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What I didn't learn at Todd Beamer High School | Letters
In the Federal Way School District high school seniors are required to submit a "13th year plan/culminating portfolio" to graduate. It is basically a bunch of old assignments thrown together and shown to a student's advisor. I honestly do not know we, the students, have to do it or what good it is supposed to do for us besides waste our time.
One requirement in the 13th year plan is a cover letter addressing the reader. Below, I have pasted a copy of mine severely criticizing the Federal Way Public School district as well as many administrators at my high school, Todd Beamer. It is about to get ugly and very real.
To Whom it May Concern:
Inside of these three inches of plastic and paper is supposed to be a reflection of my time in the Federal Way School District. Hate to break it to you though; it is not reflecting even a small percentage of the hard work and effort I have put towards my education and the level of learning I have attained these past four years. Just to clarify, the education I am talking about did not happen at Todd Beamer High School. You see, my education started the moment I stepped outside the walls of this god-forsaken institution and decided to choose my own fate, not dilly-dally on a plan set by people who do not care about me, rather care about the statistic I represent when it comes to graduating. Yes, FWPS and TBHS administrators, I am directing this towards you. I am not a product of TBHS, rather I am a product of the fantastic people I have met along the way in public school, my family, friends, and educators, and their encouragement for me to reach dreams far higher than the "mediocre is A-Okay!" bar set in the Federal Way high schools. In the hopes that one day more high schools will be filled up with fantastic educators, I have provided some examples of TBHS staff who taught me that learning is more important than just regurgitating out answers on a test and have gone above and beyond in their duties: Mia Gross, Gregg Phillips, Glenda Blankenship, Aaron Bellessa, and my lovely advisor for the past two years, Lisa House. They will never know just how much they are appreciated in my life. As my sister put it two years previously in her portfolio cover letter, this portfolio is a miserable waste of time. But for the sake of my diploma and because Ms. House does not deserve to have a missing portfolio, I will sadly and very honestly continue.
As mentioned before, the content inside this portfolio is very easy to fake. I have simply grabbed random "best pieces of work" that I think "accurately represent" my education. I mean, I grabbed a handful of the only papers I have left that were not bent or stained or destroyed and shoved them in this binder haphazardly. I could have taken a different approach to this letter and said what great things TBHS has done for me, but I would be pretending. I would also be lying. I could pretend I had an absolute grand time in my studies, but if you knew me at all, you would know I do not pretend, nor do I lie. I cannot remember how to graph a quadratic function, barely remember how to decipher miscellaneous SAT words from ninth grade English, and cannot recall from AP World History when the French Revolution started. However, I know that there are no islands in the Puget Sound, that the Columbia River flows from the ocean into the Cascades, and that Mexico is actually spelled Mejico thanks to my questionable History of the Pacific Northwest teacher who will remain nameless. If you have not read enough complaints about her by now to know exactly who I am talking about, perhaps you have not done your job as well as you like to believe, and then perhaps I was right in my accusations that the TBHS and FWPS administrators simply care about numbers and not my education.
Actually, I know TBHS and FWPS administrators only care about numbers. Whether it is their budget, keeping their teachers happy with tenure, or trying to squash the Running Start program simply because the amount of students who choose to do it reflects poorly on the school and they do not receive funds for those students who choose to leave. Maybe it is really the TBHS and FWPS administrators who reflect poorly on this school instead of the Running Start kids who chose not to dilly-dally in the smelly halls of high school waiting for years to pass by as their brains get numbed with standards and beyond terrible grading systems. In my eighteen years, I have never experienced an institution that has administrators as selfish as those at TBHS or working as a FWPS district official.
Whoever is reading this should be very glad I got out of the halls of TBHS rather unscathed. If had not chosen to do Running Start at Highline Community College like so many fellow peers that I have surpassed in both educational attainment as well as achievement, I shudder to think of the lack of dedication I would have as I roll into the homestretch of my high school career and even beyond. Although sometimes I wish I had stayed at Beamer because you do not have to work hard, do not have to show up for class, can get suspended for 20 days, walk across the stage in the Tacoma Dome, and then return to school the next week to furiously scribble a few assignments so TBHS does not have to deal with you another year. A whole four years of schooling done in a few days? Sounds like heaven to me.
So thank you Federal Way School district for making a mockery of my education by assuming everything I have learned and done will be represented in this binder that will be recycled days after I graduate. Or as my sister stated so eloquently two years ago, it [my thirteenth year plan] trivializes a student's worth and encapsulates four years into 50 or so pieces of recycled tree bark. This portfolio does not reflect how great of a time I had at TBHS, how much I truly learned and achieved, or the lifelong friendships I have made over 18 years. It simply reflects the time I wasted at TBHS doodling on the margins of college-ruled paper and listening to many educators who should take a trip back to school themselves.
I bid adieu to you, TBHS. Once graduation comes, I can wipe my hands of the filth I call the Federal Way School District one final time.
Miah Pavlich-Wheeler, Federal Way