Friday, January 22, 2010

Growing Pains

Growth isn't always easy. It's not always steady. Sometimes it comes in spurts and takes you by surprise when you notice it. Other times it is a slow march toward maturity and it's not until you pass a particular marker and look back that you realize it has occurred.

Calypso has had some fits and starts, like a lot of us do. At the beginning of the school year she commenced at a new high school, a charter school with a particular focus. The process to enter this school began when she was in 9th grade and came home with information about it and a declaration of her intention to make it into this school. Because of the timing of the application process she had already missed the dates of application and interview for her sophomore year. Last year she prepared extensively to make application for entry to two different departments in this new school. The reasoning was the increased competition for an upperclassman to gain entry. She figured if she cast her net a bit wider it might give her a greater opportunity.

We supported her preparations and found a professional "coach" in the area in which she was most interested. Calypso had to do the hard work because it was on her merit that she would either gain entry or not. We cheered her toward success but also tried to prepare her for the possibility of disappointment and that life would go on even if she were not invited to join this new school. Meanwhile, she was letting things slide way out of control back at her own school. She eventually realized we meant business in our expectations to work hard no matter where she was attending school.

There was also growing tension with the "coach." This tension built until one day, a mere two weeks before the final step in the process of application, the coach erupted in a display of anger, vitriol, and unprofessionalism which would have seen her removed from the classroom permanently had it occurred in a public school. Calypso was devastated and withdrew her application to that particular department. She went forward with application to the other department, in which she had still prepared but had far less experience. No amount of encouragement or reasoning could convince her to continue in the other department because of how ugly the scene with the coach had been. Nonetheless, the day for her final step in application came and a few weeks later we received word that she was the only upperclassman accepted to that department. We were proud of her for having pursued and achieved the goal she set for herself.

This school year she excitedly began at her new school with a newly stated intention of displaying a greater work ethic than in the past and and enthusiasm about the new opportunities. There were some disappointments big and small as well as some concerns about the lack of communication, but she continued to put forth her best effort. She knew she had a two year backlog of information in her department she needed to catch up on and she applied herself to doing that. There were hindrances put in her way and frustrations but she seemed to push forward whereas in past years she may have given up entirely. She has a tendency to start well and never finish.

I personally came to the conclusion that while there may be good content provided in the specific department she entered, the general academics were seriously lacking. Additionally the communication with the school was terrible. They were great about letting us know when the next fundraiser was but trying to get a teacher or administrator to return a call or email with regard to anything else was nearly impossible. I was willing to keep her in the school though if it were a good fit in other ways. It became evident it was not a particularly good fit in any way. The question became what to do about it.

The last day of school before Christmas break Calypso came home very sullen. The rest of the kids in the carpool were happily chattering about the holiday and Calypso just sank quietly into her seat. After everyone else was dropped off I asked Calypso what was going on and she burst out in tears begging not to go back to her new school after the holiday break. After she calmed down she and I were able to have a long heart to heart about all the reasons she felt that way. She was able to give a lot of clear explanations and answer a lot of questions she previously would have avoided or dismissed completely. The whole conversation had a far more mature tone to it than she's ever been able to maintain before.

We set the wheels in motion to re-enroll her at her old school. We talked about how far behind academically she may be because of the deficiencies in what was offered at the new school (amazing how good something can look on paper and how crappy it can be in reality, a lesson for both of us) and how much work she may need to put in to catch up. I heard her take responsibility for her classwork and results in a way she never has before and though talk is cheap and I've heard hollow promises before she convinced me that she meant business here. We talked about some of the social aspects she may face from people who may be inclined to say she came back because she just couldn't make it. In the past, the opinions others have of her have been something she has put far too much value in. She seems to have a new recognition of her own worth without regard to what petty people think. I am hopeful for her in a new way.

I think the most notable bit of growth has been her willingness to state without any coaxing that part of why she left in the first place was thinking the grass would be greener and she found out it wasn't. And yes, I knew all along there was a certain element of that in her original decision but it was good to hear her say it for herself. A person has to swallow a good amount of pride to make such an admission and be willing to return to face the old situation she sought to escape. It might have been easier in some ways to keep going away from it. So while some might regard what she's doing now as quitting I know she's not.

Yesterday she resumed classes at her old school. She came back home glad for the structure there which she had previously rebelled against. She reported with humor rather than tears about interactions with former thorns in her side. She listed with happiness the classes she has with teachers we know (and so does she) will challenge her mind. She had to take a somewhat longer route to value what she had in the first place and to see her own value as well but I think she's on the right track now. May she finish well.


21 comments:

furiousBall said...

best wishes to Calypso, when my son returned back up to Jersey, he was really struggling in school down in Georgia. but coming back to a insanely superior school system has been tough for him with the structure here, but after a few months, that structure has become comfort too. totally different situation, but i bet Calypso finds some similar relief in that structure as well.

Craig said...

My heart is strangely warmed by this. . .

We generally learn WAY more from life's 'failures' than we ever do from the 'smooth sailing'. There are those of us whose main shortcoming as adults is that we didn't fail enough when we were younger. . .

Good for Calypso.

jinksy said...

All power to her elbow, says I...

Fat, frumpy and fifty... said...

good thoughts and happiness, may it continue...

S said...

Man, these teen years are busting my arse!
And you get to do it THREE times.

Glad she got that all sorted out.

Cricket said...

Ouch. Well, best wishes to your daughter. I'm sure it will work out for the best.

For years I worked as an SAT/Math/English tutor and I came to one inescapable conclusion: private and charter schools are mostly hype. In 10 years of tutoring, when I compared what kids did at "Snootmore Academy" to what they did in public schools, the public schools were almost invariably better.

In all that time I found only one private school that impressed me as having a clearly advanced curriculum. One.

The main advantage to most private schools seems to be too keep your children from associating with people from the wrong income bracket.

Cricket said...

Whoops. "too" = "to". Normally wouldn't bother to correct, but in the context of academic excellence and all. Hee-haw.

Moannie said...

It does seem to be a minefield, Lime, studied with schools inept and uncaring. Kudos to Calypso for the growth she has made and may it long continue.

Cocotte said...

Cheers to Calypso for being mature enough to return to her old school. I can see how that would be very difficult to do.

secret agent woman said...

In the long run, that experience may be far more valuable to her than if it had been a simple and one-time transition. Good for her for growing through it.

Logophile said...

You know I have a special place in my heart for your middle child, yes?
Although we are quite different in a lot of ways, some of your Calypso stories have reminded me of me.
I am so happy for you as a mom, seeing this, and I am so happy for her, and proud of her too, oddly enough.
I may not have met her, but still, this way of watching her grow up has made me quite fond of your kids and I am very glad to have the opportunities to applaud.
Good on ya, Calypso, steady as she goes!

Ananda girl said...

Life teaches us the most important lessons, but like when life begins, there is pain and struggle in the learning of those lessons. Good for Calypso for finding her way!

Beach Bum said...

Calypso make me realize that I wouldn't ever go back to high school.

g-man said...

No More Car Pool!!!!

BBC said...

Growth isn't always easy. It's not always steady.

Oh, I don't know about that, there was some bumps in my first fifty or so years but that was to be expected.

It's my life since moving here in 98 after a powerful dream that has been a pain in the butt.

I have a lot of friends, but have found no suitable mate for me since moving here, I don't like that but I'm accepting and adjusting to it the best I can.

I just go camping a lot, I love my camping and posted some camping pictures today.

DianeCA said...

Our road in life is seldom a straight line. And what we aim for doesn't always work out as expected when we get there. However she learned a lot from this process, and that is a knowledge she can take with her into the future.

choochoo said...

Never grew past 5,2, myself. And my word verification today is 'local'. I find that funny.

airplanejayne said...

Calypso will do fine -- because she and her mama are so on top of it all.

Sadly, this is often a problem at many charter schools -- they do their "focus" part very, very well, but the academics suffer for it.

ttfootball said...

wow...great when things work out, even better when you learn from the process

Fortress Guinness said...

this all made me smile...well done to Calypso and well done to mum too...!!! ;)

Jocelyn said...

There is nothing I appreciate more than parents who listen to their teenaged kids. Too often, what they're saying gets ignored.