Is everyone judging you?


Ariana Cross

Mr.Bennett showing stereotyping categories.

It is a requirement for all freshmen to take a semester of health at Orcutt Academy High School. The curriculum covers topics such as physical and mental well being and safe sex. One of the most memorable topics discussed in Orcutt Academy’s health class, however, is others’ perception of you.


In both Mr. Joshua Bennett and Mr. Chad McKenzie’s health classes, the students do an activity where they anonymously stereotype their peers. In Bennett’s health class, the students write down one stereotype for each classmate, and each stereotype is later given to the student it’s about. The list of stereotype options includes titles like “jock,” “hipster,” “band geek,” and “promiscuous,” along with twenty-four other options. Bennett explains that the activity is used to “explore deeper concepts.”


In McKenzie’s health class, the activity is done a little differently. Students volunteer to stand in front of the class while their peers raise their hands and assign a stereotype to them. Some worry that the activity can make students feel bad about themselves. It can be hard for high schoolers to hear potentially hurtful things being said about them.  Freshman Mittie Fisher, suggests that it would be better if they didn’t do the activity out loud. “I found it to be more of a joke; everyone was laughing and it seemed like they just built off of each other rather than coming up with their own ideas.”


The activity holds a much deeper meaning than simply stereotyping students. Bennett shares that the activity is meant to teach students that “stereotypes are pervasive in our society but not necessarily true.” Bennett and McKenzie want students to learn not to generalize someone without getting to know them.


Junior Joley Smith shares her enjoyment of the activity, stating, “It was really fun to see what other people thought and how wrong they could be based on outside interpretation.” In contrast, Senior Trenton Kozel found the activity to be inappropriate, explaining, “It felt like we were actually judging people instead of doing a learning activity.”  


Bennett explains that he sees a lot of students actually considering people’s opinions of them and how they want to be seen. He often sees a change in people’s actions for the better after participating in the activity.


Whether students appreciate the activity or not, it’s certainly memorable. When asking Spartan students about the lesson, almost everyone remembered participating in the stereotype activity. I think most students can appreciate a nontraditional lesson in the health curriculum.