9th grader, Malahi (ya-ya), presents a reflection on her first end of the year presentation of learning as a HTH student.
[MUSIC PLAYING] Hi. I’m Malahi also known as Yaya and I am a freshman at High Tech High. And I’m going to talk to you guys about my first year here.
So the first thing that I was thinking about when I found out I was going to this school was basically the transition to a new place. From elementary school all the way up to eighth grade I had been around the same people, I had been around the same atmosphere for almost 10 years. So it was very nerve wracking to be at a new place not knowing a lot of people, not really knowing what to expect.
But I was really happy when I found out one of my closest friends here, Zoe, was going to be in my class and then from that I was able to meet one of my other closest friends, Maddie. And we were able to build a bond with each other and were able to talk to each other about things. And it was just great to know, because it was something that I was initially really scared of. But from that, it brought me a lot of comfort to know that I was going to have someone that I was familiar with at least.
So the biggest fear for me going into high school was just the unknown. I didn’t really know what to expect. From my middle school they were very strict, it’s like night and day from my middle school to here. We have a lot of project based work here while at my middle school we had a lot of tests and assignments and it was all textbook work.
And it was definitely something that wouldn’t necessarily, I’d say, show my creativity and show my personality. But I was so used to it and I was trained to do stuff like that that it was hard for me to think of ways to approach such a new way of learning. Can you go to the next slide?
So for the first semester, I was with Matt and Laura Donna and that was humanities and Spanish. And we did an urban planning project which basically you’re supposed to look into an issue going on in whatever neighborhood the leader of each group was in, and we were supposed to pose a question on how might we do something to fix that problem. So my question was how might we encourage people to learn about their cultures along with all cultures represented in their neighborhood in order to gain perspective?
And I really liked the work that was put in to do this project but it was definitely something that I felt was very stressful for my first year there along with many kids that were in the class as well. I really focused a lot on not only the work but meeting new people because this was the first class that I was in, and so that was basically the people I was around for a few months. And I was able to meet them and talk to them and be able to build connections with them and I still talk to them to this day.
So it was great to be able to not only learn about others but also learn about myself through this project. Because looking into things that were going on in my neighborhood helped me learn more that was going on around me that I wasn’t exactly aware of initially. So for my intersession I did, So You Think You’re Funny? intersession which was like a comedy.
I think of laughter as a way of coping with my anxiety and things that are going on around me and around my family or my friends. And it’s definitely a way for me to let go. With my anxiety, my brain’s going a mile or a mile a minute and I can never really take a break and think in the moment. And I’m always thinking about the future, I’m always thinking about the past.
So it’s great to laugh whether it’s for five minutes or for five hours. And it’s just in that moment I’m just not thinking about anything else. And it’s just a moment of complete happiness to me.
So I liked the intersession and also my friends were in it. So we were able to be with each other for two weeks before going into the second semester. And also going into the second semester I was a little nervous but that will go on to the next slide.
So I was really scared going into the semester because it felt like the first day of school all over again. I didn’t know who was in my class, so there were some people that I didn’t know and then there are some people that I didn’t know but were able to meet and build connections with.
I was scared because first, I was prepared to get in this science state of mind and skip away from Spanish, but then when I found out I was going to have a Spanish class again I was like, OK, now I need to go back to Spanish and remember what I learned from the semester before and forget about the science stuff that I was trying to review in my head and all that.
So in this project we did the San Diego sanctuary project, which was a project that had to do with the current refugee crisis. And we were able to connect with people that were related to the crisis some way, whether they were volunteers or whether they were actual refugees themselves and then we were able to do action. So for me along with other students we volunteered at an elementary school, [INAUDIBLE] Elementary, where a majority of the kids that go there are refugees.
And it was really great to mentor them and able to learn about their lives and help them learn new things, new languages, help them with their math. And it was great because being able to go there and then they remember you and you see what impact you can make, because I’m never really the type of person to be like “Oh, I did that it’s–”
It made me really proud because I didn’t realize what would come out of this project. I was scared because I didn’t know when we talked about it the first few weeks of the semester I was like, “OK, this sounds cool,” but I didn’t really know exactly what we’re going to do. And so many opportunities came out from this project that it was really great to see what people thought about it and what my peers thought about it as well.
And then for my creative piece– you can go to the next slide. For my creative peace I did a painting and I hadn’t painted in a really long time. So it great to show my creativity and it wasn’t necessarily something I was used to in school, especially, being able to do art and do these things that really were able to have my input and have my say on how things would go.
So I was really proud of how it turned out and it’s currently up with a bunch of other art pieces that other students did. And I didn’t realize it until the other day but I was like, “Wow.” We really did this project and we really made people want to look deeper into it and I definitely learned a lot from this project.
It was very interesting to see the different emotions that came out of me throughout this semester. I had moments of complete happiness and then I had moments of I was really sad or I was really anxious or I had a lot of anxiety. And it was difficult at times very, very difficult but it allowed me to have the opportunity to open up.
I’m not really the most trusting person unless it’s within my family to tell people what’s going on in my life because you never know what someone’s going through behind a smile. So I think this semester I opened up to my educators and my teachers around me more than I ever have before. I didn’t open up complete as much as I wanted to, but it was a step to the right direction and to give them an understanding of what was going on.
For math 2016, I had Sarah and I definitely think that this semester was the most interesting for me when it comes to math. I really loved the way Sarah approached teaching it because I always thought of math as something extremely stressful and something that I never really particularly enjoyed like genuinely. I knew I was good at it but it wasn’t something that brought me happiness because I knew the stuff that would come to it which was like typical textbooks and assignments and tests and quizzes.
But coming into her project, we were able to build a hanging garden which is what me and my partner, Tiene made. And it was really great because I had a problem connecting math to the real world. I’m like, what am I going to actually use this when I do da da da, da da da da unless I was paying bills or dealing with taxes and numbers and stuff like that.
But it was great being able to see a different way a teacher approached math and it was great to be able to talk to her about the things that were going on. I definitely think that there were improvements that I made. And I have a fear of failing. So I don’t like getting answers wrong or I don’t like potentially messing up in front of a group of people.
So sometimes it’s a little nerve wracking talking up in front of a class or talking even with a group of people and getting the wrong answer or if it’s not the exact right answer. That’s why I find myself talking more in humanities or something that deals with a wide variety of answers or a wide variety of issues. So there’s not a one way to do something. You have a lot of different opinions and that’s something that I find myself easier to communicate with because I’m not afraid to speak my mind but I am afraid to fail and get answers wrong.
So I was trying to think of some of my student traits and this is just such a short list, I think I have a lot more to offer. But I feel like this semester really brought out a lot of different parts of me and I was able to show them throughout different things, whether it was with a project or whether it was just communicating with a classmate or communicating with a teacher. And I find myself when doing work, it can be very hard for me to not put the effort in because I’m such a stickler on myself about the grades that I get.
And although so many times the teachers here have told me “You don’t want to worry about the grades too much. We want to make sure you’re enjoying it.” But at the same time it’s really hard for me to believe because at the end of the day when you go into college what do they look at? Your grades. What you’ve done in school. They’re not going to look at how you did it but they’re going to look at what you did and what was the final result of what you did.
So it’s hard for me because I could be completely not motivated to do something or I just had such a hard time doing it but because the work was well, people never recognized stuff that was going on behind closed doors. So that’s why I really needed to this semester open up to my peers and my teachers and tell them what was going on and things that could be done to potentially make it better.
One of the things that I think I could definitely improve on is, procrastination. I procrastinate a lot when it comes to things that I’m not exactly passionate about or they’ve been difficult for me at times. It’s hard for me to have the encouragement to do it. And that’s happened multiple times with each and every class that I’ve had.
In Spanish class specifically I didn’t know whether I was going forward or backward. So I had Spanish twice this year. So I had it both semesters. And I definitely think my comprehension of it has grown a lot. I was able to understand it way more this semester than I was able to last semester.
But as far as confidence and wanting to speak out, it dwindled down this semester. And I found myself last semester talking a little bit more and maybe being a little bit more confident to speak out and say certain things. But I feel like it was my first class learning a new language and getting used to speaking a different way and the rules that go into it and I was able to practice. And I think I’ve grown a lot.
But I found myself just with every class being stressed out about that final grade. And I was the main thing that really messed up the flow of almost every semester that I’ve had because I’m just so stressed out about the grades that I’m going to get. Because I’m not the biggest like, “Oh. I love going to school.” And based on my experiences that I’ve had at school and based on what it’s caused me to have, I feel like school, especially, when I was in middle school was the start of my anxiety. And now it’s spread out to different areas and more specific things.
But it’s just hard for me to have that love and genuine love to go and wake up in the morning and be excited to go to school and see people. It was definitely difficult. And my motivation towards the end of this semester really went down but I knew I had a final goal that I wanted to reach and that is graduating early which literally all my friends and my family know, that’s like all I talk about is that I want to graduate early.
So for my goals for next year, I said I wanted to lower my anxiety level and I wanted to do more things that I love. I find myself when I reach that point of sadness or not wanting to do things, I stop doing the things that actually make me happy such as like dance or music or art. And it’s something that really does bring me joy but I get so discouraged at times that I don’t even want to do that.
And I want to change that mindset of that failure is the most horrible thing that could happen. There’s much more worse things that could go on in someone’s life. But me being a perfectionist and wanting to do great and wanting to make my family happy and make myself happy, it’s something that I’m trying to get through.
So another goal is graduate early and research colleges. I’ve already been to a college expo so I was able to see the colleges that were around and I know that I want to go to a HBCU, which is a historically black college and university. And now I like two colleges that I really love is Spelman and then Howard University.
And another goal for next year is to just laugh. Because like I said, laugh is a coping mechanism for me. So I’m able to let go of things in that time that I laugh. That’s another reason I feel like a lot of people are like, “Why do you laugh so much.” I’m like “Laughing is something that I love to do. So–”
And procrastinate less. I find myself waiting till the last minute to do a lot of things. And although sometimes teachers or students may not notice, I notice and then I’m like, “I could have done this better or if I didn’t wait this late I probably wouldn’t have been as stressed.” So it’s just something that I need to work on and realize that not you’re not always going to do the things that you love to do but you can find the best out of whatever you’re doing.
And another goal for next year is to enjoy school. I definitely did have a good first year here. I think I met a lot of great people and I built a lot of great relationships. And I was able to be myself, which was something that I was very scared of coming into high school.
There’s always that stereotype which, High Tech High is like nothing like a traditional high school. But there’s always that stereotype of cliques and drama and stuff. It made me really not want to be excited to go to high school at all. Because I hate drama because drama stresses me out even more.
I always say, “Besides my family my friends I’m like third grade drama was enough for me. I can’t handle anything higher than that.” And then I said my last goal is to be happy, be myself and be able to enjoy a life put in front of me.
So yeah, the last slide was about your goals. [INAUDIBLE] like to go to outside [INAUDIBLE].
What else would I like to do?
Because you said you want to– I’m trying to think. What else?
Well, I do want to learn three new instruments. I want to learn the guitar, the piano, and the drums. And I know a little bit of the piano, but I want to expand my horizons with music because, also, I love dance, but music is a huge reason why I love to dance. So going deeper into that, I think I would really enjoy doing something like that.
If you had one thing that High Tech High has taught you, help you grow, like, your number one thing, what would it be?
I think because High Tech High is such a nontraditional school, I think it’s taught me to not try to fit into what society says you should be. There’s a lot of different people that go here with different life experiences, and it was really cool to go here because I didn’t know what to expect when I came here.
I mainly came based on what people told me. I never came to the school myself, and all of my input was from adults, so I didn’t exactly know, like, what is a student’s life like at High Tech High? So I think coming here has also helped me expand my creativity and my schoolwork because, like I said, I didn’t really have the opportunity to do that before.
Let’s give it up for Yaya.