Remember back in August when I wrote about how torn we were in deciding which high school my daughter would attend. We had always planned for her to attend the local French immersion public high school that everyone from her elementary school goes to. Well, almost everyone. We did all the preparation and she did the weekend sleepover event there too. She registered and we were waiting on her schedule to arrive when I realized that a smaller Catholic high school that is closer to our house also offered French immersion. So late last June we raced over there and met my good friend Margarita Ibbott in the parking lot with her daughter Lauren (a graduate of that same high school who now attends university) and we went through the school with them. The administrative assistant at the time offered us several uniform pieces in the event that we made the choice to attend. I thought that was extremely kind. Parents donate the clothing their kids have outgrown. That matters and makes a big difference to the cost of the uniform.
Not many other people were working the day we went through the school on a tour guided by Lauren, Margarita’s daughter. Over the summer we talked a lot about this change as a family. We made lists of pros and cons and in the end there were a few things that swayed the scales. The smaller numbers and smaller class sizes at the Catholic high school made sense to all of us. But more important was the way I felt when I left there each time I had a conversation.
One of my last conversations at the Thames Valley District School Board French immersion high school we had originally chosen went like this: “What’s your daughter’s name again?” “What track is she?” “Oh well hmmm…she might want to drop that math track entirely if she has any trouble with it.” (For the record her lowest math grade in grade eight French immersion was 75. Two strands of math are well into the As in FRENCH math) This led me to believe nobody had the first clue who my child was at the high school where she was supposed to be going. That’s a frightening thing to me as a parent.
During my last meeting with the elementary school she attended, the support team stated something to the effect of well high school has so many students. Good luck getting the help she needs there. It will be even harder. My child has never needed much extra support. Just a small amount of understanding and help staying organized. Sometimes she needs a quiet space to get her thoughts together and hopefully avoid a panic attack. Last year she had a few panic attacks at school. At one point while having a panic attack she went to the safe spot identified in her IEP and she was promptly told to leave because there was a meeting happening there. Then she was told to get to gym. So her safe spot identified in her IEP wasn’t even safe. The last two years at her prior school were not great. We as a family haven’t felt supported in the public school system in a long time. Too many promises broken, made by people who are paid to support and educate children. That’s a cycle we needed to stop as parents. Kids who arrive in their homes via adoption and foster care are already extremely vulnerable. They travel through life trying to overcome that and frankly from grade two on my oldest daughter’s elementary school years were instead peppered with bullying, stomachaches, anxiety, and at end of grade eight I felt we had a child who had spent a year trying to be invisible at school. She felt sick more often than not. Her self esteem was trampled. Also whenever I reminded her to speak up for herself to ask for an adult’s help at school she often said – “It doesn’t matter what I tell them. They never do it.” That needed to stop.
My daughter herself was more than excited about the idea of going to this new Catholic high school we hadn’t really considered before. She learned about the extra programs – like social justice and drama – and realized a uniform might be a good thing if it is an equalizer. We all also thought a uniform could cut down on the indecision and disorganization that mornings come with when you are a creative teenage girl experimenting with fashion. She also liked the idea of smaller classes and a more personal atmosphere. We did a couple of last minute visits there last week and she managed to get a great schedule. The principal sought her out and met with her, right after she met with me. Plus the staff have been kind and caring each time we met with them. In the end something about the way the school made us feel every time we interacted in person with staff helped us to make the decision.
This morning when I left my daughter at school, on her first day of high school ever in grade nine, two adults greeted her by name. I heard them do that because my daughter asked me to come into the school to make sure she had a locker. We didn’t get one last week because we were such late registrants. I am fully aware it won’t be all sunshine and rainbows at any school, or any board we choose. BUT, when you choose a school for your child you hope the personnel will support and appreciate each student. You hope they won’t be ignored or simply fall victim to the fact that there are never enough resources.
Here’s to fresh starts. We made our choice. It wasn’t easy but it makes sense for our family. How has your back to school routine been going?