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It's me, meep.

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Public School: My Pros and Cons List

meep

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I've been to private school, public school, and homeschool. I never thought much of it but now being older, I realize that it's a bit unique to have experienced it "all." I figure I would make a pros and cons list based on my experiences. My experiences - that is a big flaw itself, right? Private schools are very different from one another. Public schools can be totally different worlds from each other. And obviously homeschools can be DRASTICALLY different. So take these lists with a grain of salt. It is highly unique to me and I am mostly doing this for entertainment purposes. 😉

This time I tackle my Public School! Last time, I talked about my private school, and next time I will talk about homeschool!

Note: I was in 8th grade when I went to Public School. 

The Pros

Pros of the Public School I attended:

  • They had a huge library with so many different kinds of books. I loved it. 
  • They had so many different clubs you could be a part of, so many opportunities to try things out and do stuff you like in your spare time. I was in Varsity Band, editor of the school newspaper, and was in Presidents' Club. 
  • I had one really great teacher in my public school that I will remember forever. 
  • You are not guided on what to do or where to go, so you quickly develop time-management skills and a bit of independence. 
  • For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by kids who looked like me. Who were from the same neighborhood and lived the same type of lifestyle. 
  • It was close to my house, so traveling to school only took a few minutes.

The Cons

Cons of the Public School I attended:

  • It started so early in the morning, I was always tired and never getting enough sleep. 
  • I did not like having to switch classrooms for every subject. It felt like a lot of wasted time for nothing. 
  • Bathroom breaks basically did not exist. You had to use your time between classes if you wanted to go to the bathroom. We had 6 minutes. This is not nearly enough time. 
  • There were always people patrolling the hallways so if you took too much time in the bathroom or simply running late, you'd automatically get in trouble. 
  • Since I was in Honors classes, almost every class still had all the same kids. Yet despite this, there didn't seem to be a coherent level of education. From what I assessed, each kid seemed to be in a drastically different place academically from each other. For example, there was a student in our classes who struggled to read English but I think she did really well in math. 
  • The kids in my class were extremely misbehaved. I experienced legitimate culture shock as I did not know there were children out there who disregarded the rules so blatantly on a daily basis and didn't seem to care at all about getting into trouble. We once had the assistant principal come into our classroom and say, "I don't understand how this is both the smartest class in the school and the most misbehaved class in the school at the same time." I often got into trouble for doing absolutely nothing because punishments would be dolled out to the class as a whole for being generally unruly. I hated this because I always tried to be well-behaved for the most part. My class made some substitute teachers during the year walk out of the classroom in tears, or having to bring in other school staff to get us under control. 
  • Some of the punishments seemed exceptionally harsh and also clearly did not work, as the students would just keep doing the same things the whole year anyways. Sending kids up to a single small room in the school's upper floor, to be secluded away all by themselves, sometimes for up to 3 days in a row, seemed more like a prison sentence to me than actually trying to teach the kid that they did something unacceptable. 
  • Most of the teachers and staff did not care. About anything. At all. Ever. Some students were clearly struggling with personal issues at home, but to my knowledge, none of the teachers/staff asked them about it or gave them any leeway or understanding. It seemed punishments were especially harsh on those particular students. There would be certain days when teachers would literally throw their hands up in the air, say, "I'm done," and just sit quietly at their desk while us students did whatever until the end of class. That shocked me as I had never seen that behavior before from teachers. Some teachers would tell us at the beginning of the class to ask questions if we didn't understand anything, but then when we would ask questions, we would get scolded for "not paying attention" or "it's too late now, I am not going to go back." I felt this was lazy "teaching." A lot of classes were just the teachers struggling to read through the textbook out loud and that would be the class. I was used to much more interactive learning and I felt like it wasn't productive. 
  • There was a lack of respect and trust from both sides. Anything you did as a student was immediately deemed extremely suspicious - even for innocuous things like asking to go to the bathroom or asking for help with homework. There were clearly some teachers who were from a higher socioeconomic background than us students (I lived in a poor neighborhood). We had one teacher who would show up and brag about her Cartier bracelets and her vacation homes next to Tom Cruise (she bragged her husband was some sort of doctor). None of us were amused and I felt there was an extreme lack of sensitivity from the teacher. My classmates just called all teachers "Miss" or "Mister", which all the teachers announced out loud that they hated, but this did not stop any students from continuing. The teachers did not seem to take the students seriously and the students didn't seem to take most teachers seriously. We had one teacher who was extremely kind and talked to us like we were actual human beings trying our best - my classmates were the best behaved in her class, an extreme difference to their behavior in all other classes. 
  • Some teachers seemed extremely judgmental. I had a very strong feeling - which to this day I think is true - that some teachers on the first day walked into the classroom, immediately pegged students as either good or bad, and continued to treat them as such no matter what their actual behavior was. 
  • The actual education was bad. I was doing work here in 8th grade, that I had already learned about and completed in 4th grade. And that was being an Honors student. I remember telling my mom at home that my classes were "a joke." 
  • Vast amounts of homework. I was not used to getting homework at all, let alone hours and hours of homework that took up the whole night. My hatred of homework was compounded by the fact that I thought everything was too easy and it felt like I was filling out busy work and not learning anything. Looking back, I wonder how students who actually struggled with the work could have ever made it through their homework and classes. 
  • The kids at my school seemed very confused and/or defiant towards my ethnicity. I thought I would finally fit in at this school, but that wasn't the case. The kids seemed to willingly segregate themselves into their own ethnic groups during free times (lunch, between classes, after school, picking their seats in class, etc) and I was blatantly told I did not belong anywhere because I was mixed. This was the first time people were so frank and upfront about my ethnicity and I ended up having huge identity problems due to these experiences. Kids would come up to me and not even say hello or anything - the first thing they'd ask me was, "What are you?" I'd answer and they'd walk away, never speaking to me again. The sole purpose of talking to me was to judge me. Early on in the year, a teacher wanted to ask about the particulars of my ethnicity to advise on what to fill out on school forms, and another kid overheard our conversation and learned I was part German. So I had the nickname "N*z* Girl" for a while. Later in the year, someone decided to call me "Milk and Coffee," which later morphed into "Chai Tea Latte" because of my skin color. At the time I didn't like it but....okay, fine, looking back, it was kind of a funny name. I didn't make many friends because nearly every "group" rejected me based on my ethnicity (or so I was told). 
  • While we didn't have uniforms, we had a very strict dress code because we had to avoid gang affiliations. They had to adhere to our 3 school colors, 2 of which were unusual colors, and they had to be completely plain. It's hard to find such clothes for teens. Everyone looked really stupid. 
  • There were literally multiple 11-year-old 6th graders walking around school pregnant and no one thought this should be reported to authorities apparently??? (Or maybe they did and nothing came of it.)
  • I had one time where I stood my ground and got into big trouble for the first time in my life. During P.E., our teacher (a male) said the man standing next to him was a doctor and we all had to take off our shirts so he could check our spines. Looking back, maybe this was actually to check for bruises or something? But at the time, I was completely shocked that all the other girls in my class automatically did what he said without question. I told him I was highly uncomfortable, I do not know this man, and I do not want to take my shirt off in front of him or any of my classmates. My P.E. teacher said I didn't have a choice, this was REQUIRED. I stated I refused. He told me I was in big trouble and he was going to call my parents. I said, "GOOD! Call my parents and see what they say!" because I knew my parents would be horrified at this. I got a detention. And when I told my parents later that day, they were, indeed, horrified. They said they would back me up if anyone at the school called them but no on ever did. I don't know if this "checkup" was well-intentioned after all, but it's going in my cons, because I feel like these types of things should be told to parents (and students!) ahead of time so they are aware of what's going on. 
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Maggie Mae

Posted

I've enjoyed reading through your lists. I too went to both public and private school, but I had a completely different experience at both, Thanks for writing it all out! 

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neurogirl

Posted

I attended public school my entire life and I think it depends so so much on the school and the district. I went to a public school in a more affluent district, and it sounds like a mix of your public and private school experiences. The student body was mainly white and Asian from middle-class to affluent families. We had so much homework but the honors courses were difficult and prepared us well for AP exams and college. Some students acted out but in the honors courses it was rare, and our teachers seemed for the most part to love their jobs. The huge disparity in public school education and culture is one of the biggest problems facing our country in my opinion. I'm so sorry you had a not-great experience.

As an aside, the spine check might have been for scoliosis which we always got checked for in PE, but sounds like it was totally inappropriately handled. We had a doctor of the same-sex in our locker rooms do a quick check as we bent over but we kept our clothes on. I think the doctor did a quick touch of our (clothed) backbone, if anything.

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meep

Posted

@neurogirl Yeah, I totally hear that! I now live in an affluent neighborhood and the public schools here are considered some of the best in the nation. I haven't been inside them but even from the outside - seeing all the sports facilities they have, they have rows of greenhouses, they are always in the news for having won different sorts of academic awards, and all the cars in the parking lots range from BMWs to Porsches. It's probably a different world in there than anything I've ever experienced! But then there is negative news too - like the students there are highly stressed from the pressure and some racist things have gone on recently that attracted national news. Everything has its pros and cons!

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