Ms. Metz: Millennial
What year did you graduate high school?
I graduated in 2010.
What role did technology play in your high school experience?
I graduated in 2010, so that was kind of the beginning of social media and social networking. Youtube had been around for I think 5 years at that point so teachers were incorporating youtube into their lessons kind of, but it still wasn’t this like seamless place where if you were confused about a topic you could go find a teacher who makes content on youtube and like watch lectures and stuff to understand things, and we were still at the point where people were learning how to exist in a world with technology as that technology was being created, so we were learning how to research and write essays with methodology that mostly applied to like going to a library and pulling out encyclopedias.
I was lucky in that I didn’t have instant social media for the social aspect because if I wasn’t invited somewhere I would not find out about it until several days later, so that made the social aspect of school easier. We all had flip phones, it was really cool if you had a blackberry, nobody had iPhones so you didn’t have access to the ability to look up things you didn’t know.
Did you feel there was a distraction from your academics?
I would play Tetris on my laptop at school, I went to a high school in a school district that gave out laptops to every student starting in the 6th grade, and I had friends in other school districts who did not have laptops, so it was unique in that I could sit on my computer and play Tetris in the back of the room. But I did not have access to all the distractions that you guys do now, like my phone just sent text messages and calls.
I think it probably would’ve definitely been easier if I was taking handwritten notes, but at the same time it wasn’t as distracting as having the ability to go onto a bunch of different websites and also have a phone that can send pictures and be snapping my friends, so in terms of keeping the plate spinning I think I would have to balance about 2 things where I think today you could balance about 20.
How do you think that’s changed for your students?
You all have so much more to worry about and so many ways to connect with each other that it’s so much more distracting, I mean even like the fact that like so many of you all leave your phones in your lockers which is great except for the fact you can text on your computer, so you can still have that distraction. There’s also an expectation that you manage more things, like there’s more things to pay attention to, whether or not it’s true there’s more pressure to engage on TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, whatever, in addition to your schoolwork. There’s also more websites to get distracted on I mean, you all tell me all the time about new games, you know that exist that I’ve never heard of. So I think it’s definitely harder because there are way more ways to distract yourself than when I was in school.
What are the main things you remember about your high school education?/What effect did that have on you, did you often feel overwhelmed or stressed?
I had absolutely no balance between school and life, this was an era where we were encouraged to take as many AP classes as we could possibly fit into our schedule if you wanted to be a high-achieving kid, and every class was supposed to assign between an hour to an hour and a half of homework and I had 8 classes a day. Most seniors had 6, but I took 2 extra classes because I was in choir, so I had 8 classes where I had about an hour to an hour and a half of homework every single night. I barely slept and that was normal, like there was no recognition of like “Hey you should probably take care of yourself”. I missed like 80 days of school because I was so sick, I was basically working myself so hard that my body was just constantly getting sick.
What was your level of focus on academics and grades?
Grades were the only way I thought I could prove myself, I had to be better than everyone else, and I had to get the highest grades, you know, a 99 wasn’t good enough if I could get 100, so I was incredibly competitive with my peers even though they did not know we were competing.
Was that something you instilled in yourself or was that pressure from the school or from your teachers?
It definitely came from me, I went to a huge public high school were people could just do whatever, and so it was mostly my own drive and my own fear of failure that was motivating me. I didn’t get any pressure from home, I didn’t get any pressure from teachers to excel or push myself harder, people were just like “That’s who you are that’s what you do” but there was no outside forces that were conditioning me to behave that way.
What advice would you give to students having similar experiences?
Sleep. Work can and will be done later, your health is the most important thing. Your physical and mental health need to take priority, and 9 times out of 10 if you are honest with a teacher they will work with you so you can find a healthy balance between completing the work at the level that you want to and also taking care of yourself. Take care of yourself first, school can wait.
Do you notice any significant differences between your high school experience and your students?
You guys are so much better at advocating for yourselves, I didn’t even know that I could advocate for myself, I didn’t know that I could ask for help. Your generation is so much better at saying “I’m overwhelmed” or sending an email that says “Hey, I’m gonna go to bed tonight, this may not be done on time, I accept the consequences.” While there’s definitely still work to do, in terms of individuals having problems feeling confident advocating for themselves I think generationally you are much more aware of, you know the adverse effects of stress, of not taking care of your physical health, of not taking care of your mental health, and also finding a balance between your passions and the must-do’s, so like the things you want to do and the things you have to do.
Do you take any extra strides as a teacher to prevent this?
Yeah, I totally pride myself on being understanding, within reason, right, so there’s support networks built into my class support structures like test corrections that are built in so that if you come in on test day and you’re not confident you’re like “I don’t think I can do this”, you can try and then there are ways to remedy if the grade isn’t what you want. I also will pretty much always let a student push a test back a day because I want to provide the easy safety valve, a release valve, so that as my freshmen get older and they move into other classes they can learn that prioritizing on their own.