I’ve always taken my education, and my life in general, into my own hands, and so taking a virtual high school class seemed like the natural extension of that creed. I decided to take AP Physics C because I finished up Physics 1 and 2 last year, and I truly enjoy the subject matter that the course would teach me. But at the same time, I had ulterior motives; taking such an advanced class surely meant being surrounded by responsible, competent, and motivated peers. Yet I’ve found the opposite to be the case, and now I work in a small cohort of such students and am surrounded by a group that epitomizes the sloppy and half-hearted work-ethic that I was trying to avoid.

It seems like a recurring theme in my classes each year, with a stable and significant portion of my peers being made up of people who can’t or won’t do the work, and thus drag down the quality of the course. I don’t blame them – we do live in a world that creates immense pressure to perform at the highest levels all around no matter your own predilections – but I do feel a sting at being subjected to the effects of such broad generalizations and amalgamations.

When I brought up a similar point last year, I was still under the impression that a systemic change was possible, and that I could shed light on the reality of the situation, thus affecting some rolling change among students in Malden High School, but since then I have seen little progress. The same issues are faced again and again, and for every improvement there seems to be an equal and opposite backslide that takes away from the victory. And then it hit me; these victories and losses take place on a macroscopic scale, but each individual lives in a microscopic piece of that world. While the points that I made before are valid, they are not a good model of the situation that each of us faces in our lives.

Instead, we should focus on the immediate factors affecting us rather than the bigger picture, at least until we secure our place in the world. There are certainly people who are capable but do little to build their skill and interest in their work, and as a result they become the same as those who are incompetent. This sort of action is not the result of some larger system that is suppressing promising minds, rather, it is the manifestation of personal traits and beliefs that push us, subtly throughout our lives, towards certain categories.

For high school students, it is never too late to turn ourselves around and change the way that we function. I’m not talking about ending the occasional (or even frequent) bout of procrastination, I am talking about characteristic features of each of our personalities. It is easy to let things slide when you are attributing any trouble that you face to the inherent inadequacies of the system that you are working in, but that is merely cheating yourself out of the necessary and proper maturation that others receive.

From this it is clear that my initial impression of my physics class was incorrect; I am not surrounded by people who aren’t competent or people who are competent, I am by myself in my own bubble, and all that happens outside of me does not affect my own performance. Of course you must work with others, and that can prove to be a detriment, but even in those situations, you are the master of your own domain. So when you go to work, or go to school, or do anything else in the future, make sure that you are taking an active and leading role in your life and actions rather than being a bystander.

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