Community Projects:
Bridges Contest Entry

The Alien Experience: Moving to a New Environment
by Gabrielle Arrington,
sixth grade

An alien lands in a strange environment. As it trails the moondust hallways, everyone stares at the strange being. It feels like disappearing. Others are in awe of the alien, because it is different. There were numerous times that I felt like an alien on earth. I felt out of place--the wrong piece of a puzzle. Everyone thought of me as the "smart girl", "Miss Perfect." It isn't easy being an intellectual student. People have a different standard of how I am supposed to act, just because I use good grammar. They expect me to have a spotless remand to be perfect at everything. The truth is, I'm not. Kids don't realize that I am still just a pre-teen--much like them! I have feelings.

My first experiences in public school were stressful. Risqué girls would say such things as, "did you come from England?" or "why you talk so proper?" I was applauded by teachers, but wasn't so embraced by moo peers. That was fourth grade, when I first came to elementary school. The story is basically the same in middle school. Just because I say my grace and place a napkin on my lap at lunch, I'm labeled "weird." My parents keep saying to me that I was placed in this environment to get a "well rounded education." My dad has 'street smarts;, and my mom stresses high achievement. Dad wants me to understand how to relate to all types of people. Mom wants me to have a higher education.

Even though it seems I am the only one who feels out of place, I know that others do too. There are many differences all around us. Some are as small as the things we enjoy doing, while larger differences such as race, cultures, and disabilities are more pronounced. In private school, I was exposed to a variety of cultures. I had a diverse group of friends that came from many countries. Many of the teacher were Hispanic. The activities that I participate in include kids from varied backgrounds. Differences are definitely present, but not singled out. Because of my experiences with a diverse group of people, I'm more sensitive towards people. Being the newest person and adjusting to anew environment isn't always a smooth transition.

In elementary school, my 4th and 5th grade teacher (I had the same one both years) made my transition to public school easier. I WA welcomed with open arms, and greeted with gentle kindness. Her encouragement and positive perspective gave me the courage and motivation to strive for the best. Most of my life, I went to private school. I attended two private schools before 4th grade. Both types of schools helped me. The comparisons and contrasts between public and private education are many, however, the goal is the same--to educate children. Private school gave me a strong foundation, taught me obedience and good etiquette. The younger kids learned how to set the table, take responsibility for their learning, and appreciate classical music. Public education gives me more worldly exposure. Through experience, I learn how to confront different types of situations.

One of the hotly debated issues in the recent presidential election and in government today is whether a private school education is superior to a public school education. I disagree that private schools are better. Mom says that she "believes in public education" but wants the absolute best for her children. I think that if we learn to stop criticizing, we can focus on making both types of schools better. We must remember the first purpose of education, which is to educate, in all aspects, the kids. If we become less judgmental and more accepting, then maybe kids like me can feel more comfortable in public school.



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