Ah, high school… the four short years during which students are expected to mature and ready themselves for the future.
High expectations for students reasonably stem from the fact that, at the conclusion of four years, students will head off to college and the rest of their lives.
Despite these expectations, high school students do not disappoint. We enroll in numerous college-level courses, cultivate countless campus organizations, represent our schools in varsity-level sports and give back to our communities through service. We balance our schoolwork with our responsibilities, families and social lives.
Unfortunately, despite the vast amount of expectations placed upon us by our parents, teachers, and communities, we are often looked down upon as mere “kids.”
This type of attitude towards students begins at home. Students are at an age where they experience many firsts—first time behind the wheel, first time getting asked to a school dance—and parents frequently have a hard time coming to terms with their children growing up.
However, parental concern is very different from external attitudes that high schoolers are subject to.
During high school, many students develop their intellectual vitality and love of learning, and questions are a natural product of those developments. Questions show that students are engaged in what they are learning, and that is something that should never be suppressed.
For some students, mustering up the courage to ask questions is already an accomplishment in it of itself. Rather than discouraging curiosity, authoritative figures on campus should foster an environment that helps students realize the validity of their questions and the importance of expressing their voice.
School should be an environment where students are encouraged to be proactive and to grow. If students do not feel comfortable voicing their questions in this environment, how can they fend for themselves outside of school gates?
To expand the sphere even farther: almost everyone out in the “real world” also seems to believe that high schoolers are not ready to be taken seriously.
Take internships, for example. Whenever I search for internship opportunities, I find thousands of openings for college students but little to none for high school students. While college students are older, I nevertheless find it curious why age makes such a considerable difference.
If I were a senior in high school, the real-world opportunities available to me would be extremely limited. However, flash forward a couple of months, and suddenly I am a college freshman with access to a whole world of opportunities.
What, if anything, about those couple of months’ difference do hirers believe is significant enough for them to deny an entire population of eager applicants?
If maturity is the issue, I can assure you that your concerns are misguided. High school students who have the proactivity and initiative to seek out internships are most definitely ones that can be trusted with said positions. Most internship recruitments also come with an application and an interview, leaving even fewer reasons to leave out high school applicants. Recruiters can easily use these two processes to weed out unfit candidates and maybe even find that the best fit for the job is… wait for it… a mere high school student.
Experiences such as internships and jobs are vital to students’ development and preparedness for the adult world. There are no reasons why high school students cannot even be considered for such opportunities.
Because this is an issue with society’s mindset, there really is no clear solution. However, there are many steps adults can take to improve their perception of high school students, number one being treating students with a higher level of respect.
When students realize that they are being viewed with confidence and respect, they will feel more confident in themselves as they venture on to college and beyond.