The Dropout Report: A new path 2
Street School student Matt Noyes describes why this unique high school alternative program made the difference for his academic success.
“Sometimes you eat the bar, and other times the bar’ll eat you.” — the Stranger from “The Big Lebowski”
The differences between Street School and regular school are near innumerable, with the most obvious being this: Regular schools suck, and Street School doesn’t. If I had gone to a different high school than Street School, I probably would’ve dropped out.
At Street School, there are only two classes per day, which allows for exponentially better focus on just one subject at a time. I really don’t think most kids can handle seven 50-minute classes five days a week for nine months out of the year, plus an extra hour or two to spend with Mr. Homework every night. I know I couldn’t handle it. I almost had a chance to attend TSAS (Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences), but I don’t think I would’ve liked it. I don’t think I liked school anymore at all, period.
In my school days prior to Street School, I felt like Elijah Wood in that movie “The Faculty.” It felt like an impossibly small group of people and I, a complete misfit, were facing tremendous adversaries, except for the fact that it was me alone Toward the end of my hellish three-year stint at my former school, which included two trips through the eighth grade, I knew something different had to come my way or my academic career was headed for the Twilight Zone.
At my former school, they gave you enough homework to crush a grizzly bear, the teachers seemed about as friendly as a raging bull and every other kid appeared to fit right in. Most had no reservations about letting me know that, either. My brother was attending Street School, and he did pretty well there; he made A’s despite his dwindling attendance record, and there were only two classes a day! Compared to the seven-period nightmare at every other school in America, this sounded like easy street (school, that is).
The first time I set foot inside Street School, I saw a giant mural of the Millennium Falcon being pursued by Imperial interceptors and, further back in the picture, Darth Vader himself in his custom Tie fighter. In other schools, nothing but dull green paint was on the walls. So, off the bat, I could tell this school was different. The administrator addressed me as “Matt,” and not in that condescending tone I’d grown so used to. Before I knew it, I was discussing Iron Butterfly with my future counselor. What a dramatic twist of fate! I decided I liked it at Street School the first time I was ever there. That was, if I remember correctly, on one of my last days at my previous school, the closing of an era that would leave me with but one tool in life: my passion for music.
I played cello at my former school and made fifth chair one year in the All-City orchestra. I suppose that made me happy for a time, but my musical tastes were changing and were headed for a direction high school orchestra was not. I was getting to be pretty decent at guitar and at listening to classic rock. The need to rock overtook the need to be respectable, I guess. Street School understood that. I honed my craft further on my own time. My skill at guitar improved exponentially and I got faster and faster. I learned “Phantom of the Opera” in two days this summer. Once I was comfortable with my new environment, the person I am today emerged.
See, nine years of regular school couldn’t even teach me what I liked to do for fun. But with just under four years at Street School, I know now what I want to do with my life, and what I want wasn’t on a single one of those career outlook papers they handed me in the past. Back then, I had literally no ambition other than getting home so I could sleep off depression. Now, I have a myriad of ideas for books, movies, video games; I’ve written enough songs for a double album; and my musical tastes have expanded from Iron Maiden to Iron and Wine, from Wolf Parade to Wolfmother, from Montrose to Modest Mouse and from Pavement to Pantera. None of that would have happened if I’d continued at my last school.
Teachers at Street School work at getting to know you on a personal basis seen more commonly in a family environment. We call them by their first names and vice-versa. This coupled with our ever-flexible schedule lets us learn at the necessary pace. If I’d continued somewhere else, I’d be just another depressed wreck. There is no doubt in my mind. What made the difference, for me, was not being pushed for seven hours a day for four more years, and not having to do homework ever again. I could never finish a single assignment when I was 14. Most everything I hated in life was at school, and when everything you hate in life comes home with you, a problem is afoot. Home is reserved for joy, not the Pythagorean Theorem.
It’s true that the little things in life count, and Street School gave me proof of that. They sweat the small stuff to make sure everyone’s happy.
If I were to put it as simply as possible, I would say this: At my last school, I was a scribbled blob, but at Street School, I’m a Rembrandt masterpiece.