Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Getting Schooled

Since Team WestEnders relocated to North Carolina at the conclusion of an academic year, we missed all of the transitional activities associated with moving from Elementary to Middle and Middle to High school. Therefore when registering Derek and Riley for their new scholastic homes—although the counselors, when we identified who they were, turned out to be very pleasant and helpful—it kind of felt like flying by the seat of our collective pants to get them into the appropriate classes.

But not this time, buddy! Lucky (?) Riley gets the full monty when it comes to making the leap to High School. Not only will he himself hear presentations from—and have meetings with—counselors from both programs, but his parents (or, you know, “Mom”) will take the opportunity to attend such scintillating events as Rising 9th Grade Information Night (at his current school), and Rising Freshmen Course Night (at Chapel Hill High). In case you’re wondering just what kind of serious biz we’re talking about, here: he was given a worksheet to plan out his schedule for the coming year (reasonable and useful)…as well as a spreadsheet-kind-of-thing so he could map out his entire secondary school career. (What the WHAT? Overkill? Or tremendous foresight? I’ll let you be the judge, ‘cuz I’m just not sure…) In other words, they are Not. Messing. Around, folks.

On top of that, Riley—true to form—wanted to do everything he could to ensure that he made his best decisions…which meant discussing it with Husband…and me…and even his older brother (believe it or not). I mean, really, as a Freshman, you have very little room for creativity, anyway, so it wouldn’t seem to warrant such deep analysis, not to mention multiple brainstorming sessions. However, it seems to be the unspoken shared mission of the Guidance departments to…scare the bejeesus out of the poor 8th graders…all under the guise of “informing and cautioning the kids”, of course. 

I’m talking about the fact that they urge you, in the strongest possible terms--and with visual charts to make it even clearer, in case you had any chance of missing their point--to consider the amount of homework that will (without exception) be heaped upon your weary head (absolutely) each night, should you elect to sign up for multiple Honors-level classes. And the numbers they throw out there ARE pretty terrifying, actually—adding up to several hours of unrelenting evening toil on a daily basis. It’s enough to make you cower in your chair and rethink changing all your selections to Standard-level…that is, if you believe them.

But here’s the thing: they’re totally exaggerating. (Like, almost to the point of “Hmm…that’s a big old whopper you’re feeding us, there, O Wise Counselor”.) And I get it—they need to do this, in order to make you ponder long and hard how much you’re willing to take on in big, bad High School. All I can say is, thank goodness Riley has Derek to be the voice of reason (Ha! I know, that seems…unlikely. Okay, how about “the voice of one who’s gone before and can tell you how it reeeally is." Better?) and reassure him that it’s not nearly as...dramatic...as they make it out to be. The bottom line is: sure, you’ll have tons of homework some nights, but others you’ll have less, and occasionally you’ll have little, or even none. As is so often true, as long as you manage your time and stay on top of things, you’ll be fine—and my kid who already uses a whiteboard to keep track of his assignments and soccer practices…doesn’t worry me AT ALL in that area.

The thing that cracks me up, though, is that waaaay back when I was 13 and preparing to enter the High School fray, I swear I got the Exact. Same. Spiel. So I sat there listening to “it’ll be very demanding, you’ll have to commit to working extremely hard, take some time to think about whether Honors classes are actually right for you, blah blah blah” and inside, I went, “Pffttt, whatever. You’re not frightening me, Counselor-person. I’m onto you—see what I have in my hand, here? It’s a big old grain of salt” (As in,”I’m taking your advice with…” Oh, never mind…perhaps I’m just waiting for someone to bring me a margarita…) 

Because, you see, I learned my own lesson when I went through this process. Yep, I swallowed the warning hook, line, and sinker, became concerned that I couldn’t handle a schedule full of Honors courses, and opted to step down a level in what I considered my weakest subject…Science.
WELL! How did that turn out, you might wonder? Let’s put it this way: to call that a “mistake” would be a colossal understatement, which became painfully obvious within the first few days of class, when the pace and complexity of the work—so different from what I was used to and what felt comfortable to me--demonstrated that this was N-O-T where I belonged. 

Don’t get me wrong, the teacher, the students, and the material were all completely swell…just not the right…intensity…for me, personally. Therefore I went straight to my Guidance Counselor and pleaded my case to switch into a more appropriate class. And even with my track record and impassioned argument, they gave me what I judged to be a ridiculously hard time, before relenting and allowing me to make the change. So if I can use my experience to prevent my son from having to deal with this kind of…nonsense...all the better!

The reality is that for 9th grade, you’ve got your required English, Math, Social Studies and Science—with a small bit of leeway within some of those categories…but it’s easy enough just to follow the recommended sequence and be done with it. Then there's the mandatory year of PE, so everyone tends to get that out of the way right off the bat. (Ha! Sorry…) Riley will continue with Spanish (yaaaay!), which then leaves only one slot to fill. Many kids elect to drop in a Study Period, which we found to benefit Derek, in terms of giving him extra reading/study for tests/homework flexibility, so we encouraged Riley to go ahead and do that as well. 

Aaannnd…BOOM! That looks like a Freshman year schedule, y’all! Oh, and the part at the bottom of the form, where they require a parent’s signature if you’re registering for 3 or more Honors classes? Yeah, pass me the pen and I’ll take care of that….

No comments: