Four Rules for Surviving High School

High school can be a harrowing experience for all of us, whether we remember it that way or not. It's especially so for those of you in eighth grade, who are on the brink of the daunting ascension from middle to high school. You may think it will be terrible—and you're right. But you, too, can pass through it with only a few scars, as so many before you have done. To help you achieve that goal, I've contrived these four comprehensive guidelines, which will bring you up through this four-year tunnel with an advantage over your peers.

1. Sit down, Shut up. This is an essential rule, for it applies to most every situation. Without it, surely you will make a fool of yourself right off the bat and become a scapegoat for the duration of the next year or more. You may even hear a teacher disclose to you this rule of rules (probably indicating that you are not following it correctly). In class?—sit down, shut up. At lunch?—sit down, shut up. On the bus?—ditto. This is a preemptive strike against all sorts of spectacularly unintelligent moments you are bound to have otherwise, especially as a freshman. A wise man once said that it is better to be silent and have people think you're a fool than to open your mouth and prove them right.

2. Sit in front. This is a classroom-only rule, but a great help to most of you who don't like to be called on in class. You may be thinking how silly it is to suppose that sitting next to or in front of the teacher would prevent this from happening, but let me explain. Teachers are old. They have exquisitely deteriorated peripheral vision and, looking out over the class atop their high stools, they see far and straight. Straight to the person sitting in the back, that is. A teacher's peripheral vision extends outward in a funnel-like fashion, leaving the corners nearest to him or her for all practical purposes invisible, especially toward the less dominant side. Sitting downstage left will exponentially minimize your chances of being called on, so while the other kids fight over back seats, just smirk to yourself and sneak unnoticed into the blind spots, where you will remain—unnoticed.

3. They don't know what they're talking about. This is another universal rule, and absolutely vital if you plan to keep your sanity. In high school you will take criticism in many forms from many different sources, including but not limited to: your teachers, other people's teachers, that obnoxious group of girls the next table over, the class clown (unless that's you, in which case refer to Rule One), and your very own friends. You will be chided by peers on what you wear, what you listen to, who you do or don't date; teachers will admonish your bad handwriting and lack of effort put into your work. The answer to all these problems is simple—they don't know what they're talking about. Your friend's clothes went out of style thirty years ago and your teacher wouldn't know talent if she had any. Just maintain the idea that you'll be the only one to judge yourself and you will do so by your own standards, while laughing in the very face of adversity. But don't get too bull-headed; good advice is hard to come by and should be heeded when it is, and remember—you don't know what you're talking about either.

4. Don't be a pushover. This is my final rule because it's the one that should be remembered above all. If you're a pushover, then people can convince you without much effort to do anything you do or don't want to do, including break the other three rules I've already laid out in excruciating detail for you. Gasp!—we wouldn't want that. Remember that, although you are subordinate to upper classmen and should act accordingly, you are a person too. Among your peers especially, stand up for yourself when you feel it necessary, and make your intentions clear. Don't let teachers cheat you, either, as some might try. Assess who it is doing to or asking what of you, and use your brain from there. I know it's hard to put those underused tissues to work, but you have to try. Just don't let me and my words of advice be your first exercise in standing up for yourself, for rejecting the help of a wise and well-meaning person is just as harmful as accepting the bad advice or harassment of an ill-meaning one.

Now, stop and reflect. Whether you realize it or not just yet, you've learned here a great deal of helpful tips about surviving high school—and the rest of life, for that matter. Take it to heart, for these nuggets of wisdom are tried and true, tested for quality over the last four years of my life. So if you have any objections, just sit down and shut up, because you don't know what you're talking about anyway.

Author's Notes: I wrote this for creative writing, and I think it's one of the best things I've written in a while. The assignment was to write your own four rules for surviving high school, based on an essay written by Roger Rosenblatt on rules for aging. This piece is aimed for an eighth-grade audience. I find it quite humorous, myself; whether or not you did is up to you, I suppose, but it'sa 10 in my book! :) Please do let me know what you thought of it, I hope you enjoyed; and thank you so much for reading! MJ