When I was four I used to play school with my brother and cousin.
We would take turns writing lessons on the chalkboard.
The scribbles could have meant anything
From art to math to history.
It didn’t matter to any of us what we said or asked,
As long as we could be like the big kids who were actually in class.
When I was six I had my first full day of school.
We had two recesses so that eight hours seemed less cruel.
It was that year when I learned to read
And everything was still exciting.
My teacher made sure everyone stayed together
Whether it was in the halls or in the lesson.
When I was eight I received my first letter grade
And my teachers would say good job on the A!
It was no longer a world of “excellent” or “needs work”
It was the beginning of letters proving my worth.
At least then I was still learning to learn
Instead of today’s learning to earn.
When I was 12 I received my first F.
It wasn’t for the term but only on a test.
None the less, it felt degrading to be given that letter
When in the end it is only merely a letter.
The teacher said nothing to make sure I was okay
Because I was not the first or last who would get this grade
He just moved on to the next subject
And left me to deal with feeling like I wasn’t good enough.
When I was 13 I cheated for first and only time.
It was on a ten point quiz to keep up with classmates of mine.
Everyone was mouthing answers across the room,
While the substitute didn’t have a clue.
Why did we go through all of this trouble to succeed,
When it would have been easier for us all to just read.
When I was 14 I pulled my first “all nighter”
To write an essay for a class I truly didn’t understand.
But this school system made me feel that its better to keep my struggles to myself
Rather than ask for help
Because not being able to handle the pressure was something I should be ashamed of.
When I was 15 I was a self diagnosed insomniac and a chronic procrastinator.
It was the only thing I felt excused my inability to sleep or do work.
When really it was me pushing myself too hard
And not being able to keep up with those who I wasn’t actually competing with
Because my education wasn’t meant to be a competition.
When I was 16 I dropped my first class
But not until after putting myself through hell.
I felt I had to prove that I could take the hardest AP
But I was only proving this to me.
I would stay up all night doing my homework
Then I would skip my other classes and go to the nurse to sleep.
Isn’t it lovely when you have to count each step you take
and clean your erasers and organize your plate
All to deal with the stress you put on yourself to get an A
But what is an A worth when you can honestly say
You don’t remember anything from AP Chemistry.
Is a good grade worth only two hours of sleep
After crying so hard that you can no longer see?
Is it worth it to be in a hard class that makes you feel like shit
All so you can put in on your college application?
Why should all of our hard work be for getting into college?
Why can’t it actually be for gaining some knowledge?
When I was 17 I was told to decide my future.
I was asked to choose what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I was told to follow my dreams
But only if they will make a good salary.
Because I’ll have to pay for student debt
Because today college costs a shit ton of money.
And its not like you can opt out of it
Because society expects you and requires you to go
To consider you a useful part of the community.
When I was 17.9178 I decided to learn for knowledge’s sake again,
To actually take information in.
Instead of cramming for stupid tests
And just trying to be the best.
I decided to actually do what school was created for
And to not give a damn about my peer’s scores.
I decided to take my life in my hands
And to actually give myself a fighting chance
At being a smart individual
Despite what I was put up against.