Caught/Taught: a poem written entirely from student essays

Sometimes when I wake up to the sound of my alarm going off, I groan and wish that I didn’t have to go to school that day.


An educational institution where students are expected to learn about multiple subjects and then regurgitate the information onto a test where their knowledge is tested.

School taught me what jail teaches its inmates: how to survive in an environment that is highly dangerous…the greatest breeding ground of stereotypes, is above all, schools.

Almost everyone wants to be popular.

I learned the definition of nerd from those who categorized me as such. When you are constantly told that you are weird or given looks of disgust and annoyance you start to believe it. I literally felt like they were disgusted just looking at me.

I obviously didn’t fit in.

I learned in school that peers will not just come up and introduce themselves and help new people around school. So, I always found myself clinging to the outcasts and rejects that most other people avoid.

Was there something wrong with me?

Ever since middle school, my self-esteem has been dropping like it’s hot. I cried so many times that my eyes would sting like salt during class.

I spend so much time in front of a mirror critiquing myself that if you added it all up I would have had enough time to cure cancer. In school, almost every girls’ mind is warped by the culture they live in; this Barbie doll handcrafted by the warped image of perfection.

Teenagers are like vultures picking over the dead remains of my confidence as I try to find something to keep me afloat in the sea of insults.

…they are so much better than me, it hurts.

I’ve been stared at, talked about, had pictures taken of, and many other things that I find absolutely hilarious.

I sometimes wonder who, if anyone from my school,

would attend my funeral if I die.

How can we students be ourselves when others spend their whole lives telling us all ways we can’t?

Yet, they keep telling us to “be ourselves.”

It’s being hammered into me that the world wants to see a cookie cutter version rather than the rough around the edges, original version. We’re told we can do anything and be anyone but then shamed if who we are isn’t who they want us to be.

I will never be good enough.

A failure seems worse than world hunger.

Strive as hard as you can to land right in the middle, float along with the others in the sea of life, because God knows that’s all you’re good for. You are told to be yourself, oh, by all means, but do it in a way where you are not different.

Getting told that my grades are never good enough feels like a knife buried inside the walls of my chest, especially when the insults come from the people you love. So my stress kept rising and my perfectionism started to spike my mind with knives of worry.

My family has more issues than we do money.

When a parent says something out of anger, not realizing their child is in the room, the child is most likely listening.

“Be a doctor.”

“Be a lawyer.”

“Be a professor.”

In other words, grow up to be something society has deemed as “successful.” Almost a decade of education and I have realized, I can graph the quadratic equation of irrational numbers, and I am still dumb.

I have been told all my life that I should go become a doctor or lawyer by friends and family, probably only because they make a lot of money, but I want more out of life than that.

After all this mayhem, it will be too late and we will be grown to then make the same mistakes as the generation before us.

I can’t wait to be a parent.

Eventually I broke.

It hit me like a bullet train.

People care too much about what other people think of them. You are you and there should be no one else that you want to be.

It’s about time this generation takes their lives back into their own hands with the ideals of honor, commitment and courage in mind. Just because someone tells you that you’re not good enough to do something doesn’t mean you can’t go ahead and at least try.

When you feel the judgment start to rise about how your locker neighbor shaved her hair, or how the boy next to you started to cry, shove it back down with a force you’d save for true evil. Because that’s what judgment is, truthfully.

Be different, if that means success – people who make history typically don’t follow the rules. As my father once told me, “The nerds get the ladies.”

So if they don’t know who I actually am, what gives them the right to label me?

I can work past such labels.

Life will not be perfect and I may not be a genius, but that is not what life is about. I see myself as who I really am…human.

We as humans have to learn the good and the bad in order to unlock our full potential. Any human can struggle, but the humans who are still grateful learn to endure it further.

I have learned to become my own person and that happiness comes when I forget about trying to become what everyone thinks I should be. I don’t have to conform to what I’ve been taught; I just have to make a difference in people’s lives.

I take many things for granted in life. I don’t realize how good I actually have it.

Some people don’t get the opportunity to have a roof over their head, or go to school to get an education, or even have a plate of food in front of them every day.

People need to be positive.

I don’t want to have what everyone else has. I don’t want to be another face walking through the hallway, another grade on a test, or another GPA number.

I want to be unique.

I want to be me.

I am beautiful.

I put myself out there.

Take it to heart.

More is caught than taught.