Year 13 Begins, Triskaidekaphobes Unite!

First Day from Different PointsThis past Wednesday, the Parent Imperfect creaked out of bed with a different sense of purpose. He was back in the business of helping to get children out the door for school, with minimum drama. For the first time in four years, Vince and Connie are going to the same school. They are both students of Boston Latin School and Liz and myself hold the identity of “BLS parents” within the system. We can no longer say that we have “one child at BLS and the other at the Hernández” or ” our oldest is at BLS and our daughter goes to the Irving.” We now have two students of the nation’s oldest public school in our home, and we’d better get used to it. It will take some time….

After they finally got out the door on Wednesday morning, Liz looked at me and said, “Well, here we go…another year.” Her tone wasn’t ominous, in the least. She was doing her best to be positive. Always the statistician, I responded, “Yup, it’s year…wow, it’s year 13.” The two of us winced, simultaneously. Thank goodness we don’t believe in those weird superstitions.

In that moment, I was reminded of the very godless communist in Cuba who rubbed his fingers across his chest and then snapped his wrists as if to throw off the evil spirits after making a joke about Cuban santeríaI must have been looking at him strangely because he immediately said, “Por si acaso…”  (“Just in case”), and smiled. Maybe I’m doing this to ward off the evil spirits of the number 13.

The night before school started, we heard from a parent whose child transferred from BLS to Boston Arts Academy for ninth grade. “As K. starts her tenth year in BPS, we have a first. Her advisor, also the head of the visual arts department at BAA, called her tonight to say hello and see whether she had any questions. What a welcome relief after ____” Let’s stay positive and just say “Good for K. And BAA”! I’m fighting off “transfer envy.”

No one called Dear Connie to see if she had any questions about her third consecutive year in a new school. You don’t make such calls in a school where entering students number almost 600 (the total enrollment of BAA is 420 in Grades 9-12). If someone had made that call, they’d have gotten a lot more questions than expected.

Vince was definitely more stressed as his Junior year loomed. I have, in the past, wished that he would show a tiny bit more concern about school, but I must now be very careful what I wish for. Last year, we heard too many stories of students at the school who reached a point of such anxiety that they could not bring themselves to enter the building. He knows that this is crunch time, and wants very much to respond.

He is finally past Latin, but he must take Pre-Calculus, English (the 19th century British novel z-z-z-z-z-), US History, Environmental Science, Spanish 4 and American Foreign Policy. Just listing those classes makes me shudder. He wanted to substitute Art for Foreign Policy and AP Spanish for Spanish 4, but fears what would happen if his whole schedule was flipped upside-down at this point, and all of his teachers changed. As it stands, he apparently has none of the most feared teachers, which is cause for celebration. He does, however, have the same teacher for two of classes, which should never happen. This teacher happens to be the mother of a girl from Roslindale who was at the Irving with Connie last year and is in her class this year. Boston is really a big small town. This teacher studiously avoided connecting much with the other parents at the Irving last year. She must have a sixth sense about these things.

Last night, Connie was spending too much time making sure that all of her binders were perfectly set up. I’m not kidding. My concern about this being the third year in a row that she has no foreign language class was not shared by my daughter, so I chill. It’s much too early to say how she’ll adapt to this environment, but she seems to be the sort of student that BLS is built for. After she got the binders set up, she sat and thought about her first writing assignment, to write a six-word autobiography. She is already quite excited about the teacher who gave her that assignment…for good reason.”Cultivating lifelong friends near the sea” …the experience of summer camp continues to echo in much of what she does.

I hesitate to say it, but the social environment at the school seems different for girls trying to find their way in a huge new place. Vince seemed to make new friends at the school very easily. Yesterday, Liz asked if Connie had seen a certain older girl who she has known for many years, someone who might help her feel comfortable in the school. “Yes, I saw her at lunch, sitting at a table of full of all blonde girls wearing leggings. They even all had the same little twist in their hair. Weird… It was so crowded that I had to walk by their table, very close to them. One of them turned and looked at me like this (very dismissive look). I looked at [the girl she knows] to try to say “hi.” She saw me, but she ignored me.”  This kind of social environment will be the challenge for Connie, much more than the binders.

Free for AllSpeaking of lunch, the BPS announced early in the week that they are now serving free lunch to all students. Some education advocates view this as a good thing, while others fear that it will be an excuse not to gather data about the income levels of students in each BPS school. Vince’s take: “It was already impossible to get lunch in the 22 minutes they give us. If they give it away for free, it will be even more of a mess, especially when the lunch is decent.” In our house, both students have pledged to make their own lunches the night before. So far, they are one-for-three on the pledge. We’ll see…

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