This Teenage Life: Back to School

Click on the full episode of This Teenage Life here and wherever podcasts are found.

By Beth Fertig

Click on the full episode of This Teenage Life here and wherever podcasts are found.

By Beth Fertig

For educators and adults, the back-to-school season has a familiar cadence full of familiar beats: meet the teacher, purchase supplies, figure out transportation, and so on and so forth. But what feelings do teens have about entering new classrooms in new grades?

Starting a new school year raises many anxieties about where they stand—academically and socially. In the latest XQ-sponsored episode of This Teenage Life, students discuss what they wish educators understood about back-to-school season.

  • It’s a thrill but also “intimidating” and “nervewracking,” according to Stella of Illinois. “You’re seeing everyone for the first time, and, like, some people look different. Some people have new piercings, new haircuts.”
  • “For me, getting back to school used to be a big deal,” said Enzo of New York. “But nowadays, it’s more of a way for me to have a clean slate in the way I act, and with my friends, and how I am, generally, at my school.”
  • “There’s this unsaid competition to be the teacher’s favorite,” said Divya of India. 
  • Some students described being afraid of the judgment of other people. Or the way friendships can shift. Matu of Portugal said friendships don’t even seem real when there’s an attitude of, “Oh yeah, we’re friends, but at the same time, we need to be better than you.”
  • Still, others see a refuge. “School for me is like my safe haven,” said Cay of Florida, who described being bullied in a previous school. 
  • Advice for teachers: Brie in Wisconsin appreciates “get to know you” surveys. Especially those asking, “Is there anything else I need to know about you?” because they can help LGBT students, in particular, open up to a teacher discretely. 

At XQ, we value youth voice and choice. It’s one of our design principles for rethinking how to make better high schools. We must create space both in our classrooms and beyond to let teens discuss important moments that we, as adults, become used to over time. In doing so, we allow them to validate their experiences and can help them identify effective ways to cope and manage these transitions. We can also focus in on powerful learning outcomes that students can take into the real world.

We’re proud to sponsor TTL because we believe listening to students helps educators foster another design principle: caring, trusting relationships. When teens feel valued, they can also thrive in school—putting them on the path to success in college or careers.

We believe conversations like these are important for educators to hear if they’re to fully appreciate their students and help them reach their full potential. Enjoy this latest episode of TTL sponsored by XQ.

Listen to previous TTL episodes dealing with high school, sponsored by XQ:

“Summer Reading” (June 2023)

“The College Process” (May 2023)

“How Teachers Can Make Us Feel Safe” (January 2023)

“Academic Pressure” (December 2022)

“Making Friends”  (October 2022)

Dealing with Transitions, Like Starting High School (September 2022)

“How the Pandemic Changed Us” (June 2022)

Teens Discuss What Mattered Most to Them in High School Classes (May 2022)

“How Teachers Can Help Students Feel Seen” (May 2022) 

Art by Cloe Moreno, provided by This Teenage Life