These past couple of months have truly brought my life into perspective. I have always wanted to express my thoughts about Corona del Mar High School, but it was not until this year that I actually began to voice my opinions, beginning with one of my previous Trident articles “The Bubble of Newport Beach.” I have always feared being judged for my thoughts and how I feel towards certain issues, which held me back in life. With only one year of high school left, not to mention the recent tragedies, I’ve realized that it is never too late to start a change. “The Bubble of Newport Beach,” meant to shed light on how we treat each other and act at this school. Some may think that it is too early to discuss such issues, some may think it is too late, but for me, the time is now.
CdM is a school defined by cliques. All schools have cliques, but at CdM, most people stay confined within their group. It was for this reason that entering CdM in 7th grade was difficult for me. I moved here over the summer from Anaheim Hills, which meant that not only was I entirely new to the school, but also the entire school district. While going to Riptide Camp before school helped me make some friends, most students already knew each other and had already formed friend groups. Though I did eventually find my own group of friends, many students spend years searching for a community that includes them, if they even find one at all. Once someone is in a certain clique, many don’t feel the need to branch out and form friendships with other people.
If I hang out with someone outside of my regular circle of friends, I am always asked, “Why are you hanging out with them?” High school is the time to find oneself and determine the type of person to be, but how can people do that when they are around the same people all the time? This habit causes many students to feel as if they are trapped in a box and miss out on spending time with a variety of people.
It’s frustrating that majority of people at this school care to be placed in that box. Many are only friendly to the people closest to them, an unfortunate pattern that causes them to refuse to even acknowledge the rest of the student body. Everyone has walked down the hallway and been ignored by someone they had a class with the previous year and were friends with. CdM can make a person feel like the biggest person on Earth, but it can also make a person feel small and irrelevant.
In an anonymous survey by Trident, several students suggested ways the school community could be improved. According to a high school student, “the way us as students treat each other, I am not sure how to change it, but all of us are rude to each other without even thinking about it. Being a friend of Patrick’s and reading the letters he wrote, it opened my eyes to how rude we are and how we don’t check in with each other.”
It is disturbing that it took the loss of such a precious life in order to realize what we are doing to each other. After Patrick’s death, everyone thought that students would behave differently and the atmosphere surrounding the school would change; however, in just a few weeks, we are the same.
Everything is a competition at CdM, and everyone has to be the best at everything. All students have to strive to get into well-known colleges, attain a certain GPA, or become a star athlete to be better than the person sitting next to them. At school, grades are valued above all else.
“What did you get on the test?” “What is your GPA?” “What is your grade in the class?” These are questions asked every day on campus, but we rarely stop to think about their consequences.
More often than not, when a teacher announces that they posted grades on SchoolLoop, we race onto our phones to see our percentage. I distinctly remember taking a test in one of my freshman year classes and getting an okay score, not my best, not my worst. One of my peers asked what I got on the test and after telling them, they proceeded to laugh in my face and tell me how much better they did. These types of conversations are not uncommon at a school where everyone is so absorbed in their grades, extracurricular activities, and homework, so much so that they do not have time to worry about important issues like their mental health.
In 20 years, high school is only going to be a memory and the pressure to be the best will be but a sour taste in our mouths, but it is hard to understand this while paying so much attention to beating everyone around us.
Even though Corona del Mar High School is known for its high academic and athletic standards, the amount of stress that students endure here stems from several sources. Almost all of us in the CdM community are partly responsible for the stressful environment here. Students put an insane amount of pressure on themselves, thinking they will not go anywhere in life unless they get into certain colleges even if it is not the right college for them. Students focus on the name of the college rather than what they are thinking of studying or how they would fit on that campus. Last year, for example, I overheard a conversation between two students about college. One of the students said she would like to attend the University of Colorado, Boulder. However, her reasoning seemed flawed, as she responded with simply, “Because everyone from CdM goes there.”
Many students have an extremely narrow view of life after high school, and they only focus on going to a prestigious four year university and getting a degree straight out of high school. However, there are so many more options than most students think: community college for two years, (a place to discover what you actually want to major in and get the basic requirements out of the way), traveling, maybe even staying at home and working. College is not going away; it will be there in five, ten, or fifteen years. Seeing the world and discovering how other cultures live and function reveals that most students do not have such a rigid mindset, as they do not have nearly as many options as we have here at CdM.
Some of the pressure and stress here also results from the teachers. In Trident’s same survey, one student wrote that “many times teachers feel the need to have students figure out the homework or assignment on their own, leaving the students with stress and wasting valuable time on one problem.”
Certain teachers at this school also grade-shame students. They forget that we are in the class to learn the subject, not master it completely. As a student, I ask that CdM teachers have empathy the next time one of us gets a bad grade on something; do not make fun of us for it, help us. If a student is struggling and you know it, help them. Another student pointed out that “many [students] fear to ask their teachers for help because they often get rejected or are told their questions are stupid and are too intimidated by the insults.”
In my high school career alone, I have had teachers who just handed out worksheets to the class without actually teaching. Students would, rightfully, become annoyed by the lack of enthusiasm shown by the teachers. However, when they asked for help, the teachers would blame the students for their lack of knowledge. I complained to an administrator about certain teachers I have had in the past, compiling a number of reasons why they do not make positive contributions to our community. But time and time again, I get the same response: “there is only so much we can do.” While that is true to a certain point, issues regarding teachers should be one of our school’s top priorities. One student surveyed suggested to “hold teachers responsible for actions. Teachers are able to treat students however they like and face no consequences.”
Finally, some words of advice and thoughts to take away from this article: talk to people, be inclusive, and ask people sitting alone if they want to sit with you. Be kind, ask people how their day is going. Be selfless, think of others before yourself. Do not let your grades define you, you are more than a letter or percent. Live by Gandhi’s quote: “be the change you want to see in the world.” Lastly, just remember the kindergarten saying: “treat others how you would like to be treated” — it will get you far in life.