For many, high school is seen as the place where originality goes to die. Between staggering homework loads, AP classes, internships, sports, community service, and extracurricular clubs, the concept of “free time” can morph into a mythical nirvana unattainable by the average teenager.
One’s existence can come to revolve around an unyielding list of things to get done by certain times on certain dates. English discussion questions due Wednesday at midnight, History paper due Friday at noon, and on and on. To do anything but your assignments exactly as they are outlined in the directions or rubric is nonsensical.
But is it?
On most occasions, I would say no.
Suggesting to a stressed-out high school student that they try to go above and beyond with each assignment would, to them, be ludicrous, and perhaps rightfully so. However, I believe it to be the only way to survive high school with any semblance of personality, authenticity, or sense of self.
Forcing yourself to care about assignments is a sure way to improve your overall quality of life. Though it demands a slight increase in the amount of time invested into each assignment, it is rewarding in ways more than just a stellar letter grade. Taking time to actually care about prompts put forth by instructors encourages an imposition of opinion, voice, and ingenuity that some feel can only be expressed through their hobbies. In this way, schoolwork becomes not merely another chore to be checked off, but rather a medium via which individuality can evolve and prosper.
For example, if a paper asks you to take a position on something, take a strong (maybe even controversial) one, and defend it for all it’s worth. If instructions reference a “creative” cover page, pull out watercolors and paint something special. Give your all to projects that are lenient with how you can approach them. Doing so allows for heightened feelings of pride in one’s own work, but also a superlative grade.
Come the start of the new school year this fall (or for those taking classes over the summer), make a conscious decision to tackle every academic hurdle with creative fervor and inventive philomathy. Take every possible opportunity to assert yourself as someone worth noticing, and choose to make high school not a deprecator of originality, but a promoter of it.