"School isn't my thing."

High School Success, Student Voices | 08/07/2019

Katie Gustainis
Marketing & Communications Director, Stand for Children Washington

After watching Shiann join in the playful jeering and raucous debate of her fourth-period mock congress session at Lincoln High School in Tacoma, I had a hard time believing that she’s an introvert. But as she told me, “Just because I’m good at talking doesn’t mean I like it.”

As a senior in Nate Bowling’s AP Government class, she was one month away from graduation when we spoke in the hallway of her high school. She actually transferred to Lincoln after her freshman year at a different high school because she didn’t feel comfortable or supported there. At Lincoln, she’s found a feeling of community and her GPA has also seen a significant upward tick as well (she currently has a 3.4). She stepped out of Nate’s classroom with me to talk about her experience in advanced classes. As a student in the Tacoma school district, she’s been automatically enrolled in advanced classes (including AP courses) since her junior year.

Did you think you would take AP classes?
No. I’ll be honest: I was forced to take them. I didn’t want to, but once I’m in something, I want to commit. I don’t like change. It’s been up and down. It’s not supposed to be easy. It’s hard. The thing is, if it’s boring, I have a harder time being engaged.

Why didn’t you want to take them?
School isn’t my thing. I was afraid of AP classes because knew that’s where the real work came in and I had no clue what it would turn out to be or if I would even be interested. I don’t like school, and I knew that Mr. Bowling is somebody that would be on you about it if you’re not in class. And I’m the kind of person that if I don’t want to be here, I don’t want you to talk to me! 

We have a good relationship now, though. Even if it’s sometimes hard to comprehend things, he pushes me to limits I didn’t know I could break through, with the right support, which is what I need from a teacher. If my teacher doesn’t care, I don’t care. At Lincoln, the teachers are passionate. They’re invested in what happens to us. 

How many classes are you taking?
I’m taking AP Government and AP Literature. I took two AP classes junior year, too. 

Are you involved in any activities at school?
I’m the cheer captain, and I also work at TD stadium and Jack in the Box, so that’s where my time goes.

What advice would you give students who were like you and don’t want to take advanced classes?
Try it anyways for as long as you can. By the time you finally feel like you can’t do it anymore, it’ll probably be too late and not as bad as you think. You’ll realize how fast time goes by and you’ll be doing things you weren’t so confident in, months prior.

What are your plans after graduation?
I’m going to Texas Southern University and I want to major in Communications. I thought about business law, but I don’t really like school, so I want to do things that uplift me. Other people believe I’m great at communicating, so I believe it’ll take me out of the comfort zone of me not wanting to talk so often.

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Tacoma was the second district in the state to implement an Academic Acceleration policy in 2013 that automatically enrolls students into the next most rigorous class they’re qualified for in any given subject, including Advanced Placement courses. This policy gives students the opportunity to opt-out after first automatically opting them in. In 2019, Washington became the first state in the country to require this policy at every district in the state.

Students like Shiann who enroll in advanced classes are more likely to graduate high school and enroll in college. Stand for Children Washington is committed to supporting more remarkable students like her on the way to their dreams by advocating for innovative policies like Academic Acceleration that change school culture and improve the equity of opportunities available to Washington students.

Want to join us in standing up for students in public schools? Become a member today and partner with us to make change together.

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