By: Ella R. (’19)
At Crystal, we are lucky to receive an excellent education while still being encouraged to try a huge variety of activities. Sometimes, though, it can be rather challenging to find a balance between everything we do. Searching for some words of wisdom from experienced Gryphons, I spoke with juniors Kevin C., Natalie H. and Tara A., and seniors Jennifer A., Eliana F., and Nicky M. to hear about their experiences at Crystal and what they’ve learned over the years. Keep reading to find out what they have to say about sports, talking to teachers, and the importance of taking time to relax.
What have been some of your favorite classes so far? What made them interesting?
Natalie: I started taking gov and politics this year, and it’s one of my favorite classes I’ve ever taken. The class is very much about learning about our governmental system through experience, so activities like model congress and mock supreme court cases are what the class is built around, making it really engaging and dynamic. I’ve also always been super passionate about my French classes – I think it’s a really cool opportunity to really immerse myself in another culture, and I’ve always just found it to be really engaging.
Kevin: Some of the most memorable classes for me were 9th grade English and 10th grade chemistry. All the books we read in English freshman year really caught my interest, and I really enjoyed reading them. Sophomore year chemistry was also a lot of fun, not only was Dr. K a great teacher, but he was also super helpful and really tried to make chemistry interesting for us. Every experiment we did was a lot of fun and always kept us on our feet.
Jennifer: I have genuinely enjoyed all of my classes at Crystal. I love learning languages; I love them so much that I take both French and Spanish. Honors Spanish IV was a great class because you read news articles from Spanish speaking countries; it’s nice knowing that all of the effort I put into learning the language paid off to the point where I would feel comfortable living in a Spanish speaking country. Another class that sticks out in my mind is “Transgressing America” (junior year English elective with Mr. Huntoon). We read books ranging from Breakfast at Tiffany’s to All the Pretty Horses. I loved the creative projects and writing assignments (such as the video analysis project and multigenre project); it is a nice change of pace from the “standard” write-an-essay English class. US History is also a great class because there is a unit for everybody. The class covers a huge range of topics: Economics, Women’s Suffrage, the American Revolution. I could go on about every single class I have taken at Crystal, but I have homework to do…
Eliana: My favorite classes at Crystal have been honors physics and honors chemistry, and yes, I know that’s probably a fairly unpopular opinion given their reputation :). These classes challenged me to apply the math I’d learned to real situations. They showed me that what I’ve been learning will come in handy someday. Needless to say, Dr. K and Mr. Woosnam are hilarious and great teachers who made the classes fun.
What activities (sports, fine arts, clubs, etc.) have you participated in at Crystal? How have they affected your Crystal experience?
Tara: I have been part of the girls varsity tennis team for the past 3 years, and it has been one of the best experiences for me. I started on the team in freshman year and befriended practically every girl on the team. Now they are like family to me and we all depend and count on each other. I also love public speaking and had experience with MUN before coming to Crystal, so I decided to join Mock Trial and Debate Team. Joining Mock Trial was honestly one of the best decisions I made because I fell in love with law after that and decided to run the club this year. I have also been taking dance and art classes for all of my time at Crystal. I would definitely recommend other students to take at least one fine arts class because they are the perfect way to relax and calm down after a stressful day at school.
Jennifer: I play golf, I am a Crystal Ambassador, I participated in art classes for two years, I am co-President of Crafts for Causes Club and I have been a part of many different clubs (Film Club, Chemistry Club, Brainiacs Club, Crystal Visions). Most of the activities I was interested in before Crystal, but the opportunities at Crystal definitely strengthened my passions. My advice would be, even if you have just the smallest interest in a club or sports team, go to the meeting or request information, it never hurts to try something new. High school is a time to push yourself out of your comfort zone and it is easy to do that within the supportive Crystal community.
Nicky: I’ve been a part of cross country, Crystal Ambassadors, student government, and chorus. Cross country has been a great way to make friends. All of my friends are on the team with me and it is a lot of fun every day at practice. I remember in freshman year I made my closest friends and met upperclassmen through the team. Definitely do a sport at Crystal, at least in freshman year, I can’t emphasize enough how special it is to be part of a team with your classmates.
Eliana: Through my 4 years on the cross country team, after many (MANY) months of injury, I’ve learned dedication and perseverance, but the team atmosphere is what really keeps me coming back every year. I’ve met a core group of supportive friends who share the bond of surviving Coach Car’s endless hill workouts and long runs together. We’ve all learned to speed up when we hear the whirr of his bike from behind us, and we all work together to improve throughout the season. It’s been a great support system, and it’s also allowed me to make good friends across all grades.
How has your approach to balancing academics, extracurriculars, and social life changed over time?
Tara: At first, I wasn’t used to the large workload at Crystal so this made it difficult for me to balance my time between schoolwork, extracurriculars, family and friends. But after some time, I developed a routine to evenly split my time between all of these activities. I always make sure to get all my homework done as soon as I get home from my sports practice and never miss dinner with my family. I also keep a planner to help me manage my time effectively, and this has helped me out a lot.
Natalie: I’ve learned to work ahead when I need to and just generally to be aware of how my own schedule and homework load coincides. I’ve also learned to utilize periods like office hours that are built into the school day to talk to teachers about assignments.
Jennifer: I have 100% gotten more productive. The best thing you can do to balance your time is by joining a large activity freshman year (sports team or theatre), it really forces you to learn how to manage your time well. Use “Office Hours”, go meet with teachers (seriously, meet with teachers), get ahead on homework, or chill with friends (you can actually do all three).
What challenges have you faced over the years at Crystal? How have you dealt with them?
Kevin: Sometimes it’s hard to tell yourself to put down the books and talk to your family because after extracurriculars, all you can think about is getting your work done. I would suggest making sure to spend time with your family. I would also say that with every new year, it’s all about quickly adjusting to your new classes and making sure you are prepared to work hard in each.
Natalie: I’ve definitely had to make some tough choices in terms of letting go of some of the activities I’m passionate about to give priority to others. For example, I took dance freshman and sophomore year, but ended up dropping it when I realized I’d have to choose between dance or one of the academic classes I’d signed up for. I also used to do speech and debate outside of school but realized that with the time commitment of homework and my other activities it was just too much. Essentially, I’ve realized that it’s better to be able to fully commit to a smaller amount of activities I’m really passionate about than to do work of a lower standard in more of them.
Nicky: English. I learned the hard way that you have to talk to teachers at Crystal. Talk to your English teachers multiple times before you turn in an essay. It helps A LOT.
What advice would you give to a younger student, one who might be struggling to adapt to high school or find their place in the Crystal community?
Tara: The best advice I can give is that it just takes time to adjust to the Crystal community. I came from a pretty big public middle school and it was definitely hard for me to get used to Crystal. However, after some time, I found some of the greatest friends I have ever met in my life and learned to appreciate every aspect of Crystal. Trust me, it just takes time!
Kevin: Find what you’re interested in and go into every new situation with an open mind. It’s easier to meet new people when you have common interest such as dance, theater, or sports. Also, don’t limit yourself to what you know! It’s no lie that times get tough but with such a great community behind you, you’ll have so many people there to help you!
Natalie: Don’t try to stretch yourself too far! For a while I thought that good time management skills could solve every issue of hard academic classes and various extracurriculars and just wanted to be a part of as many things as possible. But, at the end of the day, you need rest and free time. If you have more work than you genuinely have time for even the best time management can’t help you, and you’ll end up overwhelmed by work.
Jennifer: Talk to your advisor or maybe a favorite teacher – they are there for a reason!
Nicky: During the week, just go home and grind. Friday and Saturday are for fun. Sunday is for more grinding. Also, find a place at home and at Crystal where you can concentrate and get work done. Join a sports team, and if your parents won’t let you because they are afraid your grades will drop, tell them that physical activity stimulates the brain. Don’t be afraid to talk to teachers if you are struggling; teachers at Crystal love to help you.
Eliana: My advice would be to join something: maybe a club or a sport. Find something to do that isn’t academic. It’s easy to get sucked into the ethos of needing straight As, but don’t burn yourself out, and don’t sweat the small stuff. You will get some bad grades on papers or tests, but you will come back from them and be a stronger student as a result. Do your homework, but also have fun. Make sure that you do something every weekend besides work. This will help you find ways to enjoy these four difficult but formative years.