Walking on the border of average: Senior reflects on her experience in advanced classes


  It’s finally here. Graduation is finally here. It seems as if every single moment has been leading up to this one event. All throughout high school and middle school I have been preparing my resume and stacking it with AP classes to impress colleges. When I sit in my AP classes and I think back to ‘How did I get here? How did I get to this college level course?’ I think back to my end of year fifth grade parent teacher conference when my teacher asked my mom if she had any questions. 

  My mom asked “Could she be put in an advanced language arts class?” As a fifth grader, I had never heard a more confounding question. I was always in average classes. 

I vividly remember in my regular level language arts class while all the rest of my friends left the room and went down the hall to enrichment. Because they were enriched in language arts, so in my head I labeled them as “smart” kids, and I was average. I never had a problem with being in average classes, the only reason I was upset I wasn’t in enrichment was because I was split off from my friends. 

  Flash forward to the first day of middle school, I walked into my Advanced Language Arts, or what we used to call it, ALA (because it was easier to say and it sounded cooler). I walked in and saw a room full of boys I had never met before. There were very few girls in the class and some of them were my friends from elementary school. I was glad to be in a class with my friends, but I felt like I was not supposed to be there.

  Everyday I would go to ALA, sit there with my leg nervously shaking up and down, sweating profusely, as I watched the minute hand go around the clock minute after minute. Even though I knew the answers, I rarely ever raised my hand because I wasn’t good enough. Most of the kids in my ALA class were in all accelerated courses, for example, math. I’ve never been very good at math, so I have always been in the average math course. There was usually only one other kid in my ALA class who was like me. 

  Being in both advanced courses and average courses, I never knew who to identify with. Was I one of the so-called ‘smart kids?’ I couldn’t be, I was in average courses. People always assumed I was smart because I was in an advanced class, but in that class I had always felt like an imposter. 

  The teachers in my advanced classes always treated us like we were geniuses. They told us we were smart because we were in ‘smart’ classes. In my average classes, of course, the students did not get this same treatment. Because of this I always felt like I was in the middle. I never knew who to identify with. 

  That all changed when I got to high school. A lot of my super smart friends started taking regular courses to balance their schedule instead of taking all honors courses. In high school everyone started to have a choice in their classes. When course registration came around each year the teachers would show us all the possible courses we could take. The honors or AP option was always available for the students who wanted to challenge themselves. It didn’t matter who you were, if you wanted to take an AP course and your teacher thought it would be a good challenge for you, then you could take it. We were no longer assigned to classes, and I stopped questioning if I belonged. 

  Flash forward to course registration for my senior year, I was unsure of which English class to take. Everyone told me to not take AP Lit “if you aren’t up for the challenge.” I was hesitant to sign up for it at first, but I remembered how much I loved reading and writing. When I told my peers that I was planning on taking AP Lit, their eyes practically bulged out of their head. They told me I was brave because AP Lit is the most rigorous English class that our school has to offer. However, I knew myself and I knew English was my strength.

   When I walked into my AP Lit class on the first day of school none of those kids who were in my sixth grade language arts class were there. My leg wasn’t shaking. I wasn’t scared to share my thoughts with the class. All the anxiety I felt in my very first advanced English class had disappeared. I had realized that English was something that I enjoyed and because of that I belonged in that room.