Yotam, High School Student, CA

"I don’t think school is meant for everyone - it’s only meant for a certain group of people. And while it’s good to have a base education that everyone should receive at some point, I don’t think that school how it's done this way is for everyone."

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

Tell me about yourself! How would your friends describe you? How would you family describe you?

Well, I’m a student at Palo Alto High School. I was born in Israel and I lived there until I was eight. Then, we moved here. Um, my non-academic interests are cooking and playing music.

How would your friends and family describe you?

I guess my friends would describe me as... enthusiastic. Probably as very diligent and very hard-working. Also, kind of lazy at times.

When do you feel most alive at school?

I feel most alive at school...when I’m not in math. Or, when I’m in Psychology, which is my favorite class.. I think it’s just a topic I’m very interested in and it’s just really nice to start out my days like that. And it’s my first class so it’s kinda nice. I feel most alive then.

What are the best parts of your life right now? When do you feel like it’s really good?

So the best part of my life is probably working at the restaurant I work at as an intern. I work there once a week and I enjoy myself. And I think it’s a lot of fun and I learn a lot. And, working there is especially great when I don’t have homework over the weekend to worry about the whole time I’m working.

Now, imagine you are all grown up. Let’s say 30! Take 3 post-its and draw or write on them three central things you think would make it a good or successful life.

So, my first thing is working at a job I really enjoy, hopefully as a chef at a good restaurant. I think I would really enjoy that and would be fulfilled with my life if I did a job that I enjoyed every day. And then my second thing would be having a group of friends that I can rely on and just count on to be there for me. And then my last thing would be keeping in touch with my family and maybe starting a new one.

What would you like school to do, ideally, to help you get that good life?

I’d say—I know this sounds extreme—but stay out of my way.

"Right now, high school is the only thing in between me and my ideal life because of how difficult it makes it for me to be fulfilled with my everyday life..."

I think for me to get my ideal life at around age 30, I would ask school to stay out of my way, not assign so many assignments that I have no interest or desire to do, so that I have time to do the things I actually care about.

I think school can support getting a good life by being more well-rounded and providing students with more of a range of topics that might interest them instead of being so narrow like they kind of are. I think school can support students by not giving as much homework and making so that students can’t really do anything besides school after school a well. With so much homework it’s kind of hard to expand on your other interests that aren’t academic after school. I think it’s important to do that.

Do you think this school will do that for you—

No, I don’t. I’m a senior at this school and I’ve gone through three and a half years here, and I know that I can’t really count on them to do this for me because I’ve already gone through so much of high school here. I’ve never really had a point at this school where I haven’t been getting so many assignments and so many—so much work that I wasn’t passionate about.

Will your school play that role for all students in the school? If not, why not?

No, I don’t think... I mean, if it didn’t play that role for me, I assume it didn’t play that role for all... many others. And I know this school has a reputation for being kind of extreme when it comes to those kinds of things, and  I think many others are going through the same types of problems.  I imagine students that maybe have learning disorders that are worse than mine or more extreme probably have it even worse than I do. Because, for me, I takes me like a long time to do these things that I’m not interested about. I have a 504 plan at school and, due to my ADD and anxiety. And I think that for students that have more extreme cases of these learning disorders, it probably takes them a lot longer to complete these assignments. They probably just lose focus really quickly and probably have it worse than I do, so I don’t think the school will do this for all students... no.

What do you think is the most important thing you’re learning in school?

I think the most important thing I’m learning at school right now is probably in Communications where I’m learning to public speak, or I’m learning public speaking and leadership. And, I guess it’s the most important thing because it applies to real life, unlike a lot of other topics I might not even pursue in my future. But, public speaking can really be applied to everything. And you can really do it in any scenario.

Who has been your favorite teacher until now? Why?

My favorite teacher until now has been Ms. Mattes, my Psychology—my AP Psychology teacher. Um, she’s just been really pleasant and very understanding and throughout the course... she designed the course very well... and it’s been very... I don’t know, it’s just very well designed and it’s generally really interesting and I like it. I enjoy the class a lot.

Can you tell me about a time when you learned something and it felt really good and empowering — like you just wanted to keep learning more? This doesn’t have to be in school — it could be outside of school.

I guess every day working at the restaurant I feel like that. I’m really curious and interested in the things I learn there. It’s just really fascinating for me and I think there’s so much that goes behind cooking that, you know, people don’t even think about. And whenever the sous chef, Andrew, teaches me... teaches me different tasks, I’m just really interested and I wanna keep learning.

Why do you think we have schools as a society?

I think we have schools because people wanted to send their kids somewhere so they could do things without them getting in their way.

"I also think that as society evolved to become more advanced in terms of technology and different aspects, they wanted to...educate kids so that they can keep up and contribute... But, I also think that schools are targeted - they’re aimed towards a very specific range of fields in the future, and I don’t think it applies to everyone."

 Not everyone is for school, but I think we have it for that reason.

Is there anything I didn’t ask that you expected me to ask but didn’t or that I should have? Anything this has made you think about in terms of school or like that you’d like to talk more about?

No. I guess my comment, and what I got out this is that I don’t think school is meant for everyone - it’s only meant for a certain group of people. And while it’s good to have a base education that everyone should receive at some point, I don’t think that school how it's done this way is for everyone.