Mikael, High School Student, CA

A good life is if you have a lot of friends and there’s a lot of things to do around and that’s why I don’t like Palo Alto that much because there’s not much to do during the weekend or anything really.  And then doing well at school if you’re our age or if you have a good job.  

Mikael is a student at Palo Alto High School (Paly). He was interviewed by his peer and one of our student Catalysts--Avery--for the RE-ENVISIONED collective visioning project at Paly in Spring 2017. Check out other #SchoolSpotlight interviews for Paly by searching for #PeopleofPaly in our search bar.




Tell me a little about yourself.

So I’m Mikael and I’m from Los Angeles and last year I lived in Singapore so I’ve moved around a lot and I’m new to Paly now.  


How would your friends describe you?

My friends would describe me as smart and… I don’t know.

Alright, how do you think your family would describe you?

My mom always says that I’m a quick learner, I guess, and I adapt well to situations.  


So how would you describe yourself as a student?

I don’t study a lot but I pay attention in class most of the time and get it quickly so that’s why I don’t really need to study that much, but I do well in my classes.


So what have your first impressions of Paly and PAUSD been so far?  You’ve only been here for a few months, but what have they been?

So I’ve been to 3 different high schools and personally I think that Paly is not very great, like, compared to the other ones.  It’s because I think a lot of the students here don’t try to talk to people when they come in so you already have to know people kind of to make friends, and I had the chance of knowing people from before but it’s hard to make a strong connection with the people here.


You already talked about this a little bit but what is your first impressions of the students here, like their work ethic in the context of their school work?

I think people here work hard but... well, I think people here work hard and a lot of people I’m good friends with have good grades here.  


That’s true. Ok, so I have 3 questions I’m supposed to ask you and they’re a little bit broader than what I’ve been asking you so far, but what, in your opinion, makes a good life?

A good life is if you have a lot of friends and there’s a lot of things to do around.  That’s why I don’t like Palo Alto that much because there’s not much to do during the weekend or anything really.  And then doing well at school if you’re our age or if you have a good job I guess too.  


And what role do you think education plays in having a good life?

I think it plays a big role because it gets you used to working and getting things on time and teaches people how to manage their time.


So how do you think school should support getting a good life?

I think that schools can, I mean I feel like the teachers here should teach more personally instead of, and make sure that you understand well and do well in their classes instead of just giving really hard tests and not really explaining well in class.  


Have you seen that across all of the teachers you’ve had at Paly or has it varied a little bit - because I’ve also had that experience.

I think that there are some teachers that are really good at teaching and so most of the kids will understand and we do well on their tests but there’s other teachers that kind of explain vaguely and then give really hard tests that we weren’t expecting some of the things on it so a lot of people do not very well on them.


So do you think people, like parents, people in the community, and teachers, would agree with you about what you said about PAUSD?

Yeah, I think so.


Ok. So, in an ideal world, what would you like school to do to help you get a good life?

I think school should just be where we go everyday and it shouldn’t be looked down upon because in my other two schools I enjoyed going to school but in this school when I come to school I kind of get bored a lot in the classes so having interesting teachers would be fine.


What would you think your parents would say about this, what do you think their opinion on PAUSD is?  And would it be similar or different to what you’ve said so far?  

I think it’s kind of the same in a lot of ways.  A lot of people from other places think that Paly is the greatest school and stuff because it’s Palo Alto.  When you’re at the school you don’t really feel like it’s that great.  

Something that I’ve noticed is that the people who do the best are the ones who don’t sleep but they still are able to pull of these crazy activities and do well in school.  But it’s really rare to actually be able to do that.  


So do you think Paly, if you keep going there, will do that for you?

I think that it’s more on myself to do well at Paly because compared to the other schools I’ve been to, at Paly kind of the counselors and stuff, the people aren’t really trying to help you as much as the other schools.  So, for example, I’m going on a two-month program right now and I had to get a lot of stuff done before I leave and the counselors and stuff weren’t really being helpful and it was all up to me to go talk to everyone.



Ok so going back to what you talked about, do you think your experience is like other students' or do you think Paly works better for some certain kinds of people that learn in a certain way or different kinds of students, based on how hard they work? 

So I think Paly is probably easier if you’ve been here for a long time because in terms of making friends I guess because even people here who have been friends for a long time aren’t really that connected to each other compared to other places.  A lot of people try to go behind people’s back and stuff like that so being new is also kind of harder in that sense.  But for me, I just adapted to moving and stuff.


What do you think the ideal student at Paly is based on how the teachers teach?   What kind of students do the best at Paly?

I think people here who need to study a lot because we don’t get as much out of class because it’s one and a half hour classes so we end up getting bored and then we have to learn a lot at home.  So the people who study a lot probably do the best. Who have the time to study also.

So what classes are you taking this year?

I’m taking AP Psych, AP Environmental Science, AP French, Pre Calc, and I took Reading Between the Lines last semester.


Who has been your favorite teacher?

In terms of teaching, I think my favorite teacher to listen to is Mr. Farina because he is a pretty good lecturer so I understood a lot of what he was saying and I was interested.  I also really like Mr. Bark.


Why do you think we have schools as a society?

I think we have schools to get everyone educated because if we didn’t make school mandatory then a lot of people would not really go to school--either if they’re really rich and feel like they don’t need to or even if they were on the other side and needed to work instead. So, people wouldn’t get educated so it’s really important to have that.  


Can you think of a time when you learned something at school and wanted to learn more outside of the classroom at Paly?

Probably the only class I’ve had that with was AP Psych.  I kind of like learning about how the brain works.

Do you think it’s because of the material or how AP Psych is taught differently?

Both, because the material is really interesting and also I like the way that class is taught...In AP Psych we do a lot of experimenting and things like that and not too much homework I guess, we have to read, but a lot of what we do in class involves us, and I like the way the two teachers teach.