Thursday, June 6, 2013

9th Grade's 9th Inning

Typically, my daughter and I see eye-to-eye on ... well ... nothing. (If this is a surprise, gentle reader, you haven't been paying attention over the last two years.) But today, we are in perfect agreement. We are simpatico. We are like-mother-like-daughter.

Right now, we feel the same way. We cannot wait — I mean, cannot wait — for school to end.

What a roller coaster it's been! Everyone warned us that the transition to high school would have its ups and downs (more downs than ups from where I was standing). Some of it was natural, some couldn't be avoided. But, some of the trauma did seem a little unnecessary. I believe there's a difference between being a tough teacher and being a jerk. 

Students are encouraged to self-advocate, but then they can't find the faculty member they need to talk to. Or, said faculty member has to leave and can only spend thirty seconds reviewing the paper that it took the student thirty hours to write. Or, a serious, legitimate, external situation makes a student two minutes late for practice and the instructor (exhausted no doubt from years of half-assed excuses) won't even listen to an explanation? C'mon.

In fairness, most of my daughter's teachers — this year and every year we've lived in this town — seem tremendously dedicated to their work. And, I'm a huge fan (always have been) of educators in general. That's one reason that running into such unreasonable expectations — and unnecessary drama — disturbs me so much. I want my daughter to respect and admire and, whenever possible, genuinely like her teachers. It's hard when Mr. XYZ assigns forty-five pages of epic poetry reading and an essay on the same night that Mrs. ABC expects her to memorize the names and dates of every Chinese dynasty. Or when forgetting to bring in a textbook takes 10 points off a good grade that was hard-won over multiple months.

And, guess which experiences will be remembered and become synonymous with freshman year? Not ones with the majority of teachers who were fair and reasonable but those with the minority who made things difficult.

In today's high-pressure high schools, it doesn't take much to throw things off balance. And, I'm not just talking about academics. Athletics and other after school programs can be just as bad. It's as though every teacher, every coach believes that their subject or sport or instrument is the only thing that matters.

Ten months is a long time for a fifteen year old to try his or her best — especially when it feels like there are odds against them. No wonder all our freshmen (and their parents) are exhausted.

"I'm so over it," my daughter announces at dinner.

I want to say, "Oy vey, can I relate!" But no, immediately I have to become big bad mom cop. "You can't be over it yet," I remind her. "You still have papers, you still have projects, and all of your finals. You don't want to undo all your hard work, do you?" This makes me a very popular mother. Not.

Nevertheless, we are pushing through. For the next three weeks, we have some new rules around here:

1. Unlimited snacks and soda ... as long as they are being used as study aids.

2. Bed-making and clothes-picking-upping have been temporarily suspended.

And, most important ...

3. Everyone on the team is expected to pitch in. Printing, proofreading, quizzing from notes or index cards. (Anything short of actual ghostwriting and plagiarism are encouraged.)

Yes, we are in the home stretch now and I don't know which one of us will be happier to see that last day of school. It would be a lively debate.

But, one that can definitely wait until July.

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