An Essay About School (In No Particular Format)

Alex Ralston

School has meant many things to me over my lifetime: a gathering place, a socializing place, a learning place, a world of information, a grounds for fun, and a wealth of experience. And summing it up in one word would be doing it an injustice, but I will allow myself to transgress and call it an institution — an institution that has done well for millions, but also done poorly for those same millions. It takes up an incredible amount of time: most of my friends have dedicated just over two-thirds of their lives to school. Those friends have learned, progressed, and now, suffered through one of the hardest years in high school. The stress, the long hours, the questionable usefulness of the work, and the hours spent away from home have made them wonder how great school really is. I have even asked myself why I attend these classes. School has changed me in ways I don’t fully enjoy or understand, but I can’t discredit the entire institution based off of one year. To appreciate or not appreciate the system requires that we look at the entirety of its composition, from elementary to high school.


Elementary School

There’s a special place in my heart for the elementary school days. I miss going to one main class and attaching myself to one teacher, allowing them to guide me through the year. I still remember the names of every teacher I had in elementary school, something I can’t say about the teachers I had in middle school.

Everything seemed so much more vibrant in elementary school; I wholly enjoyed every subject in the school, and I soaked everything up like a sponge. I had hoped to be a jack of all trades by putting to use all that basic knowledge (reality hadn’t objected at that point). Students rarely argued with each other over political issues or moral dilemmas; if they were arguing, it was over something minute and insignificant.

Everything was more basic, in the enjoyable way, and life was easier, something everybody seems to say about their childhood. And who am I to jump off that bandwagon? I had my life practically handed to me, and I served well my duty to grow and learn. I made most of my best friends at Christa McAuliffe Elementary, and I’m glad for the experiences I had there.

Overall, the simplicity of this stage in life has great appeal, as long as you ignore the sweet, blissful ignorance of youth. Elementary school, I miss you, but it’s time to visit your successor.


Middle School

Middle school, you reek of preteen spirit, and it’s really gross.

I can’t say many positive things about you besides the fact that you gave me more friends to be around, something that shouldn’t be understated. I basically gained forty percent of my friends from being in your halls, most of whom I still talk to daily.

I have no fondness towards the middle school mixers, but also no hatred; the social events that sprung from middle school only existed. They were a blur of hormones and self-consciousness, something that I know happened but don’t remember.

But that’s not all that comes from middle school. Who could forget their middle school teachers? I can, but hey, maybe that’s just me. I have mostly forgotten everything about middle school curricula, which is acceptable. I don’t think I liked it, but it wasn’t anything terrible. It was mostly an extension of elementary school teaching plans. So for that, I applaud you. Simplicity is great, and you did your job.

So middle school, thanks for providing me with so many friends and life experiences such as being defeated very badly in most sports I attempted. You’re kind of like the distant relative that popped in once or twice at family events — I remember you were sort of fun, but I don’t really miss you that much. Now we fast forward once more.


High School

This most recent step in my schooling career has been the most memorable and significant. I think that middle school was the provider, where I learned small lessons and gained friends, but high school was the reinforcer.

These years are where I’ve branched out and learned more than the basics, really understanding what I love to do. But there’s a cap to that. I think that specializing in so many fields of study ends up convoluting everything and degrading the learning experience. But, in any case, I think you have trained me very well for a daytime trivia show. Here I come, Jeopardy. I can’t really say I haven’t enjoyed learning everything I have, though. It’s made me fuller, something I appreciate even if it was excessive in spots. And two out of three years have been relatively painless. It was only until junior year that I became bitter towards the school system.

The friends I have made in high school have guided me and helped me grow. They’ve embraced me for who I am and supported me in my growing bank of trials and errors (and successes).

And most of all, high school has helped me find myself. I came of age. At least I think I did. I don’t know. But certainly I have established a personality and moral code that will last.

High school, I love you and what you have made of and for me, but you’re wearin’ me down right now. Please take it easy on me next year. I’d highly appreciate it.

So now I’m left waiting for the last step of high school, and to an extent, what lies beyond that final stage. School’s been my anchor for 11 years, and no matter how often it has inconvenienced me, it has always been there. I don’t know how to handle it at times, sure, and it’s taken away time from my social life, but what do I expect? How can I hate something that has shaped me so significantly? The truth is, I can’t. And maybe I have a sort of chronic Stockholm Syndrome that makes me appreciate school. But school is the one place where I consistently learn more about myself, develop my thinking, and visit friends. Every stage is different in this institution. It’s a multi-tiered structure. I appreciate every step from elementary school to junior year in high school. I know that there are problems, but I can’t question that this institution, this learning place, this library of knowledge and experience, has played a positive role in my life. So in the end, I can resist, but I can’t separate; and when I do, I will do it easily. School, you’re the strangest thing, but I’m glad you’re here. See you next year.