For the Parent Imperfect, the summer is ending early this year. Yesterday, Boston Latin School began its optional orientation for all entering “sixies” or seventh graders. Connie is among that group of over 500 children. According to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, in 2012-13, there were 3795 seventh graders in the BPS. Assuming that number hasn’t changed dramatically in one year, almost one-seventh of the seventh graders in the system are at this one school, and almost one in four is at one of the BPS exam schools.
At first, Connie didn’t want to go to the orientation, but when push came to shove, she decided to get on the bus. Many of her friends from the Irving were going to orientation, which interested her, for sure, but what pushed her over the edge was her brother’s advice to go. What a surprise! The idea that Vince would suggest that someone spend any more time than the absolute minimum in school was…revolutionary. He said that there was too much sitting around, but that going to orientation would make things much easier when school started for real in September.
Connie took off for Forest Hills with a vanful of kids (and two parents) gathered at a neighbor’s house down the street. One of them who I think has had at least two older boys at the school (who did quite well) said to me, “Here we go, again.” when I got there. Fully feeling the ambivalence of the moment, I answered, only half-joking, “I should know better.”
Connie spent the afternoon and a good part of the evening with her friends from the neighborhood who are also attending BLS, so I didn’t see her until almost 9PM. When I asked her to “tell me everything” about the day, she answered that there wasn’t much to say. They’d spent almost the entire day sitting and listening to an adult tell them things. I wanted to say, “get used to it, honey,” but, for once, I refrained. I persisted with my questions and the following thoughts about the day surfaced:
1. It was exciting to see kids there that she knew from all of the different places of her life. She saw three others from the Hern√°ndez, about six others from the Hennigan and over 20 from the Irving. Of the 16 kids in her orientation group, 14 were from the Irving AWC. She was very excited to see her best friend from the Hennigan, who had not gone to the Irving. There were also kids that she knew from camp, theater, dance , gymnastics¬†and from playing soccer. She was surprised to know so many of the kids in the group.
2. Her orientation teacher was the Divine Ms. H., one of the teachers with whom her brother did not had a great relationship. “I could see really quickly why Vince wouldn’t get along with her.”
3. It was bad enough to spend so much time sitting around, but every few minutes some adult had to remind them that the expectations of them were going to be very high, but they would answer those expectations because they were the “best .” It would have been OK to hear that once, but they heard it over and over. Connie wondered if they were trying to convince them about this best thing. She knows plenty of kids who are “smarter” than the kids who are there, but they decided to go to BLA or some other school.
4. She was familiar with the school, but it still seemed very huge confusing. She wondered if whoever gave numbers to the rooms did it to try to confuse the kids or make it a challenge for them.
5. Her home room will be right next to the one Vince was in as a sixie. She knows at least one other kids who will in that same home room, which was reassuring to her.
Day Won is done. The die is cast. I couldn’t help but wonder how different the first day of orientation must have been for Connie than it was for her brother. He was one of the small group (three) of kids coming from his non-AWC school (“regular” ed), and he really didn’t know that many other kids at that first day of orientation. The school is definitely set up for children to come to it as Connie is coming. Her experience there will definitely be different. I only hope that it is different for the better.
After hearing it all, Liz said, “We may not have to work hard to get her to do the work, but we’ll have to work very hard to keep her who she is.” So true.