Thian’s Musings: The Final Chapter

Thian next to his soon-to-be alma mater / Photographer: Thian Armenia

14,000 hours. Soon I am trading 14,000 hours for a sheet of paper that says “High School Diploma”, and that feels wrong to me. Do not get it twisted, it is good to have the proof that I was here, but it feels like it should be more of a monumental accomplishment after more than a decade of work.

Meaningful or no, my hours here are coming to an end soon, and I have had more than enough time to reflect on the way I have spent them. It is no secret to anyone reading this that the education system, like most systems, is inherently flawed. For every valedictorian (not trying to call you out here), there are more than a few kids that do not get to graduate. I have a hard time coping with that.

Orcas Island High School is in a unique position when compared with other schools. OIHS is small and isolated, and that makes the students here much closer and more united. We go through school together from kindergarten all the way to graduation and that bonds each class in a way few other students get to experience. OIHS is also very accepting, with a couple exceptions. With so few of us, everyone stands out in their own way, and that makes it a little easier to feel different.

What this school really lacks is consistent communication. Frankly, I do not care whether there is less or more, but I would like to have more stable expectations. Take, for example, student-teacher conferences. I despise conferences, but they exist for a reason… Until senior year, apparently. By having them each year it feels like the expectation is set to have conferences to check on graduation progress, then senior year I felt blindsided by the lack of control in comparison to previous years.

Again, to reiterate, I do not think my problem is lack of guidance so much as the feeling that it was suddenly taken away, but hey, maybe that is just my entitlement talking. Either way, I think it would be great for the school to establish that expectation ahead of time. Even a “Hey. You are on your own now, figure it out.” would have done a lot to encourage me early this year.

The switch to at-home learning has brought these problems even further into light, with some students needing additional support to even be able to attend school, and others burdened by problems at home that distract them from class. Even before shutting down, there was a lack of understanding for different situations.

Homework is a little hard to do when students do not have a home. I should say harder; the library is a nice place to study, but being homeless without a doubt impacts students’ learning potential, and that is not always considered. Instead, it is “Why are you not trying harder?” or “Did you just misunderstand the lesson, or what?”

Shutting out decisions relating to students’ lives is not the answer either, but it could be a learning opportunity, and that is what school is for right? For example, when a student does not celebrate a holiday for religious reasons, maybe that is the time to have a talk about what religion is so kids can understand why their friend is sitting out of a fun activity. These are not just Orcas problems. OIHS can take a stand to try to fix them here, but these are similar problems that classes face across the country and the world.

Education is not fair, and I do not think it ever will be. But it can be better, and it can guide more bright minds that it currently leaves behind. I think that is why I am disappointed with all the ceremonies. The hats we get to wear start to look pretty unappealing when I think about it. I know there is someone better, kinder, and smarter than me, who does not get to wear one because of which side of a city they were born on.