Despite what they tell you… public school is not full of heathens.
“Oh yeah, she’s not coming back this year. Didn’t you hear? She transferred to public school. You can just tell from her Instagram feed that she’s changed a lot, if you know what I mean. You know public school kids.”
Growing up in a private Christian school from Pre-K through eighth grade, this was the rhetoric about public school that was often passed around in my class of about 20 or fewer students (mind you, that’s 20 or fewer students for my entire grade). We understood public school to be a place for heathens, poorer academics, and druggies/party peeps. We, being private school children, born and raised with the same 20 people, held our heads high for never leaving the security of our small hallways, having the same teachers every year, and knowing each other’s business so well that we all could write a book on one another. With that said, we didn’t even mention public school unless we wanted to receive a snide remark in response.
All I ever knew for those ten formative years of my life were those private school hallways. Throughout a majority of those years, I was dead-set on spending the entirety of my K-12 education at that private school (and I even moved just blocks from the school so I wouldn’t have to make the daily thirty-minute commute anymore). If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it, right?
As I reached my later years in middle school, however, I began to get antsy. Sure, I loved the people and environment that had molded me into who I was, but I began to feel like my clay was drying out, my ability to be further molded dwindling. Suddenly, I was tired of being surrounded by the same people and opinions that had surrounded me since I was five. My classes became less and less challenging, halting my pursuit for academia and hastening my tendency toward boredom. I felt like I was being shorted of so many opportunities that my private school couldn’t offer because it was too small and too underfunded.
Frankly, I was just sick of not being challenged to grow as a person anymore.
Don’t get me wrong: private schools have immense advantages, with small class sizes and close teacher relationships being a few of the upsides. In my case, however, I had gone to my very small private school for so long that I had begun to violate one of my most dearly held rules: never become complacent.
When eighth grade rolled around, the forbidden term came knocking on my door: public school. I was not the only person in my class wrestling with “he-who-shall-not-be-named” either, for many of my peers wanted to expand their horizons, just like me.
I ended up applying to two high schools and was accepted to both. In the end, I did choose to go to one of these public schools, and looking back, I can tell you that transferring to public school was the best decision of my life, hands down.
Public school is in no way as scary as my private school peers tried to make me think. Here’s what the private school kids forget to tell you about public school kids: they’re just kids. The National Center for Education Statistics writes, “In fall 2015, about 50.1 million students will attend public elementary and secondary schools… an additional 4.9 million students are expected to attend private schools.” If there are about 55 million K-12 students in the U.S., that means only a whopping 8.9 percent of students attend private schools. If 91.9 percent of students can attend public school and (mostly) turn out alright, I can assure you that those tall tales spun from the inside of your private school walls about the “bad” public school kids are indeed just tall tales.
I chose to attend public school not only because I was “bored” at my private school, but also because I wanted to challenge myself socially and get out of my comfort zone. By putting myself up for this challenge, I’ve not only gained many new (and amazing) friends, grown as a leader, taken new and exciting classes, and become more involved in my school, but I’ve also grown in my own self-awareness. Because of such self-awareness, my goals are much more tangible and I understand my own limits, making my next step, college, much more in sight.
Some days I miss my old private school and all of the kids I’ve known since elementary school. I miss the familiarity and intimacy that came with such a close-knit environment. During my first semester of freshman year, the first semester I had gone to public school, I was very close to returning to my private school because I thought hated public school so much. I was so close that I actually attended my private school’s open house (as if I’d never seen the school before). You know what, though? I stuck through the storm and came out a stronger person, and my present self is eternally grateful for the courage my younger self had.
If you’ve never gone to public school and are debating on transferring because you want to grow as a person, I say go for it. Will everything be perfect? No. Mind you, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, and public school has its downfalls, too. However, you’ll never know how you’ll grow and change by making this life-altering decision unless you decide to make the first step.