I know people joke a lot about me being so young, but in all reality, they are right. It was 6 years ago, around this time, that I began my senior year of high school. As I see the hustle and bustle around Blacksburg with new Virginia Tech students moving in as well as Montgomery County Schools beginning, I couldn’t help but reflect on my times as a middle and high school student.
Going into either middle or high school, there are many different thoughts going through a student’s head as they enter those school doors for the first time after several months. On a surface level, I remember I had mixed emotions of what my teachers would be like, the friends that I would make, the sports teams I would try out for, how my clothes looked, if I had the “nice” school supplies, the cool backpack, the friendly smile; the list goes on. I cautiously eased myself back into an environment where I was separated for a summer, and at times, it could be difficult. But once the jitters of the first day calmed down, I was confident going into the rest of the school year. Now, I know everyone isn’t like me and sometimes kids can be uneasy throughout the rest of the school year. So, I speak to both the kids that are in their comfort zone at school as well as the kids who feel unwanted or out of place as they hesitantly go from class to class unsure of how they will fit in.
If you are one of the kids that everybody seems to like and have the ability to walk to line of being liked by both students and teachers, I say this to you:
- Keep an eye out for those students who feel uncomfortable and out of place. You never know what’s going on behind closed doors at home. There are plenty of students who are hurting and have had summers where their world has been absolutely ROCKED. Go out of your way, get out of your comfort zone, and put yourself in their shoes. Get to know them and prioritize how you can make a difference in someone else’s life over the shallow thought of just wanting to fit into a certain group. I know it can be difficult to do this, because the kids you typically roll with might think this is weird and the “cool kids” don’t stoop down to the level of the “outsiders.” But I would encourage you to be a LEADER and care for those around you; you never know the impact you can have in someone’s life by going out of your way to be their friend.
- Get to know your teachers- they are people too. One of the highlights of my middle/high school career was actually knowing my teachers on a deeper level that transcends academics. This didn’t mean that I connected with every single teacher, but I at least tried to get to know all of my teachers. With this advice does come the perception from your peers that you might be a “kiss-up.” There is a difference. In my eyes, a “kiss-up” is someone who just wants to know a teacher so that it benefits their performance in class. I’m not saying become a kiss-up; I’m saying actually get to know your teacher without an agenda of promoting your grade or advancing yourself in any way. They want to know you and care about you beyond academics- remember that!
- There is always the temptation to be a people pleaser or to uphold a certain reputation- fight that temptation. As a follower of Jesus, I deeply desire to be liked by people so that I have an opportunity to share Jesus with those I befriend. But in that, I sometimes can jeopardize my convictions in principles and value what people think over who Jesus says I AM. Let me tell you something, at the end of the day, people value and respect other individuals that are confident in what they believe and live in a way that reflects that. Instead of focusing your life on being liked by everyone around you, acknowledge that there are going to be people that don’t like you for your beliefs or things you do. Focus on living your life for Christ, keeping peace with the people around you, but don’t confuse that peace with jeopardizing convictions or not stepping on toes.
To the kids who feel on the outside and not in their comfort zone at school…
- Be willing to talk to kids when they go out of their way to do so. Also, don’t always wait for people to speak to you or think the world is out to get you- relationships are a two way street and you have to be willing to also step outside of your comfort zone.
- Just because you don’t thrive in school or feel on the outside doesn’t mean you can’t excel or thrive in the environment you are in. Find a solid group of friends to surround yourself with.
- Don’t just try to get by- make the most of the time you have in school. Middle and high school flies by and you won’t be able to get that time back. Don’t get into the habit of skating by in life because you will miss out on so much!
- If there are people that bully you or say things to you because you are on the outside, you have to tell someone and communicate that it isn’t okay. The people that typically pick on kids that are on the outside are struggling with their own insecurities and are unsure of how to get rid of those feelings. As a result, they tend to pick on the people who they think won’t say anything back to them. DO NOT ALLOW THIS!!!
There are so many mixed emotions and types of people that are returning to school today. I know I can’t cover everyone’s thoughts and feelings because I am only one person that was designed and created a certain way. But I hope that each student feels cared for by their teachers, parents, friends, and classmates as they return to a place that can be either a place of comfort or a place of discomfort. Take heart. Middle and high school doesn’t last forever. So make the mot of the time you have because you won’t get it back!