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Archive for Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Classroom confidential

Journal-World Angle members offer students advice on school success

May 13, 2008

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By Sarah Robinson - Free State High School senior

One morning in my first-hour sophomore chemistry class, Mr. Heffernan taught us a random bit of knowledge (the best kind). Apparently, it takes seven times for a lesson to sink in. Ha! Obviously I prove that fact incorrect, because I remembered it after hearing it only once. Hmph! Well, hmm. No, that's not true. I had heard that before. Mrs. Krehbiel made us sing those tricky intervals over and over at Southwest, and in elementary school we never quit those timed tests ...

So anyway, high school. There I was, first day of sophomore year. Terrified, awkward and dressed in a meticulously planned outfit. I plastered a smile on my face. "These people are weird," I thought. "I miss Southwest." I thought the whole world was out to get me. And by whole world, I mean the upperclassmen and the elevator that I swore was haunted! - but I secretly wanted to ride it. I'd walk down the hall, head down, with that "Please don't make eye contact with me because then I'd have to say hello, and I really don't want to run the risk of my voice cracking, so let's just walk three feet apart and pretend not to see each other, okay? Sounds good!" walk, that we all do when we feel like : a sophomore. So sophomore year, needless to say, I scuttled down the hallways with the calico-colored carpet as company. You'd be surprised how sweet carpet can be.

But it got better! Kind of. Junior year, one word: homework. We helped each other out, though. On evil problems and stubborn songs and essays that just refused to sparkle. Something happened while we helped each other. In a haze of zero hour AP U.S. history and in the random electric shocks from Mr. Olson, I did the unthinkable: I started confiding in people. I found out that other people felt just as awkward as me! Turns out Mr. Calico-Colored Carpet is pretty popular. It was as if we liberated each other with our insanity. And soon enough, that weird girl in my chemistry class became one of my friends. Turns out I became friends with a lot of seemingly weird people. Hmm, high schoolers are strange creatures.

So anyway, senior year. There I was, first day: triumphant, tired and dressed in an outfit sought in the dark. So here we are, senior year, and what does it all amount to? I think we were all wondering that as we sloughed off summer and reluctantly wandered back into Free State. "One year left!" I happily thought. "Wait, one year left?! How am I going to make it through?" One word: sweatpants. It was nice. It was liberating not to care. For me, senior year was fearlessly saying hello to anyone I pleased in the hallway. Sorry, calico-colored carpet, but I've moved on. Moving on? Oh yeah! We're graduating! Wait : we're graduating. No more 50-cent brown sugar Pop-Tarts at the Bird's Nest, or cheering like a fool in the student section, and I still haven't ridden that elusive, yet enticing, elevator.

I don't want to go. I don't want to - wait. I've learned this lesson before. I didn't want to leave Quail Run, or Southwest : and now Free State. Yuck, it takes seven times for something to sink in? Are you sure about that, Heffernan? Well : you're wrong! I'm going to learn it in three! I refuse to let nostalgia for Free State, for Lawrence, for home ruin my first year of college.

I may say all this as a big bad senior, like the lessons I've learned put me as the exception to rule : but I'm not. I'm really not. Senior year has liberated us from the archetypes society has tried to mold us in. Finally, we have accepted others, but more importantly, we have accepted ourselves.

- Sarah Robinson is a Free State High School senior and a member of Angle, the Journal-World's teen advisory board.

By Alexandra Hoopes - Bishop Seabury Academy eighth-grader

Eighth grade is literally the very middle of middle school. Eighth-graders are the meat of the sandwich, the cream in the Oreo, and sometimes it can be hard to fit in-between.

You are no longer the timid, confused, excusable seventh-grader. Nor are you the wise, eager and privileged freshman. An eighth-grader is stuck, indecisive and moody.

It's hard when you are forced to choose between preparing for high school and thinking about your future while also holding on to the friends and memories from your childhood. Most kids take this change well, but others, while trying to act mature, wind up behaving like kindergarteners again. It is best to ignore these kinds of students because it is easy to revert back to your silly, irresponsible ways. Don't be scared of acting older. It doesn't mean you have to stop having fun. However, teachers and parents are going to stop taking the "I'm just a kid" excuse.

Eighth grade can also be a really exciting time because your school lets you experience some fun opportunities. These include auditioning for select choirs, taking more advanced classes and joining yearbook staff. But be sure not to put too much on your plate - the homework load can get pretty heavy.

I found that eighth grade was the year I really decided what my goals were. As a seventh-grader you got to experiment with lots of activities. Now it is time to choose what you enjoyed most and focus on it. If you enjoyed the writing or photo class you took last year, you should try yearbook or a more advanced photography class.

This may sound scary, but you will need to pick a career path sooner than you think. If you spent all of your school years trying every single thing, it will be hard to choose out of so many experiences. By focusing on a specific area, you will get to spend a lot of time with kids who share your interests. You will probably even make some close friends.

Another good tip for succeeding in eighth grade is to remember this: Quality, not quantity. As an elementary school student or even a seventh-grader you were probably preoccupied with being everyone's friend. Achieving popularity was high on everyone's "to-do" list.

I will tell you now, it is impossible to be everyone's friend. Nobody is that fabulous. Don't waste time that you could be spending studying or being productive by trying to get so-and-so to like you. Instead, spend your social time improving the friendships that you already have. By eighth grade, everyone has had enough learning experiences that they have raised their standards for friendships. You should know by now what kind of people you get along with and what kind of people you don't.

The saying for my eighth grade year was "Save the drama for your mama." Everyone is so over the silly seventh-grade quarrels. Just relax and always do your best. If you stay cool, eighth grade will be a breeze.

- Alexandra Hoopes is an eighth-grader at Bishop Seabury Academy and a member of Angle, the Journal-World's teen advisory board.

By Molly Lockwood - Langston Hughes School sixth-grader

When I went into sixth grade, I was expecting nothing. It was, most likely, a good thing.

I had just moved here from Virginia and have never moved before. To settle into sixth grade I needed to do several things. I needed to join a sports team, become a social butterfly and not judge a book by its cover.

The day before school started I had soccer practice. There I met my first friend, and her name was Shannon. We were both late for practice and started talking. Turns out she went to the same school as me and we were in the same class. Being on a sports team or in a club will help you make friends because everyone is your age.

I was always pretty shy, but after the first day of school I realized it would be easier to become social than stay in my shell. Everyone was talking to me, and I was too shy to give a full response. The next day I tried some start-ups for conversation, like what did you do over the summer or compliment them on their clothes or summer tan, and it worked! I gained more friends from that approach than being silent.

Like most people, I often judge someone by first impression. I started doing this at the beginning of the year and I learned it was not always trustworthy. I thought someone looked like a snob, but later I realized she was really nice and we became good friends. I realized I should wait and see someone's personality before I judge them. I hope other people will give me a chance, too.

- Molly Lockwood is a Langston Hughes School sixth-grader and a member of Angle, the Journal-World's teen advisory board.

By Hawley Montgomery - Eudora High School ninth-grader

High school is easier than middle school. That's my personal opinion. I got better grades in high school than middle school. That's because the teachers are more laid-back.

My homework takes about an hour or two each school day, which is about the same as junior high school. A lot of homework, though, can be done in class.

Socially, a lot can happen during lunch, but not at my table - unless one person calls another a name, then that person calls someone a name.

Before school, people get to school early to talk. They get to my school from 7:30 a.m. to 8:05 a.m. We sit at tables in the lunchroom. Don't expect to talk too much during class breaks. There's not much time to get to classes.

When school is out for the day, people at my school go home, go to sports practices or go to weights. In the weight room, you lift weights. I started out lifting and try to go higher. We do cleans, jammers, sit-ups, low lat, high lat, bicep curls, squats, dead lift, dumbbell lunges, upright rows, laps, agility ladder, boxes and push-ups.

In sports, coaches are harder and want more than they did in junior high school. They make you work harder. Practices are the same amount of time as middle school, but it seems longer.

Don't make coaches mad. For example, they don't like you to do dumb mistakes. In football, don't rip or go strong sides. Or, in basketball, a lot of players goof up "duck under."

Any club would be good to join and are a change from doing sports. At my school, we have Future Business Leaders of America, International Club, Scholar's Bowl and Forensics. You should do forensics because it's fun and you meet people. Plays are a good experience, too. You don't have to be an actor; you can do stage crew or sound effects. Girls like to do makeup for the actors.

Working at the concessions stand is one way you can meet people and volunteer. Typically, students work an hour shift selling candy, pop, popcorn, nachos and hot dogs.

I recommend you don't get a job your first year of high school. Jobs limit your school options. Some of my friends have jobs at the local rec center and restaurants that maybe take 10 to 20 hours a week. They have to give up sports and clubs that meet after school to go to their jobs.

The most important piece of advice I have is: Don't be dumb. Don't act smart when you are not smart or try to act smarter than everyone else. Don't be a poseur, just be yourself. People don't like poseurs, in and out of high school. It also means don't lie. Tell the truth and don't keep changing your story.

- Hawley Montgomery is a Eudora High School ninth-grader and a member of Angle, the Journal-World's teen advisory board.

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