Nonetheless, there were a few high school classes I benefit from today. The best teachers I had at Northwestern expected more than we students believed we could produce.
My earliest assignment in ninth-grade biology was a research paper longer than anything I had written prior. I executed a project that included months of documentation, experimentation and public speaking, none of which I thought I was capable at the time. My biology teacher, Patty Zeck, was the best at her job, and that’s not hyperbole. Her coursework reflected the difficulty of an average class at the collegiate level, as if that were the state standard. Perhaps it should be.
In 11th grade English, teacher Mary Zika began to draft the map I use in my writing today. I learned less obvious but no less important grammar concepts, such as use of a semicolon and the crucial art of word choice. For example, “tired words” like “bad” and “cold” will leave your reader feeling the same. In addition, she ignited a passion for the material she taught. Yes, I actually finished “The Scarlet Letter.”
These two women are examples of the most valuable lesson I learned in high school: find something you love to do, and do it the best you can. This is the key to job satisfaction.
An education is not fed by spoonful from adult to child. It’s collaborative; it encourages a balanced dialogue between teacher and student. This requires relentless engagement from all parties.
As a teenager, I could not be bothered with the kind of work that goes into fully taking advantage of the resources presented to me. We cannot expect high school students to “geek out” over subjects such as American history or chemistry, which is why I propose we leave them all with the skills they need to succeed in whatever college major they choose.