Hightailing to the High School

Last night was the parents' orientation for the high school.

HIGH SCHOOL. YES - that business-looking complex by the Municipal Building. That place we used to drive by and say "Some day our kids are going to go there!"

The pros:

  • Lots of options. Your kid wants to do a class in fashion design? They can. Computers? Plenty of choices. There's AP Studio Art (but who am I kidding, C isn't interested in that!!!). Lots of business classes. AP Macro- or Macroeconomics, Forensics, Journalism, Women's studies. I found plenty of things *I* want to do, but that weren't offered when I was a kid. Including something called "Option 2" where students can choose online classes, college courses and other programs (subject to prior approval) at parents' expense.
  • Kids come out of BRRSD prepared to attend a large university, since it feels more like a community college than the high school I attended. Heck, it's got a bigger population than "Pine City" (a town next to my hometown).
  • They push students to be more independent
  • Lots of clubs, and the administration seemed keen on students having extra-curricular lives because if they are involved in school activities, they won't skip as much because they are motivated to attend.
  • A web-based program called Noviance helps students plan their careers, manages transcripts, requests letters of recommendation, makes sure students are getting their requirements
  • The Vo-Tech seems like a great program, especially the Academy of Sciences (not an option for my kids, it's too academically advanced/challenging and without having been in AI or E- it seems they won't have the background to hack it). If your kid is into other things, like theater or music the Vo-Tech has half day programs too, beyond what you expect at a Vo-Tech.
  • There are lots of classes, from AP-to super-extra-help. Kids can also take career exploratory courses to help figure out their futures.

The cons:

  • The size of the school. 2900 students means that it is a 1 to 250 ration for student to guidance counselor. All serious guidance needs to come from the home. Guess volunteering as an interviewer for my alma mater is actually going to be of use. 
  • With huge classes, how do kids get to know their teachers? Teachers and students need to make an effort to get to know one another in such a huge place. With bad rapport between the union and the district, are teachers feeling so disillusioned that they don't make the efforts needed to get to know high school kids? 
  • Students who want to do a sport in high school but haven't been training in an elite manner have no chance to play. There are simply too much children and the society we live in means they train at such a demanding level, often from the age of 4 or 5, that you can't choose to play a new sport or an instrument in High School. In fact, I understand that lots of kids choose to go to parochial schools so that they do have more options. (Again, not an option for us). One of the parents brought up the limited options for string players, I'd guess that they should also talk to parents of kids who want to do jazz ensemble or marching band. No private lessons? You won't be good enough to get in.... 
  • There are so many kids that it isn't possible for everyone to get into the elective of their choices. Reading between the lines, I understand that there are a fair number of kids who have to take 2nd and 3rd choices. My friend said her son always got his first choice... hopefully C will be in the same boat.
  •  If your kid isn't independent, they can get lost - or even fail classes if they are blase' about homework. One of the administrators said that homework is graded as "all or nothing" either you did it and you get 100% credit or you didn't and you get 0%. It is possible to ace every exam and still fail a class if your kid is lazy. 
  • The dye is cast already. If your kid wants to do an Honor Class in high school, and they aren't currently in an e-level, they have to get an A- or better both first and second marking periods. Since the 2nd marking period is about to end, and my kid (and maybe yours) slacked off a bit in December, it's sorta too late. Your kid can reapply in June if they get an A- or above as an over-all grade, but there is still no guarantee. (Again I feel a rant coming on about the fact that they should open up admission to e-classes to more children - see how they do, and if they don't do well enough let them drop down, but that is for another blog).
What surprised me the most?

That I feel like C will do just fine. That the biggest adjustment will be me. Losing my kid to adult life. Letting go so she can take her nest steps. The message last night was to give your kids an academically challenging schedule, without overdoing it, so that they don't get overwhelmed. 

Sounds like the biggest life lesson of all: Balance.

(Am posting this now, normally I write, edit, then post - but my to do list (see previous post) is still growing, and now I have 5-6 loads of laundry to fold to boot. First kid will be home in 5 minutes, and I bet she will want something to eat.....)


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