Marcus Garrette, 15, writes about the social and academic challenges he faced when he went from an Oakland public high school to a private school in the 10th grade, and how his outlook shifted during the year. -Katy
When I began school last fall, I thought that it was going to be an amazing year where my friends and I would spend time relaxing while working hard, seeing how we had already completed our first year at Skyline High School and we were now sophomores. I was taking a few advanced classes and the regular required classes, plus I was in the school jazz band and was happy, overall, with my schedule.
As my first week of school progressed, it was feeling similar to last year. I spent a lot of time joking around but getting work done at the same time. I was very content with how things were going. This would change VERY soon and VERY fast.
Towards the end of that first week, a fellow schoolmate from my jazz band walked up to me and told me something that my sister had told her. The schoolmate told me, “Marcus! You’re going to Bentley?!” and I quickly responded with “What? No I’m not,” because at that point, I had no idea what Bentley was. The only other time I had heard that name was in reference to a luxury car.
Upon arriving home I would soon find out from my mom that I would be visiting Bentley the next day to check out this private school. As I processed this information I quickly responded with “No.” It was as simple as that, I was bent on not having anything to do with changing schools, after all I was doing fine just where I was and besides how could I be expected to leave my friends, some of them which I had known for over four years?
As the evening wore on, and with much discussion with my family, I relented and decided to at least visit the school. What could a visit hurt? The next day, my mother, the person who helped create this opportunity for me, and I drove the fifteen miles or so out to the school.
It was a nice, breezy summer day which made the tree-filled campus look all the more inviting. We were shown around the campus and I was offered admission to the school. Overall, it was a nice visit into the realm of private schools and I reluctantly agreed to give it a try, all the while thinking about who and what I would be leaving behind. After all, I had already figured out my entire high school plan the summer prior to my ninth-grade year and I virtually had no time to say goodbye to all the people I had developed relationships with for years.
I quickly transferred to the completely different setting after missing the first few days of school. It first seemed like a sudden jump into another world, and I already felt behind and overwhelmed. I didn’t know anyone, and I had no one to show me the ropes. I drifted throughout the school, receiving introductions from students who would nicely say hello to me. They gave me a lot of attention at first, but that seemed to fade, and I noticed some of my teachers paid little or no attention to me. I felt like the kid that was left to sit off in the corner by himself. I felt isolated, though that was sometimes self-induced.
This is when I realized I would have to learn to be independent and fend for myself in this small community. I realized everything was different in this community’s world. The academic arena was more like college, and the social scene was out of this world to me. I didn’t receive all the classes I wanted, and I didn’t catch up for the entire first part of the school year. This was partially due to the complete difference of learning pace and lesson planning in the classes offered between public and private schools, and partially due to my indifference in this whole experience. This depressed me deeply for a great part of the year as I felt as if I was alone and had been abandoned by my friends from my former school.
After traveling the long haul home on BART every day, my mother would asked me the same question: “How was school today?” My answer rarely varied, it was usually “the same.” She would encourage me and tell me to hang in there, and she did everything she could to make it easier for me. She participated in parent events at the school, trying to fit into this world herself. She drove to the school many nights to pick me up, she met me at the BART station every day, she made my lunch, etc. She always told me things would change. Then as the year progressed, I learned to stop being such a crybaby. I learned that I was going to have to be the one to change my high school experience and that everything I needed to do so was already there.
Towards the end of the year a senior in my jazz band class asked me to participate in a play he was producing. I spent a lot of evenings working with him and some of the other students. I got to know them and they got to know me. I can say this helped to turn things around for me. I also developed a better relationship with some of my teachers during this time. I learned to appreciate the school and all that it has to offer. I figured that I could make it and realized that I wasn’t alone after all, as I ended up making a few more good friends, from both Skyline and Bentley. I guess I’ll always be able to find friends in new places, private school or not.
I feel I ended my year stronger, I did better academically and I am prepared for the next school year. I have made myself some promises that I plan to keep. After all, I’ll be more mature. I’ll be a junior and ready to go without all of the adjustments.