“You are a product of your environment,” said W. Clement Stone, a self-help book author. The truth in that statement is almost overwhelming when you sit back and realize how much it affects every one of us. The people, their attitudes and even the physical structure play a part in how we develop as a child, or grow as an adult. Peer pressure, conformity, and expectations – they mold us until we either bend or break.
Take school for example. The traditional learning system is set up, unintentionally, as a fight for survival. Every man for himself. If you aren’t part of a clique, preferably a popular one, your peers regard you as a loser and you become subject to ridicule. In this setting, no one is willing to stand up for you because of consequences that could befall them. Rarely are friendships solid, concrete. I knew a girl once who got in with the popular crowd. Soon afterwards, one girl got mad at her and the entire group rejected her. She told me of how cold her school suddenly felt. The blue lockers were barriers; the closed wooden classroom doors meant “stay out.” It’s a dog eat dog world where no one is willing help you. They are their own sun and moon and no one else is worthy.
I believe that their atmosphere is the cause of these problems. There isn’t a partitioned area where a mixture of students can become self-proclaimed family, despite everything else. Unlike a family, cliques will disregard you without second thought. Family is blood; they will never leave you. As Virginia Satir, author and psychotherapist, put it, good qualities are formed when people are placed “in an atmosphere where individual differences are appreciated, mistakes are tolerated, communication is open and rules are flexible – the kind of atmosphere that is found in a nurturing family.” If students are placed in a school that has this as its focus, they will become people that can change society for the better. They will learn to stick up for one another whether it’s a stranger or a friend.
After attending both the traditional school system and my school, a nurturing environment, I see how I have personally changed. Influenced by the loyalty of the teachers, I became a more loyal citizen and friend. In band class, a student unfamiliar to me was picked on constantly. As hard as he tried, his chubby little fingers never seemed to find the valves in time. I’ve never seen a redder face as he practiced and practiced, but to no avail. He played off key, with the wrong rhythm and wrong timing – but he was trying with all his might, trying to be as good as everyone else. And every day, there I was, suggesting that the first trumpets teach him how to play it right. Although there was nothing I could personally do to help him improve, since we play different instruments, I did my best to help him feel more comfortable and raise his self-esteem.
The only reason I can encourage someone else is because I was produced from that type of school environment. A traditional school day, with different classes and over 1,000 kids, produces an empty feeling inside. However, since I am forced to interact with the same 100 plus students’ everyday, I’ve gained the alliances of some unlikely people. Not only am I able to stand up for others without a problem, but I’m also able to speak freer to those I don’t know very well. I know that when I leave Crosswinds to go to high school, it will be a different community with different expectations. It will force me to change a little, to be as they are; though I will always keep the things I’ve learned from this Crosswinds community – my self-proclaimed family.
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