The Power of Connection (and Disconnection)

finallySo much has happened since April, when the Parent Imperfect last appeared, much of it related to a huge life transition for Vince, and the rest of us. Starting in April, he completed our haphazard process of choosing a college, finished volleyball season, and careened toward the completion of his senior year. Then, against the backdrop of a quickening drum roll,  he discovered exactly one day before Senior Release Day that he was actually going to be released (rather than “held” in the school cafeteria until he paid his last dues). On June 8, Vince joined over 300 classmates in a joyous and windy graduation ceremony on the Boston waterfront.

After six years of soaring highs and dramatic lows, he had made it through the nation’s oldest public school. One down and one to go…I have had many critical things to say about Boston Latin School in these pages, and I still feel the same way on most of those issues. But I can’t close the book (or the blog) on Vince’s experience at the school without remembering a couple of things about the place.

Path to CollegeTo attend BLS is to embark on a path to a four-year college. Any alternative path carries a strong stigma; Even the now quite acceptable idea of the “gap” year is not supported or encouraged in a way that makes it a “cool” thing to do. Vince was never all that excited about immediately taking on four more years of academic pressure and “boring” classes. However, since all his friends were moving in that direction, to do something else would have been way too risky, emotionally.

So it is that Vince headed down the path to a four-year college. As he made his way over the rocks, downed trees and other obstacles, the Guidance Department at BLS, and especially its Director, supported him (and his clueless parents) in a way that he had never been supported at the school. He didn’t get stunning individual counseling from his own guidance counselor, but even this improved at college crunch time, and the department director provided a steady flow of information and support that were really important to us. Every high school student in Boston should have such attention and support.

Teachers MatterIf you’ve read these pages consistently over the years, you are familiar with Vince’s problems with some of his teachers at BLS. He had several real stinkers, two or three of whom almost forced him out of the school. I have shared less about the small number of teachers who had a huge positive influence on Vince and helped pave the way for his late-spring walk in the funny purple cape. Vince continues to mention an eighth-grade English teacher, an eleventh-grade Science teacher and a Social Studies teacher that he was lucky to have in both eleventh and twelfth grade. In their own way, each of them touched Vince and had an important impact on his development, especially his sense of self worth. Our entire family owes those people and a few more like them a great debt.

Vince was one of those relatively rare kids who made it through fourteen years in the Boston Public Schools while attending only two schools, the Rafael Hernández and Boston Latin. While his group of close school friends changed greatly over time, six of the children who were with him on his first day of K1 walked with him this June.

Help from my friendsWhat allowed him to make it through the nation’s oldest, more than his guidance counselor or his teachers or even his loving family (mood music) was his friends. They didn’t always lead him to the best decisions and they were not, at every moment, the friends I’d have chosen for him (thankfully), but they were great young people who cared about him as much as he cared about them. They were there for him when shit happened, and it happened quite a bit at BLS. Going through a really difficult experience together creates a bond…a kind of solidarity, and it was on that solidarity that Vince finally floated away from Avenue Louis Pasteur.

Ithaca CollegeVince is now on to the next adventure, in a place that takes longer to get to than LA. He spent the summer training us for his absence by creating emotional distance and essentially using our abode as a flop house with provisions. It is one thing to get used to life in Roslindale without him, but it is quite another to know so little about what he is doing or how he is. The patient training continues…

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4 Comments

Filed under Boston Public Schools, Exam Schools

4 responses to “The Power of Connection (and Disconnection)

  1. jamie

    Thank you for posting this!

  2. Eileen McMahon

    Enjoyed reading your post! I’ve also found that my daughter’s success at BLS hinges on her network of friends who help each other to navigate the was of this arcane school. In the end the skills nurtured with her co-hort of friends will probably be the most valuable part of her BLS experience.

    • Thanks Eileen. Yes, collaborating with others is a very good skill to learn. I probably should also have said that the social environment contains no small amount of toxicity and competition, but I would stand by the statement that Vince wouldn’t have made it through without his friends.

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