The Naperville North Pressure Culture Must Change
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Why does this keep happening?
A Student’s Answer to the Naperville North Administration.
“Why does this keep happening?” You ask us, the students.
“Where did we go wrong?” you ask us, the students.
And this is how we know you’re really lost. The tallies of lives lost to drugs and depression have expanded beyond the margin of error. The flukes, so to speak. The “we couldn’t have seen it coming”s, and you didn’t. But we did.
You’ve never bothered to ask us before. Even so, we’ve answered. In fact, in our years at Naperville North we have seen more than enough evidence to understand why this keeps happening. We know we have shared our findings with you. We know others before us have as well. And some of you, some very special few, may have picked up on it yourselves. Perhaps the alumni who remember the anxieties of every grade and test score, or the countless hours lost within this brick cell as you were racking up extracurriculars for your college application. Maybe you remember why this keeps happening.
Do you remember the "Naperville North Way"? As an instructor, do you even understand it? If not, let us explain.
At Naperville North there is one path to success. This path is made clear from the day high school anticipation begins, and is reiterated until graduation. From the age of 13 every prospective Naperville North student understands that this path makes no exceptions, and those who wander off or fall behind are left for failure. Everyone here understands that there is no worse fate than failure.
If despite your experience as a Naperville North educator, you are still clueless as to what “your way” entails, allow us to explain further.
Our first impressions of the “Naperville North Way” probably began when we picked out our first schedule. As future freshmen our schedules were mostly packed with core classes, but we had two elective spaces free for art, music, language, tech… whatever passions we wished to explore. It became clear to all of us, on that day, that “passion” and “exploring” were not the “Naperville North Way”. It was not along the one true path to success.
The freedom we were theoretically given to choose an elective was not stolen in a technical sense. We could still technically add a passion into our schedule. But we were told that we “must” take a language and we “must” take a study hall. To get into college, not just college, a “good college”, we “must” have two years of a language (which we will soon learn means 3 or 4 years of a language) and we “must” have a study hall to finish all of our homework because academics “must” be everyone’s priority in order to get into that “good college” even though we’ll soon learn that a study hall will look bad on those “good colleges’” applications. Better pile on an extra academic, a computer class, something that looks “good” on those “good college” applications. This is the “Naperville North Way”. This is the path to success. At the age of 13, we were thwarted with these pressures, these ridiculous expectations. For some, this was already their chosen path. But for me, and so many others… we didn’t fit the bill. From the time we knew what Naperville North was we knew that forging our own path meant failure, and from the time we’ve existed we’ve known that there is no worse fate.
And so begins why “this” keeps happening.
And that is only the beginning, because the reality presents more challenges than a schedule could ever represent. Let’s say a student chooses to follow the path to success, the “Naperville North Way”. This student “must” have straight A’s, but not in regular classes. No, that’s too easy. A terrifying schedule packed with honors or AP classes until this student reaches the age where there are only AP classes. Because this is the “Naperville North Way”. These AP classes will likely exceed many college’s work loads, even the “good” ones. This fact alone is setting up the students who do everything right, who follow the path, the “Naperville North Way”, to fail. But good grades aren’t good enough. No, they never could be to get into one of those “good” colleges, a necessary check point on the one true path to success. This student must have extracurriculars, leadership positions, but nothing cliche or expected that make them “dime a dozen”. To succeed, one must follow these prescribed procedures exactly, while also diverging and making themselves stand out. If this student can achieve the grades, the activities, and still somehow solve this contradiction, their perils aren’t over. In every class every teacher is shouting at them to prioritize their individual class while none of them deduct that if everything is a priority nothing is a priority. Homework is not an acceptable excuse to duck out of a practice, rehearsal, or meeting for these necessary extracurriculars, even though without the right grades this student could not participate in extracurriculars at all. With hours of homework and practice and meetings, how much sleep do you think this student gets? With every second of their life devoted to the “Naperville North Way”, leaving no time for recuperation, relaxation, or socialization, how would you imagine this student’s mental health is? I know you remind this student that they need eight hours of sleep, that they need time for themselves, that it’s okay to have a C minus day… but the path to success does not alter to accommodate these necessities. The path is rigid, and anywhere outside it is failure. For this student, this stressful, anxiety ridden existence is preferable to failure. The lifestyle required to survive the path to success is part of why this keeps happening.
But what you--the Naperville North administration--forget, is that the path to success is as inflexible as it is narrow. It is not designed for everyone, only a select few. Many people lose their footing along the unforgiving road and stumble into failure. As we have told you many times before, there is no worse fate than failure. When there is only one path to success, a path that almost no one can follow, we all feel like failures.
That is why this keeps happening.
Many of us struggle with learning disabilities, with mental health issues. Many of us need a helping hand to trudge that narrow path. But that is not the “Naperville North Way”. Instead of helping us succeed, you tell us to give up and accept our failure. Yet, it was you who chided us from the time we were introduced to the “Naperville North Way” to follow these steps, to achieve the one true success. This path is necessary, uncontested. The good grades, the good college, the good career… Many of us could succeed with just a little help. It is you that will not let us, for this reason or that. You tell us to be okay with failing, after drilling into our heads for years that there is no worse fate.
If success is not an option, anything is better than failure. Not trying is better than trying and failing. Doing drugs feels better than the sting of failure. And tragically, you may now understand that to some students, death is better than failure.
You asked us, “Why does this keep happening?”, and we have answered. But we promise, for all our friends who could not live on as failures, that we will not rest here! We the students have more than a problem- we have a solution.
The “Naperville North Way” ends today. The one true path to success ends today. From now on, we forge our own paths. We define our own success.
And you, the Naperville North administration, must work with us. Stop teaching us, your students, that there is only one way to be a student. Stop treating community colleges, trade schools, and apprenticeships like failing destinations. Stop paving the one true path to success.
And start treating us like people, not GPAs or test scores. Start letting us choose how we we wish to be defined. Start helping us find our dreams, and give us the tools we need to achieve them. Start understanding our priorities instead of implementing yours. Start defining success as any path that leads to a happy and healthy life. Start teaching us to make our own paths, and start guiding us along the way.
You asked us “Why does this keep happening?” and we answered, but now?
We the students have but one reply.
“We will not let this happen anymore”
Sincerely, your students. If you agree, sign below.
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