Trying It On

When I was fifteen years old, I went through a goth phase. It lasted about a week and consisted of an all-black wardrobe, painted nails, and purple lipstick. I showed up at Alpine Valley School, when I was still a student, one day wearing this ensemble and expected a big reaction from my peers. What I got instead was, "Hey, I like your makeup" and "Cool boots". No one seemed particularly shocked or offended by my choice. I was free to explore this way of being myself, see if it fit (which it didn't) and let it go. Being a goth was not a permanent part of my identity and when I went back to wearing jeans and funny t-shirts no one seemed to care one way or another. It was a freeing experience for me, being able to try on different arguments, philosophical ideas, and styles without being judged or pigeonholed as a result. 

Teenagers are well known for their tendency to be provocative. More days than not I'll be sitting in the Office at school when a student will poke their head in the door and say something random. I don't even stop working when that happens anymore, just nod my head and continue with my day. The student in question typically laughs and moves on as well. They're testing the waters, just as I did when I was a teenager, and seeing what kind of response they get. 

In a previous post I talked about the walls of the pool and the safety that students experience knowing that they can only take their reckless behavior so far. This dynamic between freedom and safety extends to their identity as well: their style of dress, activities they choose to undertake, what they say, and so forth. Students at Alpine Valley School can pursue their interests, however fleeting, and give up at any point without issue. Trying things on with no commitment is an essential part of finding ourselves, something most of us reserved for our freshman year of College. When something feels right to the student they can keep it, and throw out everything that's not working for them. 

However, just because there are no commitments at our school does not mean that students can escape the consequences of their actions. In fact, just the opposite. If a student goes through the effort of starting a dance class (for example) only to find that hip-hop isn't his thing, he isn't off the hook. He still bears responsibility for cancelling the class, handling any termination fees that may apply, and so forth. Staff Members are here to help, if asked, but ultimately the responsibility for handling their commitments lands squarely on the student's shoulders. And these experiences, just like everything else, are an opportunity for learning and growth. 

I appreciated being able to try playing guitar, choreographing action sequences for a movie, working as an assistant in a magic show, and many other activities that I undertook as a student at Alpine Valley School. Even if, like my goth phase, the particular pastime didn't stick, I came away from each experience a more well-rounded interesting person with at least one more cool story to tell. And I didn't even have to wait until my twenties. 

Interested in learning more about the education revolution happening at Alpine Valley School? Consider coming by our campus for a tour! You can schedule a tour at your convenience with our new online tool. 

Marc Gallivan