Thursday, February 26, 2009

nineteen eighty-nine

I have a daughter who is a senior.
Unless you, too, have had a child who is a senior, I don't think you can completely understand the stress, the pride, the fear and, in my case, the utter frustration that one feels as a parent of a senior.

Senior year is not an easy year for many kids. There are graduation requirements that need to be met (culminating project). There's the prospect of the future: Go to university? Community college? Tech school? Take a "gap year" and work, travel, loaf? Assert independence that you aren't so sure you're ready to wear? It's really, really tough. I know it has been *forever* since I was a senior in high school, but I remember the feelings that go with those decisions quite vividly because intensely felt feelings carve into your soul never to be forgotten.

I remember feeling that so many of my friends had their stuff together so much better than I. They were going to universities, community colleges. I didn't have a strong sense that I could take on those responsibilities. I was barely making it through my senior year! I felt a bit of a loss and that I was dangling out in the limboland of loserville. It pretty much sucked.

These are the things I remember as I see my own child struggle to fulfill her graduation requirements.

What saved me from myself my senior year...or, more specifically, *who* saved me from myself was a new teacher to our school. He was my horticulture teacher. I loved horticulture, and I still enjoy it, so don't mock. Plants are life and oxygen and are essential to our existence. Yeah, it would be considered a slacker class, but it was fulfilling--far more fulfilling to me then than, say, math.

Anyway, I was chronically truant. I had 20+ absences at one point in a semester, and it is easy to fall behind when one misses that many days in a semester. I was also taking a Zero Period class (I think it was History or Econ with Mr Kelly) and I had to take freaking Commercial Foods in order to get credit for my job. My senior year schedule sucked.

My horticulture teacher, Kirk Stuart, told me at one point that he was going to do whatever he could do to assure that I would graduate. He may have just wanted to get rid of me, but his motive is unimportant to me 20 years later. It was unimportant to me then. He was the only teacher I had in three years at that high school who appeared to care about my success at all. At that point, I think he cared more than I cared.

During my horticulture class, I would work on missing assignments from other classes. He'd help me if I needed it. He was a good guy.

I think about Mr. Stuart more than I think about any other teacher (except maybe Mrs. Pickens because I was just such a bitch to her--entirely unnecessarily, too). When I finally went back to school (community college), I thought of Mr. Stuart. What he did for me back in 1989 was really big of him. I don't know if I ever thanked him, but I am so grateful.

Now I see my kid fighting a system that can't be fought. She doesn't want to do certain things in order to graduate: compiling her portfolio from freshman through senior year, which includes 20 hours of community service, letters of recommendation, letters from college(s), resume, evidence of learning, etc, etc. It's a lot to do, and she has pretty much done none of it.

She won't listen to me because I am 20 years removed from high school, and she knows what a crap student I was because she mentions it often enough. Plus, I am her Mom. Moms are dumb. This I know because my Mom was dumb was I was Paige's age. I don't know what it is about moms, but once a kid turns about 16, the mom becomes retarded. I don't mean that in a derogatory way. I mean it literally. Their brains are not fully developed and are therefore reatrded in growth. For some reason, once the child reaches the age of about 20 or 21, his/her mom is suddenly normal again. It really sucks to be a mom in her retarded phase, which is what I am in now.

Paige needs a Mr. Stuart. A teacher who has confidence in her. A teacher who can relate to her. A teacher who can light a fire under her ass like no other person can. A teacher who believes she can graduate and then do whatever else she wants to do.

The problem is that Paige is not in a school with only 400-500 kids like my 9th-12th grade high school. She is in a 10th-12th grade high school that has more like 1500 kids. Her graduating class is *huge.* She disrespects her advisory teacher, who is supposed to walk her through this process. She has little to no respect for many of her teachers, and when you feel like a kid thinks you're slime, why would you ever invest your time and effort into helping her?

I know we'll make it through this year alive, and if she gets her ass in gear, she may even graduate on time with her peers.

Oy, but it's tough to be the parent of a senior.

1 comment:

Renae said...

I'm not mocking horticulture but I do have to point out that many of the students were there to learn how to better cultivate their pot plants. Before Mr. Stuart that would have also included the teacher.