Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on the blog of BHS senior Chandler Joyce.
…Or at least it was four years ago
As my high school career is coming to an end, I’ve done a lot of reflecting on grades, sports, friends, and all of my experiences. Over the past four years I’ve had my ups and downs, but through those, I’ve learned a lot. There aren’t a lot of things that I think back on and wish I could change or redo, but one thing would be the ways I used my iPad in school. iPads can make or break a student. Many critics say that using technology in school, specifically iPads, are a huge distraction to students in school. This, however, is not true. It’s not the iPads that are distracting the students from their school work, it’s the students that are distracting themselves with their iPads. It’s like saying that guns kill people; guns don’t pull their own triggers, people do. The way that students decide to use their electronic devices in school determines how their grades are impacted. Take it from me: a senior in high school who could have been top of her class had she not distracted herself with an iPad throughout high school.
What’s cooler than going into your freshman year of high school with a new iPad? At the time, there really wasn’t anything. I had been warned by older peers that iPads could be distracting and to not download games because all I’d do is play them during class. Of course, being a know-it-all, I ignored them. I had gotten straight A’s in middle school, so high school wouldn’t be any different, right? Wrong. freshman year is definitely the most confusing year of anyone’s life. A new school, new classes, new people, new sports, and now on top of that, a new device. I thought it was all great, until my test grades started coming back. I went from an A+ student to a C+ student in the span of 6 months. Granted, I was in way over my head with all of the honors classes I was taking, but it wasn’t anything at the time that I couldn’t handle. The first few months of ninth grade were a struggle for everyone, but after the first quarter, everyone seemed to buckle down. That was my problem: I couldn’t buckle down. There were times where I would attempt to pay attention by leaving my iPad in my backpack, but as soon as I realized I didn’t have a clue what was going on, I would get bored and grab my iPad out of my bag. It was my escape from the frustration of not understanding anything my teachers were saying. Although I’m making it sound like I failed every class my freshman year, I didn’t. I was able to get myself together in a few of my easier classes, but the rest were pretty hopeless. After a year of horrible grades and a sinking self-esteem, I decided I needed to make some changes.
You know how they say you can only go up after you’ve hit rock bottom? Well, I’d have to agree with that. This year, there were no more excuses for me. I addressed my distraction by deleting all of my non-school apps and disabling my iMessage. By ridding myself of possible distractions, I felt much more prepared for the school year. There was a significant improvement in my grades. I’m not one to brag, but my grades were so outstanding that my GPA went up by a significant amount and my report cards filled my parent’s eyes with tears of joy. Not only did my grades boost, but my confidence did too. I received two awards that year: the coach’s award for my junior varsity volleyball team, and the “Miss Synergy Award” from my dance studio which is an award given out to the dancer who is in excellent academic standings, involved in extracurricular activities other than dance, and is an asset to their community through organizations and charity work.
Getting good grades was something I identified myself by and helped me thrive. Obviously my grades were not perfect, but they were remarkably better than they had been the year before. Because I was doing so well in my classes, my teachers all recommended that I take higher level classes my junior year, which I did. I figured that because I had such great teachers sophomore year that the issue really wasn’t me, it was the teachers I had Freshman year (mind you, this was my sophomoric mentality and philosophy at the time). Therefore, I decided I could handle having apps like Twitter and Instagram on my iPad during the school year, and began my junior year.
I had been warned that junior year is the hardest year in high school, but I thought that was only academically speaking. If I had to pick a least favorite year of high school, it would be junior year without a doubt. Everything that could have gone wrong that year did go wrong. One thing happened after another and I couldn’t catch a break. I crawled back into my hole that I had created freshman year. I was having troubles with sports, friends, and family.
One of the toughest things I endured was my Papa being diagnosed with cancer, again. Although we had been through this before because the previous year he had fought esophageal cancer and won, this time it was terminal. The short time frame he had left gave me high anxiety because I was so nervous that something would happen while I was at school, dance, volleyball, etc. I was constantly checking my phone and getting updates from family members to make sure that he was still okay. I was even close to backing out of my exchange trip to Spain because I didn’t want to miss anything. My papa ended up passing away early January, so I took some time off of school to help make arrangements. When I got back to school, I was very lost. My teachers had tried to help by sending notes, but to me it was like reading hieroglyphics. I tried to hide my confusion by sitting on my iPad and pretending I was fully engaged in class, but that didn’t help me at all.
Just when I finally had caught up, I was on an airplane going to Spain. I was in Spain for two weeks on an exchange trip through school. I had gone around to collect work from my teachers before I left, but they all told me to just keep up with the work they posted online during the time I was there. That would have been great, had I had wifi most of the time. The times that I had wifi I was going to bed or on the phone with family and friends. When I got home, I had three days to get all of my work done. Obviously I got it done, but I didn’t understand any of it. I either got help from friends or googled the answers. I dug myself into a hole so deep that there was no way of getting out. It actually felt like I was drowning in work. My problem was that I sat in class, not knowing what was going on, so I didn’t pay attention and it got even worse. I hid behind an iPad screen every single day in hopes that one day I would magically understand everything my teachers were saying and get straight A’s. I finished junior year with mediocre grades and lots of frustration. I finally opened up to my mom and told her that I wanted to be tested for ADHD.
At the beginning of senior year, I went to a neurologist at Boston Children’s Hospital in Lexington who specializes in ADHD. After a few tests and lots of questions, she diagnosed me with Inattentive Type ADHD. This made perfect sense, seeing as some of the major symptoms are “easily distracted” and “troubles keeping on task and paying attention”. I told her about my iPad misuses over the years and she agreed that iPads are very distracting, but particularly for me with this condition. I was put on medications, deleted all games off of my iPads, and solved all of my problems.
I’m now in my fourth quarter of senior year, and have made honor roll all three quarters so far. My grades are the highest they’ve ever been, and I’ve been accepted to all six schools I’ve applied to. I was also recently accepted into the Honors Program and Salve Regina University, which is where I’ll be attending school in the Fall. Now, just because I went through high school undiagnosed doesn’t mean that’s the reason I struggled in school, I struggled because I distracted myself with resources that were meant to help me succeed.
With age and maturity, I have learned how to use iPads for educational purposes and it has reflected through my success this past year. My advice to all Burlington High School students, current and incoming:
iPads are given to you for one reason, and that is to excel your learning. You are allowed to use them to your advantage or disadvantage, but that’s up to you. Poor grades are a result of your work ethic, not anybody else’s. If you use iPads the way they are intended to be used, I can guarantee you will exceed your potential at BHS.
And to all of the parents concerned over the use of iPads at BHS:
The only thing you have to be concerned about is how your child utilizes their new tool. Although they are free to download games and social media apps, encourage them not to. Like I said before, it’s not the iPad that’s distracting the student, it’s the student that is distracting the student.