My first day walking into Paducah Tilghman was like going from Murray, KY, to Washington D.C. I went from a school with about 85 people to one with about 950. This was a big change and a culture shock.
I had gone to private Christian schools my whole life before this year. In seventh grade, I went to Northside Baptist Christian School in Mayfield, KY. I was on Northside’s basketball team for four years. I was not the best or worst player on that team. I had played on my church team the previous summer and was the best player on that team. What made my experience on Northside’s team bad was I was verbally abused (called “an annoying little s***head) and somewhat physically abused. I was once slapped by a senior boy who is one of my 19-year-old sister’s best friends. I also had basketballs thrown at me. The bullying and having some teachers who were terrible at explaining things made leaving that school not such a bad thing as I had few friends.
In eighth grade, I moved to Eastwood Christian Academy in Murray. At first, I thought it was great as most of my closest friends from church went there. The school, however, said all versions of the Bible except the King James Version were heathen and were written by people controlled by Satan himself. They also thought that all music except gospel music was heathen. When I mentioned Christian rap and rock, educators there said it wasn’t really Christian. I even had a history teacher who questioned the truth of events in our history book. Northside seemed perfect compared to Eastwood.
Over this past summer I was constantly warned by my parents that the transition to public school would be “a culture shock” and “a big change” coming from Christian schools. It was much like the Doris Lessing story we recently read, “Through the Tunnel,” when the boy went from boyhood to manhood. I was warned when in North Carolina, and I was warned in Washington D.C., where we visited for a week each. Also over the summer, I started taking tennis lessons twice a week. I decided to stop playing basketball and had been pretty good at tennis when I took lessons before. I also got into running when school started and have been running a mile every day to get in shape for tennis.
The switch from small private Christian schools was not nearly the culture shock my parents thought it would be. Sure, it’s a bit different, but much is the same. In private school, I knew almost everyone’s first and last name. Now I don’t think I know even 20 people’s first names. The work is harder, but that comes with moving to high school. Paducah Tilghman, for the amount of students, has nicer people and less bullying than Northside and much better teachers than Eastwood. I think it is ironic that the private Christian schools I have attended have had meaner kids and worse teachers than a “heathen” public school.