My experience with grade advancement

At Montessori, many of the things students learned were through hands-on experiences. Not only was this helpful for brain stimulation, but it ultimately contributed to a rare advantage I received in later years of school. (Photo courtesy of Natalie Gore)

When I have a casual conversation with friends and the topic of age comes up, my body tenses and my mind freezes. Having to tell others that I’m the mere age of fourteen years old is not only intimidating but ultimately really embarrassing. After admitting that I’m the only tenth grader born in 2003 that I know, I then receive the question “How is that possible?” The answer is simple, but the explanation of why I skipped an entire academic grade is what I’ve struggled with for the past six years of my life.

Skipping a grade has always been uncommon in public school, simply because humans have built a misconception that the age of a student should somewhat predict their intelligence level. Therefore, people often expect fifth graders to be 10 or 11 and high school seniors to be 17 or 18. When these cliches are disrupted, people are quick to judge and those on the receiving end commonly struggle to maintain self-confidence.

In my case, I personally don’t tell anyone whom I’m not close with that I skipped a grade. This way, I can easily avoid the obligatory rationale that comes after. Saying “I’m intelligent” or “I’m better than you” clearly doesn’t convey humility or modesty, and is overall a horrible way of making a good impression on others. Even if the truth is that I was almost three grade levels above the fourth grade standard when I was eight years old, bragging about it would only bring around negative results. I’ve been told by many how “unfair” my opportunity was, how hard it is to complete a full grade advancement in Wake County, and how lucky I got.

From kindergarten until third grade, I attended the Montessori School of Raleigh. Montessori is a method of education in which students engage in self-directed activity, hands-on learning, and collaborative play. The classrooms at these schools are extremely interactive and have about fifteen students in each grade. All students receive individual learning plans, allowing them to adapt their own pace and be recognized as a unique person. The interaction is wonderful stimulation for the brains of young children and results in nothing but benefits.

Unfortunately, the environment was only helpful to me for so long. At the end of my fourth year at MSR, my parents decided it was time to transfer into public school. Their thought was that I would be more accustomed to the real world and able to experience a setting where many types of people all existed together, rather than just students whose parents could and would pay for private school.

To this day, I still remember the moment when my parents made the decision that I would skip a grade. In a meeting with my teachers, my mom and dad received the recommendation that I should not only skip one but two academic grades in public school. The decision that I would solely advance one eventually came to light when all four adults agreed on the uncomfortable outcome of too much of a change. A student two years younger than everyone else in the grade would never be able to fully relate and fit in with their peers. Therefore, the final decision was to skip from third to fifth grade.

After years of reflection, I’m very grateful that my parents transferred me to public school and only had me advance one year. The peer groups I had after the transfer were much more diverse and gave me a broader view of society, because people came from different social classes, religions, cultures, and lifestyles. Although I made friends and understood the school material easily, there are still consequences that follow me around every single day.

While many sophomores have their permit and some are already licensed, I wasn’t even eligible to take driver’s ed until November of the tenth grade year. Therefore, I will get my permit and my license much later than everyone else. Not being able to have the same opportunities as others can be frustrating and often creates a divide between me and my peers.

As well as not being old enough to participate in certain things, people’s prejudice towards my maturity level can be upsetting. I’ve heard many times that I’m “too young” or “shouldn’t be in the grade that I am.” These messages are discouraging and took a toll on my confidence in the past. When others learn that I turn a mere 15 in May of 2018, they often assume that I am less intelligent and less capable of accomplishing things versus my older peers

Fortunately now I have come to the realization that I am where I belong. I prefer to keep the information to myself, but I am comfortable and confident with my situation. Schoolwork is challenging but not impossible, and what’s life without a little self-competition? I no longer mind explaining it to people when it becomes relevant in a conversation. I was given a wonderful opportunity and I should be using a positive mindset and my strong work ethic as inspiration to reach my goals.



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