By Gracie McKay
As the sounds of the heavy metal music from the band Anthrax and the foul-mouthed gangster rap from the band Public Enemy filled the air, David Schnell and his friends were headbanging along to the odd combination of the two totally different bands and were having a great time as high schoolers.
“I was super into music. I loved heavy metal music,” Schnell said.
Schnell liked heavy metal music because he simply enjoyed the aggressive identity that came with it. Looking back, Schnell said he must have gone to around one-hundred heavy metal concerts with his friends during his high school years. He remembered the tickets were cheap, with the most expensive concert at forty dollars and the cheapest was around twenty-five or thirty dollars. That way, Schnell said, getting money for the concerts wasn’t a big issue. For Schnell and his friends, going to concerts provided great amusement and lots of laughs.
However, those youth memories weren’t always as fun as they seemed. Schnell said as a student, he always had a chip on his shoulder.
“I was kind of a middle-of-the-road student so people didn’t pay much attention to me,” Schnell said.
Throughout school, Schnell was in low level classes, but he didn’t care about getting placed in unexceptional classes. Schnell said people didn’t expect much of him because he didn’t try much.
“Whatever (class) they placed me in, I wouldn’t fight it,” said Schnell.
Schnell was an average student and was OK coming home with Cs in his classes. He didn’t have much parental direction and wasn’t pushed to his full potential as a child by his teachers or parents.
Schnell didn’t push himself in academics because he felt the material was too difficult, and he didn’t feel up to the challenge. He figured life would be easier if he just didn’t try at all. Trish Heron, Schnell’s younger sister, helped show that he was smart, but he didn’t attempt at being a better student. Heron said that Schnell was always a bright person, but he didn’t exert much effort to prove he was a better student.
“I didn’t feel determined, I felt more frustrated,” Schnell said.
Schnell tried to understand why he was so frustrated; it might have been that he lacked the confidence to follow through with his schoolwork. Schnell said subjects like math were hard because he didn’t have the patience to try to understand the material. He ended up with the indifferent “whatever” attitude and abandoned his burdensome schoolwork.
He didn’t cause problems at school or home; therefore, his parents didn’t think to stress academics. Although, his parents did have other things to worry about.
In fourth grade Schnell’s parents split up, and they officially divorced in sixth grade. Schnell could remember his dad, who stayed with the kids while his mom left, being so fixated on raising Schnell, his older brother, and younger sister.
Since Schnell’s dad became the main caretaker, he was busy with everyday household activities and work. Accordingly, there wasn’t much time for Schnell’s father to pay punctilious attention to grades and academics.
In retrospect, Schell said that it was very normal in his peer group to have divorced parents while growing up, but he remembered being blown away at college because he found out that some of his friends’ parents were still married.
After a breezy high school, Schnell headed off to Harper College for two years, and later went the University of Wisconsin at Madison, graduating with a history major.
Heron said that Schnell didn’t express much concern about school during his youth, but once he got to college, he showed a lot of concern about his education. Schnell knew if he was going to go to such a prestigious college, he had to study excessively to be successful later.
“David valued his own intelligence. He was was more willing to put forth his own effort to show how bright he actually is,” Heron said.
His dad refused to pay for college because his father said if Schnell was taking something seriously, he’d pay for it himself. Schnell said that if he was going to pay for college himself, he was going to make it worthwhile and not blow it off.
Schnell was working thirty hours a week at a marketing company and also taking classes. He didn’t mind the long hours because it kept him busy, and he liked the feeling of being occupied. It was a lot of responsibility, yet somewhat motivating. Schnell said being around such bright college students with a purpose made him want to try harder in school, which was overall a positive, enjoyable environment.
Now as a teacher at Prospect High School, Schnell’s view of regular, average kids has changed. He said he believes that he can encourage kids to do better in school, and that every individual has potential.
“But with that, students have to make the decision for themselves. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make the horse drink it,” Schnell said.
However, he does feel more motivated to push students because high school is seen as an opportunity. Schnell felt that his high school years weren’t taken advantage of, and that every student should approach school as a way to enrich their minds.
Though his schooling and lack of motivation were lackluster, David Schnell has abandoned his indifferent ways of life that were profound throughout his youth. He does like to revisit some parts of his childhood, though.
“Every once in awhile I’ll take out my iPod and listen to some heavy metal music,” Schnell grinned; however, there’s no more headbanging for Schnell.
“Headbanging is only for guys who don’t know how to dance,” laughed Schnell. That’s probably good for the students though. Most likely, they’d rather see a teacher headbang than attempt to dance. Watching a teacher try to show some moves would be as odd as hearing Anthrax and Public Enemy jam together.