The world has completely changed…
…since I last sat down to write another installment of this blog series of mine. Covid-19 hit us hard and life rapidly moved in ways many of us certainly didn’t see coming. If you’ve been a reader of this series, you know that I’d promised a continuation of last month’s topic concerning the length and contents of life’s journey from college to full-on adulthood and that’s what I eventually intend to deliver here. But I think it would be crass and myopic of me to press forward without an acknowledgement of the revolution we’re each experiencing.
That said, I want to take a detour away from my intended writing today by sharing something I recently experienced about (and alongside) our kids, but first, here’s a reference point. As you may know, I’m a founding administrator of a small start-up charter high school – VIPHS – that is mandated to facilitate viable four-year college options for public-school students who hail from all corners of life. Also, I play our school’s leadership role in moving forward within this area of focus. I’ve been leading public-school kids to college in my own way via school-based settings for about the last dozen years.
Ten Curious Things Parents Do To Mess Up Their Kid’s College Journey
Curious Thing #4
The Curious Lack of Stopping to Smell the Roses.
Kids Will Be Kids, so Love Them for It and Enjoy the Ride
I find that as I age and become more experienced, I will admit to you that I sometimes grapple with my share of dark days in functioning within this professional practice of sorts. Like anyone, I have my tough moments of self-doubt with the inner monologue going something along the lines of “What, exactly, is it I think I’m doing? Where is this endeavor really going over the long haul? What in the world made me think I can cope with teenagers on a daily basis, year in and year out? Is my message obsolete? Am I finally just too old? Is this job going to kill me? Have kids changed for the worse? Am I not smart and energetic enough to roll with their punches?” You know – that sort of destructive self-talk.
Our school’s current senior class is populated by kids of all sorts, but what’s especially noticeable about this class of ‘20 is that it features a sizable contingent of particularly ambitious and competitive players. Maybe it’s because a portion of them hold national-level speech-and-debate titles and they’ve been trained up since middle school to expect victory. Perhaps it’s also because all along the way we’ve promised college-centered wins. Maybe it has a little something to do with our small enrollment, small classroom sizes, readily accessible administration and faculty. Most importantly, perhaps it’s because at some subconscious level, we sought and asked for naturally driven kids to choose our high school program. After all, that type goes hand-in-hand with a successful college-prep program.
insidewink’s monthly column about the college-planning process you and your teenager may be living through or planning to tackle in the foreseeable future.
You can read the previous part here of “Ten Curious Things Parents Do To Mess Up Their Kid’s College Journey”
The steep hill I was walking
Accordingly, I will disclose that throughout this spring semester – one that’s run from mid-January until our last day together in a physical/traditional school space on Friday, March 13 — I was feeling exhausted, secretly disillusioned, and particularly unappreciated by this young racehorse-style contingent of my 12th-grade charges. It didn’t help that I was coming right off a second of two hip-replacement surgeries within an 18-week period thus my physical-emotional stamina wasn’t up to snuff.
Also, it certainly never helps that within any start-up charter school such as ours, those of us who are cast in administrative roles are constantly peddling the bike up a steep hill with wolves jumping out to devour us along the way – politics and financial challenges are thick for sure thus it’s the nature of the beast. All of these factors taken into consideration, I was troubled by the notion that I didn’t feel like I really knew my seniors anymore as I didn’t understand why they were or weren’t doing certain things. They were, in my estimation, making what seemed to me to be varying degrees of illogical, downright strange choices as far as school was concerned and I couldn’t seem to access my self-discovered roads to bringing forth greater understanding.
Then, March 26 …
… exactly one day into our school’s current period of transitioning from virus-caused, online-delivered lesson assignments to Zoom coursework delivery…and it was also the day of which a whole slew of highly selective colleges had announced they’d release their admission decisions at exactly 4:00 pm on the nose. It was a pile of schools to which this certain segment of about a dozen of our seniors had applied with all of the strategy and passion they could muster – places such as every single Ivy League institution. UC Berkeley. Vanderbilt. Tufts. USC. Vassar. Brandeis. Duke. Emory. A whole lot was riding on March 26.
Around two hours before the designated 4:00 hour, I realized each kid within this hardworking group had to be beyond nervous. After all, being who they are, they’d been steadily working up to this single dot in time throughout high school. I realized it was almost too much to take for practically anyone, including me. The exercise now seemed utterly cruel and unusual, a pending debacle. It was possible some of these deserving kids would receive blanket denials. I impulsively picked up my phone and shot out a group text that basically read something along the lines of “Thinking of you, love you and good luck, let me know how it turns out” and then I set down my phone and tried to focus on other business.
Much to my surprise, the group text continued via their volition, not mine.
It wasn’t my intention – I wish I could claim credit for thinking of it. I don’t know why I assumed they’d each want to be alone to receive news of their fate and to most certainly lick wounds, but I did. Throughout the preceding tough weeks, I guess I’d completely bought their adult-like p.r. as I endowed them with in-kind propensities and toughness.
The impromptu text stream at once became a communal and supportive group for sharing the good and bad news. I watched them text rapid-fire cheering for each other’s wins, consoling and mitigating individual losses and frustrations. They humanized the event in ways I hadn’t anticipated. They were perfect. Beautiful. Sane. Real. Young. And suddenly, I felt gushes of happy tears streaming down my face, no matter whether each admissions “verdict” was positive or negative.
Oh. They are good kids after all. Kind-hearted, well-intentioned children. How could I have lost sight of that truth?
Yes, because of infuriating and constant technology, politics, possible family-related challenges, myriad forces I couldn’t possibly recognize, and don’t forget – just normal child development and social pressure, and now the topper is this weird virus-induced isolation and loss of a daily school community – it’s no wonder they seemed peculiar, taciturn, thoughtless. They were just trying to hold it together and hindsight tells me they were doing an excellent job of it. At the end of the day on March 26, I was once again schooled in that fact that they’re just lovely, honest, hopeful, wondrous, well-intentioned, learning-as-they-go kids.
I felt privileged and grateful to share that texting spell.
It was a window into seeing them at their best as well as the pure light they exude, and also into reconnecting with why I love this work and why it’s so worth doing.
The next time you’re impatient with your teenager — put out, tired of the perceived impudence and lack of whatever behavior is desired at the moment — try to think about the fact that such daily incidences will indeed fade into oblivion. Chances are that you will mostly remember the good things.
Anne Cochran is an award-winning leader of a small and passionate team of educators who opened Valley International Preparatory High School (VIPHS) in August 2018. — a new charter high school dedicated to providing 21st-Century-informed college options to grades 9-12. As a former marketing veteran within Hollywood’s film industry and small-business owner, Anne redirected her career interests nearly 12 years ago to addressing a need she observed within secondary public education, which is to bring optional college options to public school-educated teens who would otherwise be presented with very limited choices. Anne has been married for over 45 years to Chuck Cochran, creator and namesake of “Chuck Cochran’s Music Lab” at VIPHS, and they have two grown children.
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