As a high school graduate, there are many things I learned during the years I spent surrounded by four walls and teenage angst. I was taught that mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. I learned that the industrial revolution occurred, and that it was important. I also learned about the Pythagorean theorem, which I still have yet to use in my everyday life. However, there are many things that I wish high school would have taught me, yet they never did. While I doubt any of these things are located in a teachers curriculum - I believe they are important to our survival in the real world.
1. Consent - what it is, and why it is important.
It was not until I attended college that I learned what the word "consent" meant. I obviously had an idea of what it was, but no one had ever sat me down and explained it to me. This is probably because most high schools do not offer proper sex education, and when they do, they have to focus on abstinence. I was eighteen years old, sitting in an auditorium my first week of college, when I was given a real definition for the word - consent. If I had a better understanding of the word in my earlier teenage years, and that I can give or withhold it whenever I choose, it would have made all the difference.
2. I do not have to be ashamed of my body.
Between sexist dress codes and teachers giving me a hard time for my outfits, it is no surprise that high school made me feel pretty bad about my body. It's hard enough going through puberty and having your peers point out every weird hair or noticeable pimple you have. Having the administration harass you because your knees are showing is absolutely ridiculous. If my shoulders, upper chest, or lower thigh is distracting a male student from his studies - he is the problem. If a male cannot control himself from sexualizing me in a classroom environment - he should be sent home, not me. Quit shoving your rape culture in my face because I'm here to learn, not to be called a distraction because some teenage boy can't keep it in his pants. Oddly enough, there are no dress codes in college. It's almost as if you can wear what you want without being shamed or sexualized.
3. Teachers do not get paid enough.
It is not uncommon that we don't realize how little funding our education receives in high school. Perhaps we notice that our computers are outdated and that we don't have enough textbooks to go around - but one thing we never take into consideration is that our teachers do not get paid enough for what they do. Their days start before we even wake up, they endure an entire day of students who often only want to talk back, sometimes they have to endure angry parents who want to blame them for their child's grade (it isn't their fault your kid is lazy) - and even when that is done, they still have papers to grade. For all that they do, they do not get paid enough. So do them a favor - sit down, be quiet, do your homework, and appreciate them for all they do. They deserve it.
4. Don't worry about the kids who peaked.
As someone who didn't peak in high school, I always felt second best. I didn't always make honor roll, I wasn't always given awards, and I definitely wasn't in the newspaper like some students. However, the beautiful thing about the real world is that it doesn't give a shit if you peaked in high school. Oh, you were best on the volleyball team? We don't care - you're attending a college with thousands of people, and a lot of them are even better at volleyball. I see you were top of your class - that's nice, except none of your college professors care. You're here now. If you're so good - prove it. Ah, you were prom queen? Yep, that isn't going to get you a job after graduation. Maybe I'm bitter, but I can live with that. The people who peaked in high school were the same kids who thought they were better than everyone else, bullied others, and ignored anyone who wasn't in their clique. But guess what? You aren't shit now.
5. It is okay to have a mental illness - and it's not uncommon either.
We were warned about lice, the flu, or even the common cold if it's floating around the halls. However, I was never given any information on mental illnesses, despite the fact I suffered from one. Like many other students, it was something that was never discussed and it leaves you with this feeling that maybe you aren't supposed to talk about it. If teachers, guidance counselors, or even other students never speak about it, you begin to feel as if you are the only one suffering from a mental illness. If high schools brought more awareness to issues like depression or anxiety among students, we could start an educational conversation on subjects like this, and create a safe place for students.
6. Pimples are forever.
Everyone thinks that as soon as your teenage years end that your acne will disappear forever. While this may be true to an extent, you can always expect a pimple from time to time. It may appear on your forehead, your chin, your upper chest - you name it. You can never truly escape one of your biggest high school tormentors.
7. How to deal with the transition from high school student to college student.
When you're in high school - you have to ask to go to the bathroom, ask to get a drink from the water-fountain, can't have beverages or food in class without permission, have to raise your hand to speak regardless of the situation, and basically just have to depend on school faculty to do anything. There is no freedom. In college, you can just get up and go to the bathroom. It's almost as if you have the right to your own bodily autonomy. Some professors prefer for you to call them by their first name. You can bring food, drinks, or the whole San Diego Zoo to class with you, if you'd like. They still prefer you raise your hand to speak, but that's only because everyone is trying to participate in a class discussion. Nothing really prepared me for this strange transition from helpless high school teenager to college-living adult.
8. You can't survive on minimum wage.
As high school students, and even college students - we work at minimum wage jobs because it's all that we can get at our age. However, it was not until I took a class on poverty in college that I realized you truly cannot live on minimum wage. The closer I get to graduating, the more terrifying this reality becomes which then fuels my motivation to obtain a job that I can live off of. In high school, no one really talks about poverty - let alone minimum wage. Sure, making $150-200 a week on minimum wage seems a lot when you're seventeen and your parents still pay your bills. But let me tell you, that's hardly rent money trying to live as an adult.
9. Sexuality - explore it, embrace it, and be safe.
As I mentioned, sex education in high schools is virtually nonexistent. To make matters even worse, when it is taught - it is only on a heterosexual basis. This means that if I'm a man who likes other men, I will receive zero education on safe sex. Perhaps it isn't the schools fault. They probably don't want fundamentalist Christians picketing in the schoolyard, upset that their taxpayer money is funding safe-sex. To make matters even worse - unless it is brought up, no one talks about sexuality in high school. It is automatically assumed that everyone is straight until a rumor begins or someone comes out of the closet. No one should allow those basic four walls to shelter who you are or prevent you from exploring yourself. While it is much easier to do once you get to college - it shouldn't have to wait.
10. You aren't a loser if you live at home for college.
There's this huge misconception that college is strictly supposed to be a time where you say goodbye to your family, pack up all your belongings and travel off far way to college to start your new life. However, it's totally okay if you don't do any of that. In reality, commuting is insanely cheaper and actually kind of comforting - at least for your first year or two. Don't worry about the kids that felt they had to attend college eight hours away from home. You're no less of a college student for staying near your hometown.
11. Some people will be coddled by their parents forever - do not be that person.
You are most likely to find this type of person when you attend college. Not only will this person have no idea how to function without the help of their parents, but they also probably peaked in high school and now they can't adapt to being a college student. The work load is too much, their only friends are the ones living on their floor because they don't leave their dorm, they visit home every weekend, when their parents aren't driving up to visit for the third time this month - they're probably sending them gift baskets. While all of that is very nice and there's nothing wrong with living this way if it makes you happy, it won't get you far in the real world. Make sure to call your mom and dad when you can and visit home - but do not let them prevent you from becoming an independent adult. College has so much to offer, learn to embrace it all.
12. College isn't for everyone.
Despite all of the college talk - it is not for everyone. Whether you cannot afford it, do not have the grades to go, do not possess that type of work ethic, do not feel it is worth the debt, or simply just do not want to go - that's okay. It is your life and your future, do not let anyone shame you into thinking you have to do what everyone else is doing just to be successful. Find your own path in life, do what makes you happy, and go from there. You aren't any less of a person because you don't have a college degree. I once heard a teacher insist that a student needed to go to college despite the fact he wanted to join the military and eventually become a tattoo artist. You've got to be kidding me.
13. Take care of yourself.
High school teaches you about the food pyramid, how long you should exercise each day, how much water you should drink, etc. However, no one really talks about the mental aspect of taking care of yourself. Taking mental health days is something I always felt ashamed for doing in high school - but some days you have to, and that's okay. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.