Y2 Reflection: On Leaving 525 East Houston Street

Ayla Safran, ‘15

When I started at BHSEC back in 2011, I expected it to be difficult but rewarding — that’s what everyone had told me. I knew I would face challenges, but I didn’t quite know what they would be. Still, I felt ready. As soon as we did our first sharing in writing and thinking, though, that feeling vanished. Who were these smart, eloquent, talented people? There was no way they were all fewer than three years older than me – they seemed like intelligent, well-educated adults. I was extremely intimidated, and when my parents asked me how my first day of high school was, the most positive answer I could give was a shrug.

For the next few weeks (or to be honest, months), I wandered through the halls continuing to be intimidated, not only by the grown-up looking Y2s, but by the kids in my grade as well. I didn’t know what clubs to join, or what Dean’s Hour lectures I could get away with skipping, and I didn’t know what people were talking about when they made references to the SAC or the CTO.

By the time that tenth grade rolled around, I was beginning to feel like I’d been at BHSEC forever. Almost everything was familiar, from the annoyingly tiny toilets to the strict no-eating policy in the library. The little changes – like the renovation of the girls’ changing room, the silent periods in the library, or the renaming of the “Bardvark Hall” – seemed like major shifts, but they gave everyone something to talk about. Otherwise, things were pretty much the same. The work was still hard, the teachers still had trouble coordinating during midterms week, but best of all, there were new ninth graders, so I didn’t feel like the youngest or smallest any more. Plus, I had a free period besides lunch, which felt like a miracle (now I can’t imagine having that many periods of class each week!). My tenth grade teachers were pretty erratic (from a chemistry teacher who ended up getting fired to a math teacher who was constantly being yelled at by his students), but I knew the lay of the land, and I boasted to my non-BHSEC friends about how I would be done with Regents at the end of the year.

I came into school in September 2013 ready to be in the mysterious “college-program.” I wanted to learn about the elusive world of seminar and humanities electives, and I was excited to call myself a Year 1. Little did I realize, being a “college” student meant having to deal with thinking about real college, in addition to the workload from classes. My schedule was even more full than in previous years, and my teachers consistently reminded me that now I was a “college” student, so they expected more from me. (I couldn’t help but think, how much more do I have to give?!)

Let me tell all of you underclassmen something: the “college program” isn’t all it’s built up to be. Sure, you get to choose some of your classes (if add/drop works in your favor) and you get to go in the CTO, but it is not the same as actually being in college, and no four-year colleges see it that way. Unless you end up going to one of the relatively few colleges that see our credits as up to their standards, be prepared for a full four (or at least three) years more of “college.”

But that doesn’t mean the college program isn’t wonderful. If, or hopefully when, you do get to take the classes you’re really interested in, it’s wonderful! Rather than simply fulfilling DOE requirements, you break free of a core curriculum and take fun and interesting electives (make sure you get advice from upperclassmen about which ones are right for you, though!). Plus, you get to learn if that’s what you want, and discover if maybe, you need the structure. And the teachers are wonderful, supportive, and understanding. Go to them about anything; scratch that, go to them about everything, because they’re really there for you, and they do sometimes know how to help.

To be honest, though, I spent most of my time in the college program thinking about what to do for college applications, rather than for me, which is something I really regret. The truth is, if you haven’t already heard it from other Year 2s, the college admissions process is unbearably arbitrary, and it really doesn’t matter if you get those extra 50 points on the SAT or if you take Calculus when you don’t want to. I wish I’d realized sooner that high school is a time to have fun, and enjoy being in the city, not just to work hard and stress out about college. At BHSEC, we all tend to get lots of work, procrastinate, talk to each other about how much work we have, and then procrastinate some more before finally getting it done (even when we say we just won’t do it). And sometimes, that work is really important, but sometimes enjoying the weekend or getting a good night of sleep is just as important.

I know that I’m looking forward to college, but I’m also really looking forward to the rest of the school year. And yes, I have an Inquiry Project to write and a Symposium Day presentation to prepare for and lots of other typical BHSEC tasks to complete, but I also have about a month left to spend sitting on the field, listening to Ms. Schultz’s playlist during yoga, watching presentations in all of my classes of the amazing, inspiring work that my classmates have done (because we’re those smart, intimidating Year 2s now!), and paying attention to the little things about BHSEC that I know I’ll miss next year. I’m excited for prom and our graduations (because only here do we have two of them), but I’m also sad to be leaving behind the place where I’ve (mostly gladly) spent the last four years of my life, the place that has shaped me into the person I am today.

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