Every semester I ask my students to talk about themselves. This semester I have a lot of high school students taking dual credit courses. What's below is an imagined, idealized 16 year old self. The big thing that's missing is how obnoxious and oblivious I was. I have added notes for those moments the narrator is especially unreliable.
Hi, I'm Ashok. I've just become a junior at CCHS, a school I adore (1). Grade and middle school were miserable. I felt bullied all the time, I couldn't see anything worth achieving, and I was an angry, crying mess (2). The book that was my Bible around 6th grade was a self-help book that my Mom attempted and quickly abandoned. She never looked at it again. I read it over and over and I'm pretty sure I got angrier while crying more.
Eventually, high school happened. I was thrilled for a clean slate, for an opportunity to be someone else. I was in range of valedictorian after my freshman year (3), but I was lucky to pull a B in Chemistry after nearly failing my first semester sophomore year. I had Algebra and Geometry that same semester and it was a giant headache. My father insists that math and science are the only real subjects, and I want to believe him, but I genuinely like reading about news and politics.
I'm better with my anger and the crying seems to have stopped (4). I don't really know what I'm looking forward to this year. I spend hours each day playing Chopin and Bach on the piano. I love listening to classical music and I think I could become a musician. It would be nice to know how to perform well, as I fall apart on stage. I have British Literature this year and I guess I'm looking forward to that. I have a copy of the textbook that they were throwing away. I've read much of it, minus the Shakespeare, but the history discussed when introducing each writer is exciting to me. I'm really not looking forward to U.S. History II (5). The only history class I thoroughly enjoyed was World History in my freshman year. It felt like education could give me the world, but instead we're stuck with state standards.
(1) College was a disaster because I believed high school taught me everything and then some. I actually thought I knew it all. At least two textbooks were read cover-to-cover in high school. It took me a while to realize what discovering new knowledge entailed.
(2) Many times when I've run into people from grade school, I pretended they didn't exist. Once this kid I knew from 1st through 8th grade showed up in my college Calculus class. He made it a point to sit right next to me. It was absurdly easy to not acknowledge his existence.
(3) In 8th grade I watched news shows. A prominent U.S. Senator bragged repeatedly on them that he said he would rank 1st in his class and he did end up 1st in his class. Instead of thinking "wow, what a giant man-baby," I spent at least a year trying to be 1st in my class.
(4) 16 year old me was a delusional liar. I was off-the-charts angry and confused.
(5) I ended up dominating U.S. History II because I read the entire textbook, then read it again. I also kept up with the news and read a bunch about politics and history. I wanted to know everything. Consistently getting the highest grades was an additional benefit.
In retrospect, what I was doing for that class should have translated into something more. I can see now that I could have been introduced to academic debates and how questions about the structure of knowledge are posed and evaluated. Oh well.