As my ex-husband Troy, our daughter Andi and I start to plan for Andi’s high school career; I can’t help but reflect on my own high school years. I know I’m going to make a few people mad with this post since many of you know where I went to school but I don’t think my high school prepared me for college or my career. Of course others who went there might feel differently than I do and that’s okay. But I feel my high school cheated me out of an education. I have always felt this way. I get that you get out of what you put in and I definitely didn’t put in a lot but I also wasn’t offered a lot.
For those of you who don’t know, I went to a Catholic high school. Now I am sure that some Catholic high schools are fantastic and the one I attended might even be better now since it has been 20 years. I was a good student K-8 and I really tried in the 9th grade but I quickly learned that it didn’t really matter. I struggled with math quite a bit that year and in no way should I have passed but my teacher passed me anyway. I remember going to him for help but other than taking a few minutes between classes, he wasn’t willing to give me the time. The school did not offer tutoring and I don’t know if it was something my mom ever considered or not. Why would she? We didn’t really have the money and he was passing me anyway. Struggling that year in math meant that I never had the basics to understand math in the coming years.
It wouldn’t have mattered even if I did understand. One year, my math teacher was the principal. I loved our principal but he didn’t really have time to teach a class. There were many days that he would just buy us pop and/or pizza and put a movie in while he went to a meeting. Sometimes, he would give us a worksheet but I always had a friend do mine or just wouldn’t turn it in. So I went another year without learning math.
I remember a history class that was taught by a football coach. I think he only taught because he had to in order to be the coach. Every day he would come in and say “Get out your book and copy pages 1-20.” Well of course the page numbers were different day to day. My classmates and I quickly learned that he was not going to read these so we never did it. Instead, we wrote notes to each other. And honestly, I would not have retained the information by copying the book anyway.
A few of the teachers had absolutely no control over the class. It was constant chaos and as a teenager, I was happy to be part of that.
Even though we paid thousands in tuition, the school didn’t have the money for a lot of elective type courses or technology. Computers were becoming a huge part of life at this point but we only had a few in the entire school and only the really smart kids got to use them. I learned how to type on a manual type writer. It wasn’t even electric. Actually, I probably got more out of my typing class than any other class in high school (except for maybe two English classes). I can now type about 90 words a minute. If I remember correctly I took cooking, a year of Spanish, child development, interior design and a business class as my electives. I think advanced science and an art class were the only other choices.
As I look at my daughters choices for electives, I’m in shock. She probably has a hundred choices. They include several different types of music, art, film making, communication, theater, journalism, science, AP courses, fashion design, financial literacy and so much more. I wish I would have choices like this. I remember feeling very ill prepared when I started my journalism classes in college. I felt like everyone in the class had been on a real student newspaper except for me. They all had taken journalism classes already. I was the only one in my speech class who hadn’t already taken public speaking of some kind. I was very overwhelmed.
My college-prep school did not prepare me for college. In fact, my guidance counselor told me I shouldn’t even apply for colleges. Now I have already admitted that I wasn’t the best student but I have never understood why an adult in that position would tell a kid that. I hope she has heard that I finished my first semester in college with a 3.8, graduated with good grades and went on to be a reporter and now in the public relations field. Yeah, I’m not bitter. LOL But maybe her not believing in me is what I needed to become an excellent student in college.
I do have to give kudos where it is due. I did have two English teachers who believed in me very much. They saw my talent and pushed me. They have continued to encourage me during my college and professional careers.
I am lucky to have my children in one of the best districts in the state. My daughter is having a hard time deciding on her schedule because she has so many choices and would love to take more classes than the day allows. She’s not stuck picking the best of the worst. She can get free tutoring at school or I will hire a private tutor if she struggles at all. She has been placed in Advanced English and I don’t worry that it will be too much pressure because the school and I will provide her with the tools she needs. I can’t imagine that any teacher in her school will ever tell her just to copy pages from a book everyday or leave the kids alone to eat pizza while he goes to a meeting. I know that if a teacher can’t control a class, the leader of the chaos will be removed or another teacher, who can control them, will be brought in. My daughter and I are both lucky that I have smart friends who actually learned math and history and are willing to help her with her homework.
While many parents are nervous about their kids transitioning from middle school to high school next year, I am excited. Andi is a great student who loves learning and is anxious to take classes that interest her. Although I am sure there will be some struggles over the next four years, I am looking forward to the challenges and excitement that comes with it. I also found this article to be comforting.
What was your education like? Any tips for a mom with a child entering high school?
You know you haven’t upset me one bit! I felt the same way when I started at Centre. I did have a few good teachers in high school, but being babied by the ones who basically fed you the test during class didn’t help me much when I got to college and had to figure out how to study for myself and write papers worthy of a college student (not the five-paragraph essay that was hounded into us in sophomore year). And the lack of opportunities in the arts, beyond the yearly musical, was pretty disappointing to me once I met people at GSP and in college who actually were able to learn to play an instrument or sing in choir right in their schools. Yes, I got to take that computer programming course in high school, but the only ones who got to use the IBMs were the ones who had them at home. The rest of us learned on Commodore 64s which were already obsolete. And as a sidenote, I also learned to type on a manual typewriter, but by using a book at home in grade school. Anyway, a lot of aspects about sending my kids to middle school and high school scares me to death, but the lack of opportunities or proper leadership at our schools isn’t on that list. Andi will do great in high school – not just because she is going to a good school with great programs and great teachers, but because she has probably the most committed advocate I know backing her up.
Thank you Sarah! Another classmate posted on my FB page saying that she feels the same way about our high school education. It was good to read that you felt similar – knowing that you were one of the top people in our class.
Anyone who knows me will know where I went to HS and eventhough the school was small and opportunities were limited, I feel like I got a great education! I had great teachers and opportunities to learn beyond the classroom, a nurturing environment with discipline. I can only remember one teacher being a slacker and he was a coach, the other teachers held high expectations for us. Public education was way different in the 80’s and since school reform in the 90’s, school accountability and the publicity surrounding it all, there have been great strides made…. Can’t speak for private/ parochial. As for Highlands, I agree with Gina, I am certain that our kids will have been given many opportunities to explore and find their passions and if they are not ready for college, then its there own fault. I also hope that they are able to continue to build long lasting friendships and have a little fun in the midst of the high expectations and focus on learning.
I think the fact you went to a small school with public school funding and opportunities was a definite benefit for you. I agree that if our children aren’t prepared for life and college, it is their own fault. I just had our scheduling meeting this morning. Highlands will give them every opportunity they need and they will never be told to just copy the book.
Having gone to the same HS, although several years ahead of you, I know exactly how you feel. Choices were very limited and depending on your entrance exam you were placed on a track and it was very hard to go off that track. I was so frustrated that I couldn’t take art class until I was a junior because I was a college prep kid and needed to fit in the “smart classes” so I didn’t have time for art or cooking or typing or anything like that. Hello, those are life skills. People need to be well rounded. I don’t know if things have changed since you and I were there, but I hope it has. I didn’t feel prepared for college or being an adult when I left HS. I don’t think there were enough opportunities for us there at that time. No music program, limited theater, limited academic teams, etc. I sound like it was the dark ages, but it was the late 80s. Well, that is the dark ages according to our kids!
I graduated in 1992… still the dark ages according to my kids. 🙂 We did schedule classes this morning. She will be taking advanced English, journalism and Spanish, as well as the required classes. She was still deciding five minutes before the meeting because she has so many choices. That is a great problem to have!
I don’t even remember a single one of my teachers from High School. It was a non-factor in my life. It took passionate teachers at a college level to get me back on the path to success. Things have definitely changed.
I spend every day as a teacher trying to make sure that my students don’t have an experience like I did.
Goodness Rod, it makes me sad that you didn’t have one teacher in high school who made an impact on you. I am so glad though that we both had the chance to go to a college that had teachers who cared and inspired us. I’m happy you are making an impact on HS kids now.
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