so far ahead of the class that sitting there bored is no longer an option because you are using class time to study the subject matter on your own - things that your class will not get to for another semester or you are working on a college level from Internet resources. But if you choose to do this, know your material well and don't let them intimidate you. Expect consequences.

    Your education should be about YOU. INVEST yourself in it.
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    Jan 27 2013: My school has this really useful program where the honour students are actually able to teach the other students after school to keep them up to date. It is working really well and could help you as when you teach you also learn while it is never easy. It would also help to keep the lower students on the same level

    I would also like to know why you are sharing classes with C students
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    Jan 26 2013: It sounds like you go to a school that doesn't "differentiate instruction." Best practice in teaching involves not having all students walk together in some slow lock-step but rather varying assignments, pedagogy and options to take into account the different learning styles and needs of kids in the class, or having separate classes that correspond to differences in learning style and speed.

    I think a lot of public schools in recent years have swung back to a lock-step approach, out of an effort to produce more even outcomes, rather than watching some kids pull way ahead in what they can understand and do because they learn faster and differently. It is unproductive for those, like yourself, it seems, who are being held back, getting resentful and bitter.

    As I assume changing schools is out of the question, an option you could consider is to discuss this with your school counselor, with the district's office for advanced learners (if there is one), or with your teachers, to develop a strategy for you to pull available resources to learn at a pace more suitable for you..

    The strategy should involve independent and online learning on your part and hopefully also being released from some assignments in areas where you can demonstrate a level of proficiency that makes those assignments fruitless.

    K12 is one example of an online supplementary option, but there are others I know I would recommend enthusiastically. You might look at the offerings at Stanford (EPGY) or at Johns Hopkins (CTY), for example.Local community college or university may accept you into a course thru Running Start.

    It is fruitful to interact with people who have some expertise in the subjects you study rather than just reading off the internet, where some expositions are mostly twistings of what is known, often toward strategic ends or represent the understanding of people who know little about the subject (often less than school teachers, who themselves may not be expert). Coursera is good too