Monday, May 08, 2006

Warming the Cockles of My Heart

After watching the academic standards of our local public high school slip steadily downhill, and realizing that $10K/per year for the local Catholic high school just wasn't within our budget, Hubs and I applied for an interdistrict transfer for DS#2 because, sad to say, even the best high school in our district is only somewhat better than our local school. If I'm going to be inconvenienced, it had better be worth my while!

The trick is to find a class offered in the new district that is not offered in ours. We considered Latin, but DS#2 is already through one year of high school Spanish and is doing very well. Considering the problems he has with language in general, we want to encourage his success. The answer, provided by the friends who guided us in the process, was a class called "Oral Interpretation." Offered under the Drama Department, Oral Interpretation involves public speaking, but also listening to and learning from how other people present information and arguments. Since DS#2 is a "mush-mouth" (I'm always after him to slow down and enunciate), practicing public speaking is not a bad idea. And analyzing speeches by actors, politicians, newscasters, and others isn't a bad skill to have either.

DS#2's application was accepted and we saw the counselor at his new high school last Friday to choose his classes for the coming year. They're pretty standard sophomore classes: English 2, Spanish 2, PE 2, Chemistry, Geometry, and Oral Interpretation. I thought about asking if he could repeat World History since his current class is pretty much a waste of time, but I didn't. He has to maintain a "B" average to stay in the school, which means he can't have the "sophomore slump" DS#1 and DD#1 had at our local public high school when they realized they just didn't have to work hard to get passing grades.

The counselor warned DS#2 about the teacher for Oral Interpretation. She's very strict, very exacting, expects her students to do things her way, and they must go to every competition during the year, no matter what else is planned for the event. The counselor said, "If there's a competition the same day as your sister's wedding, you go to the competition." Fortunately, the English teacher DS#2 has now (I requested he be moved to Advanced Freshman English because he was getting an "A" without working too hard) is much the same way.

But what really warmed the cockles of my heart was one of the counselor's final statements: "It's cool to be smart in this school. Football players take drama and AP classes. It's cool to behave well, too." That's why we're here. This attitude is what the Administration, the teachers, and the parents expect from the students, so the students expect it themselves. It's the attitude that has slowly disappeared, drop by drop, student by student, from our local public high school.

Part of me feels guilty for pulling DS#2 out, thereby eliminating another drop. But while Hubs and I can fight the good fight, DS#2 has only one chance at high school. We could keep him at the local high school, expose him to the fights, the foul language, the teachers who are too busy merely trying to keep order to teach, and load him up with enrichment programs and classes at the local community college. Or we can send him to a high-quality school and still fight the good fight politically, for all the kids whose parents can't or won't. We won't be able to hold the Administration accountable with quite the same moral authority, but, on the other hand, we won't have to worry (too much) about retaliation against him. (Although we will have to petition for the interdistrict transfer each year for him and for DD#2 next year when she is in 8th Grade.)