The essay "High school life: To whom it may concern" was initially submitted to the Weekly without intent of publication in order to provide insight into issues that the author, a teacher, observed among students at Gunn High School. With the teacher's permission, the Weekly is publishing it because it presents a powerful perspective not normally heard by the public.
It is presented anonymously in order for the focus to be on the content.
While the teacher writes about his experiences at Gunn, his observations apply to both Palo Alto high schools and to high schools in all high-achievement communities.
In discussions with the author, school officials and others who have long been involved with Palo Alto teens, we found that the author is not alone in the perception of the issues and challenges facing our schools and community.
Substantial efforts have been made at Gunn and in the Palo Alto Unified School District in the past 18 months to recognize and improve responses to students' emotional needs and well-being. Individual students and teachers, administrators and parents have responded creatively and with great care in many important areas, from extending themselves personally to any teen who might need a listening ear to hosting youth forums and workshops with experts in adolescent development. Publishing this piece is not intended to minimize or ignore these efforts, which will be the subject of ongoing reporting in the future.
The essay does present a clear picture of the magnitude of the challenge that remains, and of the importance of creating lasting changes in our community's culture that will enhance the emotional balance of our teenagers.
Next week the Weekly will publish responses to the essay from a panel of individuals who have been actively involved with Palo Alto schools and teens, to provide additional perspective and context.
And we invite young persons themselves to comment on the issues raised in the essay and reactions to it. The voices of young persons are a vitally important component in this continuing dialogue that addresses the very roots of our lives and culture.