HIgh School Quest continued: Why am I doing this again?

I am sitting her looking at a blank box wondering what to say. Oh, yesterday I had plenty of ideas to write about, to rant, to muse and now I am sad I didn’t write them down. But I know that as soon as I did jot down a few notes, the ideas churning through my brain yesterday that I thought were so brilliant would metamorphose into teeth-breaking, hard-to-digest stale bread.

So, needless to say, this will be a random post. As I have already mentioned, we are in the midst of trying to find the right high school for my oldest child. This is a painstaking process, mostly because we have no precedent. I went to two high schools growing up: the one my mother worked at, and the one nearest my house, that also happened to be the school my father and his family attended. J went to the latter high school as well, mostly because his sister went there. Easy peasy.

But not here in Montreal. Our local high school has over 1600 kids in it. It is a huge concrete bunker (let’s face it, all public high schools look a little like prison) and she would know no one there. So we look around for other options hoping for the miracle of the perfect fit, which is akin to finding store bought pants I don’t have to shorten.

And the whole while, you wonder if you failed, are failing your child in some way. Because your child has to take tests. Their whole high school career will be determined by the outcome of these tests. Oh sure, the administrations of the different high schools like to reassure you and say that no, no. The test is only for evaluation purposes only. The results are not considered when the final decision is made. Part of me really wants to believe them. But I don’t. It just doesn’t make any sense. Why give a test if you’re not going to use it to determine whether the student is a right fit for your school?

And doesn’t this seem a lot like streaming? Because there are public high schools that have special vocations, or higher academic standards. But first of all, to know that your kid is eligible you have to know it’s an option in the first place. How many parents living in the low income neighborhoods know they can send their kids to a school that is a third of the population of the big local high school and will give them a more personal, dynamic approach to learning? My guess is not many. Because you would have to know how the system works. To know the system, you would have to speak French and be educated enough to ask the right questions. Then you would have to have the time and energy and resources to research these possibilities. This eliminates a good percentage of Montreal’s population right there. And then, your kid has to be one of the few whose learning style fits the education system, once again eliminating the better part of the population.

I am not sure if this is an acceptable situation.

 As for me, I am partly afraid the system will fail my daughter. She has a lot to offer. She is kind, resonsible, reliable, and hard working. She has empathy for her peers and is very organised. She is not a bad student, but she struggles with french and math. I think the big, local high school would chew her up and spit her out like a used piece of gum.

On the other hand, I am partly afraid that I have failed my daughter in some way by not being more vigilant about her homework. Or by being more present. Or by being too present. I am worried that I am not strict enough and that I am not giving her the skills to thrive in this world. That we watch too much Glee and not enough Planet Earth. That I don’t try hard enough to give her “learning experiences” although to be truthful, that sort of pedagogic approach to parenting makes me cringe. But maybe I should get over myself and start giving her reading lists and drilling her in her multiplications.

Hence the search.

But I wonder. Does it need to be that stressful? Is her future going to made or broken depending on what school she gets into? Somehow I doubt it. But I also doubt myself, like I suspect most parents do, and want to give my child the best possible start, even if I don’t believe in these ridiculous tests and am not even sure school is a good idea to begin with.

And so I go through this insanely stressful process, being herded through a number of dusty, pastel painted, linoleum covered halls, looking at rooms that are pretty much identical no matter what building you’re in and try to sense whether this is where my daughter will be able to grow into her future potential.

Absurd parent logic = 1
Reason & Sanity = 0

4 thoughts on “HIgh School Quest continued: Why am I doing this again?

  1. Mathematical drills are an excellent way to ensure your child will hate you well into adulthood, perhaps until your (or her) death.

    I am sorry you have to deal with high school again so soon.

    Also, I have a question about this mysterious term “future potential”. Is there any definitive way of measuring if someone lives up to their potential? What is potential? Isn't it just opinions from other people about how you should live your life? Or your own opinions?

    I guess I'm thinking of On the Waterfront, where Marlon Brando's character says “I coulda been someone. I coulda been a contender.” But could he have? According to who, exactly?

    I guess that's more than one question, and ones that can't really be answered. I'm sorry for being so long-winded all the time. I'm trying very hard to stop.

    I wish you godspeed with the impossible task of trying to find a good high school for your child.

  2. Well, exactly. Who the heck knows what that is? As a parent you live in fear that, because you did not expose your child to an art, or made science and math as fun as you can, you are shutting those ephemeral future doors in their face. It is irrational. It is absurd. It is palpable.
    The sane part of me that is luckily mostly in charge counters with the deep, instinctual knowledge that if I just love her, and treat her as a person capable of thinking for herself, she'll be alright.

  3. Seeing as I learnt more from travelling and getting myself into and out of trouble, I'd say forget the high school and get her a passport and a decent back pack.

    I'm sure that's bad advice.

  4. I'm with Tom. Don't you think that as we move thru life, our high school experience becomes less and less significant? Travel is a wonderful teacher.
    You are a great mom and so concerned for your children. I think your conclusion is the best – just love them and treat them with respect, and they will be fine. Actually, more than fine, they will thrive. Sending some big love your way.

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