“So is Monta Vista really that stressful?”
I get that question a lot. But this time, the question was coming from my IDC exchange host and old elementary school friend Michelle Pyke during first period in the Cupertino High School library. It’s normally a question I brush off because I enjoy my school, my friends, my class, even my stress. However, on Mar. 11, I answered Michelle with a maybe.
I couldn’t say “no” and continue to explain how our school doesn’t put too much pressure on students because I was running on three hours of sleep and I’m a second semester senior. Even though I hate the stereotype for our school, a “no” would be a lie — Monta Vista is stressful.
Michelle and I were best friends back in our elementary school days. But the great epic of Portal Elementary School ended with a diaspora of the kids going to various middle schools in Cupertino.
Since many kids went to Lawson Middle School, which feeds into Tino, I met a lot of former Portal Penguins that day. In fact, I saw a lot of old faces. What was surprising to me was their ease in coming up and saying “hi”. I knew it was a simple gesture, but even at Monta Vista, people I know from freshman year refuse to say “hi”. Of course, that goes both ways, but by the end of the day, I found myself unafraid to approach someone I recognized. I waved to everyone from my sister’s old friend to a Kennedy Middle School classmate to or a Speech and Debate competitor. This unabashedness characterized Tino.
Michelle doesn’t have a first period, so we settled down in the library. We talked for a good 40 minutes about our experiences in high school,specifically high school journalism. It was heartwarming to see that after seven years, I could sit down and talk to Michelle like our fifth grade band performance had been just yesterday.
Sitting down with Michelle, I learned quickly that spending four years on Finch Avenue instead of McClellan Road isn’t that different of an experience. During junior year, she spent every lunch in the library finishing homework and studying for the SAT because she had volleyball practice after school and wanted to sleep eight hours. We talk a lot about time management here at Monta Vista and Michelle’s organization was the epitome of that. She was still stressed but she eventually found her way.
I could see that she was comfortable too. As we walked to second period Physiology,Michelle waved to faces left and right in the hallway. And when we entered the room, everyone came up to meet Michelle’s exchange student (yours truly).
I saw a kindness resonate with all the Tino students. You don’t realize the competitive spirit we foster at MVHS until you leave.
Of course, this was only one rally day in a school with people I don’t know and classes I don’t regularly attend. But the hints were everywhere. In third period AP Statistics, the mean grade for the last class test was 68 percent. At Monta Vista, I swear there would be tears, but at Tino, I saw mostly laughter.
My friend and I often joke about how schadenfreud, a German word that means pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune, is applicable to Monta Vista. When our physics success counts on others’ failure and our college acceptances go on Facebook for others to see, we feel ourselves enjoying others’ failure. I’m not necessarily sure this isn’t the case for Tino as well, but I just didn’t see this concept of schadenfreud in interacting with its students.
At the Tino Gives Rally, every spring sport was cheered for. Different teachers were involved in the festivities, from rapping “Ice Ice Baby” to wrestling with the school’s four-time CCS champion. Best of all, they didn’t announce a winner. Even though the $2,052 raised did go to the charity picked by the class that donated the most, it wasn’t about winning.
And of course, we also applaud our sports teams and have teacher involvement. But we also have winners and often, it seems like it’s all about winning. We have to win the rallies, win our grades, win college acceptances, and that’s what makes it stressful.
At our debrief, the Monta Vista exchange students all agreed that the environment was more “chill” but we couldn’t agree upon the reason why. Chiller teachers? Chiller students? I know first-hand that we have chill teachers and chill peers, but we just need a chiller attitude.
Is Monta Vista really that stressful? I’m not sure — we already have homework free break and puppies at school to make us feel better. Our administration is working hard to destress us. Our peers in New Student Support brainstorm new ways to break down the competitive atmosphere. And I’m not quite sure if Tino is actually as “chill” as it seemed.
But after my day as a Pioneer, my answer to Michelle’s question changed to a yes.