Xander, High School Student, CA

"I also think that the standards here are a lot higher than other places, which in some ways pushes people to perform better, but it only goes up to a certain extent until the difficulty and challenge becomes miserable, so finding that balance is a key to achieving, and being successful."

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

What are your hopes for your life?  What would make a “good” successful life?  

One thing that is true for most Americans is to be happy, but that means different things for different people. Personally, I think having a nice family would be a nice goal. Not that I want to be rich, but not having to worry about money, and having a job that I would like to do, and doing it with people that I like, that’s the goal. Having a good time, and not stressing out too much. Relaxed is not the right word, it implies that you are not actively doing things. I think it is more about actively doing things you like to do, so it does not seem like work.

Is there anything you worry about getting in the way of achieving a good life?  Anything that keeps you up at night?  

Yeah, it would not be life if there weren’t some problems. I think that expectations are an issue, because you can really want something and expect to get it, but if you don’t get it, it is disappointing and would distract you from what your ultimate goals are. Getting caught up on the minor details, and not seeing the big picture can stop us from achieving success in life.

Ideally, what role do you think schooling, high school or specifically PALY, should play in achieving that ideal good life?

Well, back to the not worrying about money, education in a general is a good stepping-stone to getting a good job.

"I think Paly, for me, out of all of the schools, and what I know personally, is a very good school, and we have opportunities that others don’t have, and I think it’s one more benefit to us - to help us get to where we want to be in life."

It is definitely beneficial that we have a good school with a lot of opportunities so we can achieve what we want to achieve. I also think that the standards here are a lot higher than other places, which in some ways pushes people to perform better, but it only goes up to a certain extent until the difficulty and challenge becomes miserable, so finding that balance is a key to achieving, and being successful.

Do you think school, or more specifically PALY,  plays the role it should for you?

In terms of education, I think that Paly will definitely get me there, if you compare Paly to other high schools, then yeah it’ll get me where I wanna go. But in terms life goals, it is up to you and what you want, but I do appreciate the fact that Paly has so much flexibility, like a lot of electives help you pursue your own interests, instead of being forced into things you don’t want to do.

Do you think people (your friends, parents, teachers)  agree with you on each of those levels?     

I think there’s definitely gonna be some level of variation, but overall I think that they would agree with me, I think that a lot of who you are is defined from your family and especially your friends that you spend a lot of time with, because as you talk to them and spend time with them, you can share your ideas a lot better. You’ll eventually find similarities. They can influence your outlook on life, and I think that definitely makes it so that their answers would be the same as yours.

What have been some of your most empowering educational experiences? This doesn’t have to be in school - it can be something you have done outside of school.  

For me, especially this year, something I learned by talking with my friends, was that I chose classes I primarily liked, while some of my friends took very hard schedules. Half way through the year, or even at the very beginning, they were not enjoying school, and staying up way too late. I think that finding the balance between challenge and enjoying school is very important.

Tell me about your favorite teacher? Why are they your favorite?

My favorite teacher ever would have to be Ms. Sano, she was my 6th grade teacher. 6th grade is a big transition year, where you make a lot of close friends, and it was core-oriented, so you stayed around the same people. She was an amazing teacher, we played a bunch of great games, and we learned a lot. I had her again in 8th grade, which was more of a learning year, and again, she was fabulous, super friendly, and easy to talk to, and she feels more like a friend than a teacher. Just by spending time with her, you gain a lot of respect for her.

If you had to choose one thing about your high school experience to change what would it be and why?  

Last year, I took Algebra 2 Trig H, and I had probably the least favorite teacher so far. It was a difficult class by itself,  and especially without anyone there to guide you, I fell far behind, and I was having a tough time learning the concepts. Then it got to test time, and I was super stressed, and didn’t really know what to do. That was a point where I was not enjoying school, and especially that class.

"Having good teachers and a manageable schedule reduces stress levels and lets you have a good time."

Is there anything else related to your school experience you would like to share?  

I find it really interesting how the classes that you like and enjoy are so dependent upon the friends and the people you take the class with, because even if it is the most interesting course they offer, if you don’t know any others, it won’t be as fun as maybe the least interesting class but you are with your friends.