From private to public school

My experience moving from one to the other


Anna Williams

From first grade until freshman year of high school, I attended a private school in Minnetonka called Notre Dame Academy. My entire life revolved around that school and the people that had attended it for eight years. However, when I was challenged with finding a high school to go to, my mom and dad decided that they wanted me to receive an education at a public school and experience what going to one is like. Since coming to St. Louis Park and attending here for almost two years, I have come to distinguish the positive aspects and shortcomings of each school that have affected me as a student and as a person.

When I attended a private school, I found my peers to be more disciplined. They were driven as scholars and conditioned to think about their futures constantly. Most students there put a lot of effort toward their homework and classwork. Because of this, no one ever skipped a class or was disruptive or distracting while the teachers taught their lessons. My peers were always respectful and because every student had wanted to be in school and learning, I came to be very successful academically. It was easier for me to be focused and motivated when my classmates were.

At Notre Dame Academy, I never had to worry about or be a witness to fighting or vandalism because that was not a reality there. Although it was easier for the teachers to manage the only 20 students per grade, because of our education of manners and courtesy, no student thought of acting in a violent manner toward another or using inappropriate language. We were raised in a community where that was never accepted and came to see the value respecting our school, our teachers and ourselves. If we ever did not meet these expectations of good behavior, which rarely happened, we were met with harsh consequences. I appreciated this because it allowed me to grow up in an environment that developed my moral compass and nurtured the values I was taught at a young age.

The academics at my old school were more rigorous, which was good and bad. The academics allowed me to challenge myself and become more dedicated and invested in my education. Because of how advanced and fast-paced the classes were, I was thoroughly prepared for the honors, AP and IB classes I would take at Park. However, the academics were almost too competitive, and students were made to be failures if they received anything other than an A. People were obsessed with earning perfect scores and knowing how well others were doing in classes. At Park, it is more relaxed. It is comforting to know that the only person who cares about my grades is me and that students are not defined by their ability to make the “A Honor Roll.” Park definitely focuses more on creativity and community involvement — not just testing and the label of “excellence.” This has allowed me to focus on the joy of learning and not just the anticipation of receiving a grade.

Park is also very diverse. At my old school, there were only five people in my grade that did not identify as white, and the majority of students came from privileged backgrounds that were similar to my own. I did not have the opportunity to experience what learning in diverse classrooms was like. I did not get to hear of perspectives unlike my own or be consistently exposed to other cultures and religions. That was detrimental to me socially because that is not the real world. Being able to experience these things at Park has been incredibly eye-opening, and I have realized that the world is so different from my private school “bubble.”

All in all, though I miss the discipline and my friends from private school, I am glad I came to Park because I have had the chance to learn in different ways and meet new people who have enriched my life. I am very privileged to have gone to Notre Dame Academy, and my years there truly shaped who I am morally, socially, academically and athletically. However, going to Park has been a great decision for me and has allowed me to become more self-motivated and aware of the realities of life.