As I mentioned in my earlier post, I grew up in a really small town. Shelby, NC. Ever heard of it? Probably not. When people ask me where I’m from I start by saying Charlotte, then I say “Well do you know where Gastonia is?” then I tell them Shelby is right outside of Gastonia. Anyway, in my county there are 4 public high schools: Shelby, Burns, Crest and Kings Mountain. Shelby is known as the “preppy” school where the doctor’s and lawyer’s kids go, Crest is known as the farmer school, Kings Mountain kind of sticks to itself and doesn’t socialize with anyone else, and Burns (my school) is called the redneck school. We all have decent football teams and huge rivalries. We all pretty much know who goes where and where they live and who they hang out with. It’s that kind of town. Yet, one thing we all have in common is the lack of “good” education.
All of the Cleveland County schools are decent. None of them are outstanding. We didn’t have private schools, prep schools, Montessori schools, or charter schools to choose from. So, we were provided with decent, I may even say subpar education. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my school. Our school spirit was exceptional. Being a cheerleader, I was all into school pride, football and basketball – and that’s something I wouldn’t change about my high school experience. But something I would change is the level of preparation for college I received, or actually didn’t receive.
My school offered only a handful of AP classes. The AP classes I took were Calculus, US History, Microeconomics, English III, and English IV. There were only 2 or 3 other AP classes that my school offered that I didn’t, or couldn’t (depending on my schedule) take. In my AP classes, I felt like I was only fully prepared for the Microeconomics, and English tests. The other classes I really struggled with when test day arrived. My teachers weren’t extremely helpful, weren’t exceptionally smart, and weren’t all that skilled on teaching studying methods, as were some of the high school teachers of my fellow classmates and colleagues. We often read out of the textbook or had our teacher summarize the text, were asked to memorize some facts, and weren’t really pressured or expected to really learn the information.
So when I got to college I was in for a really rude awakening. I had no idea how to study. I never really had to study in high school to make good grades. Of course, the night before a test I would go over my notes and work on memorizing some terms or doing a few practice problems – but this studying was nothing like what I was expected to do in college. I was forced to learn how to read text books analytically, to attend lectures and take notes on what my professors were saying while also comprehending the information, I was expected to read articles with very tough vocabulary that I had never been exposed to in high school. Among all of these things, I had to learn time management, how to be social but also be studious and a good student, and deal with the sudden freedom I had gained without going overboard.
College is tough. It’s a slap in the face and a welcome to the real world, without a pat on the back and a “good job” to take with you. So when you are provided with a subpar high school education, and no warning of what college is really like, it’s a struggle.
Since I have been accepted to the Education minor, and have begun taking education classes at UNC, I have been exposed to the many issues that are prevalent in our public education system. In my case, I am not fully blaming it on the teachers that I had, but I am blaming the lack of preparation for college and the low expectations at my school. Only a handful of students each year go to top notch colleges such as Carolina. In my graduating class 5 people went to Carolina, 1 to NC State, 1 to Harvard, and a few others to App State, Charlotte, or Western. All of the other students either went to community college, small private colleges, or didn’t go to college. Therefore, the majority of students from my school are not planning on going on to further their education at universities such as UNC. It is unfortunate to say that my school doesn’t have high expectations for the students, and therefore we are done a disservice when we want to receive a great level of preparation, and aren’t given the opportunity and means to do so.
Every day, I think about the education I received, and the education I want my future children to receive. I now know the importance of good education and college preparation. I regret that I didn’t have to try that hard in high school, and feel like it makes college 10x harder for me. Learning “how to college” has been an experience for sure, and learning how to study has been a huge part of my adjustment.