I don’t know about you, but I loved school - especially high school. Not for the academics mind you, I was an average student until I got to college, but that’s a story for a different post. I loved school for the socialization and human connection. For me, high school was all about the interaction. The hanging-out with my friends, scheming about plans for the weekend. The joining of the clubs and activities that planned events throughout the year - from homecoming to prom and everything in between. The being together, laughing and memory making. The school spirit. Some of my best friends to this day are from my high school years - unusual I know, but true.
Would I want to go back? No. But, I don’t look upon those years with resentment, guilt or bad memories. I have a lot of nostalgia for my high school experience. And I really want my kids to have that too.
And now the time has come...My oldest is a freshman in high school this year, and for the last several months I’ve been talking about how exciting this time in his life is. How formative these years will be. How much FUN he’s going to have. Every time I say something about it, he gives me a look of exasperation like “whatever, mom, it’s school,” which throws me for a loop because there’s exactly zero excitement in his voice. He didn’t want to go shopping for new clothes “I have stuff I can wear, it’s not a big deal.” He didn’t want to go get his supplies “why do you need me to go with you? Can’t you just get it?” He wanted no ceremony or celebration - I mean, it was like pulling teeth to get the annual first day of school photo with this kid. Please tell me I’m not the only mother that’s experiencing this right now!
Truth be told, I’m sure he was a bit nervous for his first day. Going to school in New York City is different from anywhere else in the world. You don’t just go to your local high school from your local middle school. There’s a process. A long, arduous process that requires testing in some cases, auditions in others, applications in all of it and then there are the school tours - yep, just like college. When NYC kids start a new chapter in their educational journey, typically it’s without their squad because they don’t all get into the same school.
So this year, my number one son is off to school on his own, where he knows no one. He’s commuting on public transportation for about 40 minutes (2 subway trains) into Manhattan from Brooklyn by himself every day. Well, not really by himself because he’s got about a million other commuters with him at the same time, so the by himself thing is figuratively speaking. But you get what I’m saying. New school. New commute. New feelings.
I was nervous for him on his first day, not because I didn’t think he could handle it - I have all the confidence in the world in this kid, but because being an adolescent in new surroundings isn’t easy. And because I want him to be happy above anything else. So off he went, in his Star Wars tee shirt and basketball shorts to high school. He came home with a bunch of papers from his teachers outlining their expectations for the school year along with supply lists. The only homework he got was to have his parents sign a few papers along with a specific request from his World History teacher asking parents to send her an email introducing themselves and telling her our goals for our child for the school year.
Wait, what? You mean I have homework? I’m now secretly elated. Because well, I love to interact with teachers and because I love to be involved with school. I’m sure I’m my kid’s worst nightmare. For a few days I pondered the question. Discussed it with my husband... we both have input in this answer and our answers are very different. Should we email her individually or send one email introducing us both as a family? We chose to go the individual route. Do we keep our answers specific to her area of study, or do we go broad? I chose broad. After thinking it over and sitting with it for a minute, I decided to be honest with her about my expectations for his high school experience overall.
Here’s what I wrote:
HI! This is Krista, _____’s mom. I'm very excited about his future at _____ and appreciate that you want to hear from the parents!
This year (and for his entire high school career), my goals for him are to be engaged, challenged and present for his studies. To create an experience that he will be proud of. To forge friendships and relationships that will potentially last a lifetime. To try new things without fear. To respect differences and learn from them. To emerge with the knowledge that he has the potential to create positive change. To make good choices, be happy and most of all have fun.
While I know how important academics are, I'm a big believer in learning from life experience. His time in High School will be full of non-academic learning experiences that will make a huge impact on his future. I'm optimistic that his time at ____ will be productive, exciting and enjoyable.
Thank you for everything you do for the students, I appreciate your commitment to their learning and development. I'm looking forward to meeting you soon!
Wishing you all the best for a fantastic school year!
And there you have it. The truth. Because there are more ways than one way to learn. Because knowledge should be full of experiences. Because pressure to perform shouldn’t be a thing. Because trying your best should.
By working with our teachers, we have a responsibility to give our children the knowledge and tools that we have at our disposal with the understanding that each child, each human on the planet is different and we should celebrate that.
High school will go by in the blink of an eye. Don’t rush it. Savor it. Be present. Experience it with them. Because before you know it, our precious little ones will be out in the world figuring it all out for themselves.