SOCIAL STUDIES 5 Things I Don’t Miss About School Heather Taylor

My scholarly career ended nearly two years ago, in May of 2010. I graduated in that month from college with a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in journalism and departmental honors in communications. This is a lot to say when I first meet a person (none of it flows out too well, either), so I usually just go for the quick alternative of “BA in comm” followed up by the name of my alma mater. Which also feels weird to write down, too – I have an alma mater? Say whaaaaat? That’s cray cray.

Overall, in the course of 16-17 years of schooling (give or take a semester), I generally liked school. School to me when I was in the grade school portion meant running in the classroom excited to read some new books, getting some gold stars for A’s on my tests and secretly playing with my Giga Pet koala underneath my desk. Grade school in the ‘90s was filled with the kind of naïve bliss I doubt any future decade will be able to capture again.

In middle school, the decline began in which I still kept reading and loved my classes but grew steadily aware of my role in the classroom as a not-popular girl and began to develop a stronger opinion of who I was, what I believed in and what I wanted out of life. I suspected early on that I would probably not enjoy high school and love college and sure enough, that was what happened. College was so good to me that I keep thinking one day I’ll wake up and my time there will turn out to be some kind of beautiful fantasy I made up in my head to cope with high school with. Even the bad times in college turned out to make for some hilarious and yet truly heartbreaking memories of their own. Nearly two years later and I still feel so close to some of those moments, like I could walk into a room and real life would fade away, replaced with that other moment in time. The memories, like so many, are just at arm’s length away and while I love reflecting on how it felt when I first arrived on campus, I can’t bring it any closer to the version of “me” I am now. You just keep moving in your life to your new dream and hold the ones from school that were good filed away in a separate portion of your mind.

Not included in that portion are the following 5 moments. Five things throughout school that I dreaded to the point of getting sick to my stomach, fought in a fury of rage when I was an angry teenager and generally laughed at their general ridiculousness when I began hitting my more lax twenties.

1) Group Projects

Burn it now. Group projects are the devil’s work in action to me because “random pairings” always featured me being stuck in a group of burnouts and slackers with the teacher looking at me to be the great hope to getting these kids to do some actual work. Which I wound up doing all of by myself. Huzzah!

2) Pair Up With a Partner!

Similar to group work, I didn’t like pairing up with a partner, either. Whatever classroom I was ever in, there was always an odd number of people in said room and I always felt like the odd partner out. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard a teacher say “now pair off in twos” and nearly stood up upon hearing that to shout, “NO! No more of these pairings! Nobody will pair with me and I’ll be alone again and the third wheel in another group! Does nobody ever see a pattern here? I just want to get these last six hours of school over with so I can go home, listen to music, not talk to people and just be myself!”

These thoughts would all make for wonderful suburban emo poetry when I hit 14. You’d think teachers would stop pulling this stunt by now, but this is a practice that even in college I was trapped with. Time to retire it and let us work on our own, yes?

3) Presidential Fitness Tests

I have a fear of heights and in grade school was forced yearly to climb up the monkey bars and hang there in midair for two minutes as part of the Presidential Fitness Test. Believe me, I cried a lot to get out of these things but I’ve had a slew of unsympathetic gym teachers in the past who still made me hang. I always feared falling off, breaking a bone and being out of writing commission. A kid in my grade school class fell off of the monkey bars once during the test and an ambulance had to be called. He went to the hospital that same day. THESE MONKEY BARS WERE NO JOKE.

4) Pop Quizzes

My teachers clearly had strong radars for knowing when I spent the night before class shopping/dancing out with my girlfriends/writing something on my free time/reading for fun because it never failed: the moment I would walk into my trig classroom on a random Wednesday morning, a surprise quiz would be announced. 10 questions paired with the hellish “show your work” directive. Help me. I’d be racking my brain for the answers but would only be able to get through the first 4 steps, tops. The rest of my brain was too focused on my cute guy friend sitting right across from me who was just as lost as I was and would occasionally grin at me and make faces. I know I’m setting the women’s feminist movement back 50 years when I say this, but nothing I ever learned in that class was as important as our flirty convos together.

5) The Lunchroom

Whether you had a clique to sit with or not, I’m just so thankful that the cafeteria portion of my life is over with. Do I even need to rehash the sheer dread that filled the pit of my stomach in not knowing where to sit after buying my curly fries or the countless quiet hours of solitude I’ve had in the comfort and safety of a public restroom? I think not. Though I will note that it did get substantially better in college, almost to a Queen Bee point where I could walk through a lunchroom and wave and smile to people on my way to my table. A good Queen Bee though, not one who abused her powers or anything. I like to think that it was good because during this time, as with now, I felt the most comfortable with who I was. If I could bottle this grown-up version of me and give it to the 14-year-old version of myself, I would have been set. Though I doubt it would have stopped me from picking at my turkey wraps and shredding them to pieces… I ate food weird when I was a high school freshman.

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  1. I recently returned to the academic setting for graduate school. I have very similar fears like group work, pairings, and lunch rooms. High school was hell for me; I always had an awaiting seat for me in the lunchroom but I seriously did not like half the people I sat with, most of the time people just made fun of me. College, was totally different though, I LOVED college and in middle school all I wanted to do was skip high school and go right to college. Even though college was great for me, going back to graduate school brought back the same panicky feelings. Grad school is heavily based on group work and pairings (joy.) but this time the panic comes from having to do too much in other classes and freaking out that I’ll be “that person” who doesn’t pull their weight. I even fear lunch time still so for a while I opted to just be the loner until people started inviting me to go with them. Those teen years of schooling really do leave their mark in anxiety. However, for people like that, college years seem to be pure gold. Pfff and those popular kids in high school (or at least in my experience) all flunked out of college, kinda gives a little bit of joy knowing that high school really meant nothing when it comes to the real world.

  2. I have had one decent experience with group work, which was in university. Every other group/pair project I ever worked on consisted of me doing the work. Half because I was paired with someone slack and half because I was adamant I could do it better (and since most of these projects involved posters, prettier). Luckily we didn’t have pop quizzes or presidential fitness tests, or cafeterias. Though the whole lunch clique thing was problematic and god knows I don’t miss the ‘beep test’. Forcing me to run did not produce exempliary results.

  3. There is nothing I hate more than group projects! Why should I have to do something with people who don’t care when I can do something even better on my own?
    I also hate when you have to stand up in class. Call me lazy, but if we’re learning about french verbs, why is marching across the classroom yelling out the conjugations of avoir going to help us in any way, shape or form?

  4. This is so accurate! I’m in college now and one of my teachers makes us work in pairs at least twice every class, different pairs every time. I’m so awkward, I hate it! And so true about the monkey bars, oh my god. I was terrified of them and the one time I gave into peer pressure and attempted them, I fell off and sprained my wrist. No thank you.

  5. I just finished colegge and I loved it, grade school and high school were ok, I’ve never been popular but instead in the middlle, I’m usually get along with everybody.
    The thing I hated the most would be group works, I have the idea that if you’re given time to do an assignment it has to be excelent, unfrtunately not al my classmates agreed. To make it even worse teachers always made us pair up in big groups 5 -6 persons. Since I’m kinda a perfeccionist I’d always be the last to read everything and in every gruop I’d have to stay up really late, cause people would send their parts late, and of course these needed correction.

  6. I left University last summer. I loved and hated school; loved the good times with my friends, some lessons and teachers. But I hated group/pairing work unless I was with friends, Gym, bullies and homework.

    I’m crazily thinking of going back in the future to study Criminology….don’t know what’s wrong with me lol

  7. Note also: Teachers should make more time to do adequate planning. I’m not saying it’s okay to cop out. Ever.

  8. Students are what make pairs and groups fail. Studies show that students are more open to learning from their peers because there is less pressure for having the right answer. Also, groups help students learn an “academic” voice better than being told from a teacher. –NOTE: That does, in absolutely no way, translate as “lose their own voice in favor of what some authoritative figure deemed a more appropriate, smart voice.” I don’t want anyone to misinterpret that.

    Do some teachers use group work as a cop out? Sure. Do teachers have enough time to always plan for 150 students? Nope.

    Groups and pairs can give you a pretty good idea of who you are going to be in life. Some people are leaders, others are followers. Just because someone is a follower, needs to be given specific tasks and detailed directions, rather than being able to visualize a project independently doesn’t make them less valuable. As a fellow leader, I too was always annoyed at group work, until I started managing in a retail store, and later teaching myself. I have excellent list making, organizing, explaining, and task dividing skills.

    • I totally agree. I had the same problems with group and pair work, but I also benefitted from it many times. And speaking from my background (BA in education) some kinds of projects are better suited to groups. Some learners do better in these settings. So from a teacher’s perspective, such things are a good idea. For some individuals, though, they won’t be. Hopefully teachers will be sympathetic, and possibly let individuals work alone sometimes if they feel strongly about it.

      Middle school teachers really need to make sure, though, that group-picking doesn’t open things up to “cliqueing up” and bullying, and that pairing off doesn’t result in an odd person out. And if it does, that they don’t say, “Oh, come on, surely SOMEONE wants to work with Kati?!” Thanks a lot, humanities teacher in 1998…

  9. Still the same!!! I must have ended my school about 30 years earlier than you, nothing changes… I think there is something wrong about teacher education, they learn all about pairing and grouping together. And of course they enjoyed to do so themselves during school, otherwise they had not become teachers… But all the group-work made med a splendid editor of disparate texts! Everything you learn is useful sometimes / Charlotte, today librarian at a university, and who never force a student to pairing or grouping