A little while ago, I’d read someone’s Wall post on Facebook about how horrible their high school experience was. It was so full of vitriol and hatred that I was a little taken aback. High school years were some of the best years of my life! I couldn’t imagine how difficult it must have been for this individual to get through this period, because it is undeniably full of judgement, gossip and meanness. But these are the critical years for socialization, where some of our most enduring friendship bonds will first start to develop.
I grew up in Quebec, where high school starts in 7th grade. In Ontario where I live now, elementary school runs until 8th grade, and high school starts in 9th grade. I find that such a peculiarity. By the time a child is in her tweens, she couldn’t possibly enjoy being in the company of six- and seven-year-olds. However, in Ontario, high school also runs until 12th grade (and not that long ago, until 13th grade), so that being the case, maybe it made sense. There also used to be what was called “middle schools”, which would be 7th to 9th grades, with high school running from Grades 10 through 13, a much better delineation, if you ask me.
I suppose education experts here would argue that entering a high school environment at the age of 14 instead of 12 is an easier social transition. Kids can still be somewhat sheltered and protected during those formative tween years in an elementary school. Once they enter high school, all bets are off.
There are two sisters in Ontario – Anisa and Saba Hajizadeh – who are running a campaign to encourage gossip-free zones in schools, a really admirable initiative given that gossip becomes most prevalent and hurtful at their age (17 and 16, respectively). Instead of choosing to participate in the gossip – by far the road most travelled and the most easily travelled by teens – these No Gossip Girls have chosen to speak out against it because it is a more veiled form of bullying. We all think it’s quite innocent… until it makes a victim suicidal.
I don’t know if there was ever any gossip spread about me in high school. Probably not – I was pretty much a nerd! And maybe that’s what made my high school years so memorable. I made fantastic friends, I was very active in the school community, and I was an excellent student to boot (hey, that’s how nerds roll). It never occurred to me that it could be anything different for anyone else. A good friend reminded me the other day that we can understand the world a lot better when we start from a position of compassion. We don’t know what other people’s circumstances are, so we have no right to judge.
By the way, after I read the aforementioned Wall post, I decided I really didn’t need to check in on Facebook so often. I was feeling a little too intrusive reading something that seemed more appropriate for one’s therapist, not something one should want to share with the world.