Maria is a 16 year old, born in Mexico, raised in Texas, and hoping to travel via paper where no one else has gone before. Her hobbies include soccer, video games, writing, and she hopes to become a published author.
I sat there, struggling with my bloated SAT book, trying not to break into pieces with anxiety. My pencil continually dropped to the floor, my hand became slippery with sweat. Last minute answers to practice problems were hashed on the white board. Once we realized we were wrong, you could hear erasers ripping through our papers and our hopes.
According to some, if you got a high enough score on the SAT your Ivy League dreams were secured, along with a position amongst the high scorers like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. Receive a low score and the College Board labels you fit for an eternity of working for minimum wage. I’ve never entered a SAT study class without hearing people weighing their futures according to the number they got back on their scantron.
High schools know this. A huge emphasis has been placed filtering out those who they feel have “potential”, and place them all together in a room…
And let them slowly kill each other off.
I was one of those kids. Pushed into the system, along with the other top 100 students of my class. We were cramped together in a small math room, all forty of us. Competition is good, they say, as it helps increase scores. Sure, my scores went up. After I had gone into the bathroom, cried my eyes out silently, and went back to sitting in front of the 197 I had made on a practice PSAT.
Success is a human instinct. For some, the only path for this is walking through the doors on Harvard or Yale. They sleep with the SAT book under their pillow. They take the most AP classes, eager to make five’s on all ten of them. They stay for tutoring for three hours after school. They slowly snap under the weight of Perfection.
After years of instruction, my teacher had seen this happen far too many times. She saw it happening again with my class. Recognizing the symptoms of self-induced stress was her minor. Her major, well, Life. So, one the last day before we took the PSAT she wanted us to know something she had learned. A fact we failed to recognize.
“You are not a number.”
To put in simply, the erasers stopped chewing on our papers. Our pencils paused from scribbling. And we listened.
“You are a human being. And that number is not what you are.”
That, in truth, did not stick to me. Until two months later when I received my scores. It was honestly not as high as I wanted. But, when you try to reach the sun, you are in danger of falling.
Starting as early as sophomore year, teens begin looking up prospective universities. They look at their class profiles and the thing my eye lingers on are the scores of the entering class. 700’s, 2100’s, 2230’s. Numbers who take the place of the very people the university advertises. They are the homes of the high scores. The homes of kids who pay for the name of the university to be carved onto their diploma; the kids who slowly succumb to the stress.
So, for any teens thinking that the number calculated by a computer has anything to do with your life, it does NOT. There are no numbers or levels to indicate happiness. Take this from the girl who basically had a love affair with all her vocab cards and the huge math packets assigned to us for practice. Oh how wish my weekends were not spent digesting the pages of my SAT book, or how I wish these past two and a half years were of memories for a lifetime, not nightmares inducing moments of pressure.
And for those parents who expect nothing else from teens but an Ivy League diploma, think, is your child a number? Who lives their high school experience as one of headaches and depression? Or the kid who gets comfortable in their own skin and lets the future be subject of worry when it is their present.
Photo Courtesy of: qisur from Flickr