What a time we had as a school community on Thursday!

We ordered and received graduation lawn signs for the portion of our current seniors who requested them, and we started making plans on how we’d get them into their households’ hands — not such an easy feat during this time of pandemic isolation.

At first we thought just two or three of us from our admin team would drive around and deliver them — but then the idea mushroomed into a last-minute-yet-major happening when 14 of our staff and faculty happily jumped onboard and the drop-off task quickly turned into a celebration-delivery parade of haphazardly decorated and honking cars, driving the lawn signs to their intended recipients.

Mind you, the stunt wasn’t intended to become a substitute for a sadly missing graduation ceremony. After all, only about half of our grads at  VIPHS submitted positive responses to our emailed lawn-sign proposition. 

Anne’s insidewink series about the high school and college-planning process you and your teenager may be living through or planning to tackle in the foreseeable future.

You can find the informational series here of “Ten Curious Things Parents Do To Mess Up Their Kid’s College Journey”

A Heartfelt Impulse

We wanted to do something for the group that was heartfelt. An impulse resulted in this all-day-long traveling band of our school’s team alongside a wonderful parent and sophomore daughter who joyfully shot videos and photos. While practicing social distance via driving our own cars, we wound our way through the entire San Fernando Valley to each senior-class recipient’s home — in every sort of densely populated, multi-family enclave and snaking up through pockets of Hollywood Hills-style homes, then back down through more flats of various single-family pockets.

The experience of it clearly illustrated that our little charter high school does indeed serve a diverse population — kids and parents from all walks of life and we know we certainly are the richer for it.

It was a physically exhausting experience, especially for our young principal who deftly acted as the leader of this unwieldy car pack, texting the next address to the lineup behind him, calling ahead to the next household, face masked and jumping in and out of his car in 104-degree heat and delivering each sign from a social distance. Don’t try to tell me that guy has no heart.

We started our journey at 8:30 am in the northwest end of the Valley, worked our way south, east, extremely upward to the northern pockets, then back down to the southeastern end and culminating in Burbank around 4:00 pm. No group-sanctioned lunch or potty breaks plus some of us made GPS-related errors and ended up on wrong paths here and there — but ultimately the effort proved to deliver a happy time.

College Journey Part 1:

Should you trust your 16 year old to handle the college process all by themselves? Read it Here

10 Curious Things Parents Do To Mess Up Their Kid’s College Journey

Curious Thing #5

The Curious Lack of Perceived Relationship Between Parental Participation in Teen Child’s School Culture and Happy College-Going Outcome 

Parents Are Pivotal

Circling back to the title of this particular piece, here’s what I observed during our excursion that proved to be an informative social experiment. It appeared to me from where my own car was positioned in the drive-by parade that the seniors who generally experienced the most surprise and joy from the sloppily-delivered-but-lovingly improvised gesture were those who lived in homes with parents who’d been intently following the preceding emails, texts, school newsletter posts and such that led up to this moment.

Parents, you are busy and you lead complicated lives that are fraught with constant problem-solving activities that move your households forward. For that, I readily salute you. I’ve been there myself. I know what it’s like.

It is said by educators that parental interest and participation hugely drops away when kids enter and move through their high school years. Sure, it happens because kids enter a period of normal development where they holler at you, hide in their rooms, say hurtful things. But don’t believe them. They’re just trying out all sorts of growing-up notions. The bottom-line truth is that they need you more than ever because the potential perils grow larger and more threatening by the minute. That’s life on the planet as we know it. Stay connected, no matter how great the pain.

That said, a piece of advice I want to offer up as you travel through your current child’s high school experience is to find some way — any way — to participate in the community culture of that school. If you are indeed desirous of your child’s eventual college choice/experience being a happy one, this single endeavor is an important one, yet it is never talked about, best as I can see. Please find your path.

College Journey Part 2:

Finding the right fit college for your child. Read it Here

—Question #1—

Why Stay Involved?

Truth #1

You are a role Model

Your children will see that you, as parents who mindfully embrace the place they’ve chosen for you to spend so much of their growing-up time, is one that is vitally important. These folks on the school side are your closest partners in actually raising your kids to young adulthood. They should be treated as such. Like it or not, they’re your family members in odd-but-real ways. Try to run that inherited familial relationship as a loving and exalted one — not as yet another dysfunctional, unpleasant, altogether negative interaction. Your kids may not appreciate your good attitude and involvement right now, but as adults they’ll look back on that time and realize you did your best for them. No school, no people who work in a school are perfect. Each one is tremendously flawed, just like you. Assume best intentions. Love them for who they are. 

Truth #2

You’ll Learn Something

If you actually act as an awake and enthusiastic partner with your schools’ personnel, you’ll learn what’s actually going on in terms of how your kids are moving toward their next phase of life and education. You’ll become adept at making choices and understanding your own financial and emotional strengths and limitations, and how those important parameters play into the college-choice journey. 

Truth #3

You’ll Enjoy Yourself

And oh my gosh, you’ll have so much fun in the process! Rather than operating as a disinterested and/or adversarial figure within your kids’ school experiences, embrace the fact that the folks who work there are naturally given to loving teenagers, to doing their best work for them even if it’s not so easy.

Believe me, the various emotional rabbit holes one travels down while trying to mitigate not only the various personality types and needs of individual kids and parents, but also doing it while plummeting the depths of one’s own doubts and limitations as an educator is a frustrating and hurtful experience alongside some life-giving moments and general highs.

You just might make some lifelong friends and acquaintances in the process…or you might pass through it with no particular longstanding outcome of having done any serious people collecting. I promise your memories of this time will be some of your most cherished ones.

College Journey Part 3:

What to expect after college graduation. Read it Here

Truth #4

The College Process Will Benefit

As far as the college piece goes, the more you understand how the application game really works, the more choices and happy results your child will enjoy.

For example, so many parents don’t bother to attend the college info nights and school open houses to which they’re invited — yet they’re the ones who suffer and complain at the end of the process. The presence of the power school personnel wields in the college placement process is lost on these parents. Some of them run out and hire private college counselors to handle things for them thus ignorantly bypassing the school staff’s major role in the game. 

A counselor’s required recommendation letter to various colleges plays a key positioning role within any senior’s college applications as it markets the applicant’s role in the high school’s daily culture. The teachers’ letters offer insights into applicants’ strengths and weaknesses (mostly strengths). These folks want the best for your kids. But just how easy is it for them as human beings to overlook the fact that your detached-from-school/depressed/anxious child is sometimes tough to help and understand, largely because you’ve been absent from the process and maybe even worse, become an adversarial presence?

Teachers and staff need love, recognition and empathy just like everyone else in your daily lives. It all translates back to how your child will experience the road to college. It can happen on a desolate, lonely, mysterious alley…or it can occur as a thrilling, teachable, life-giving journey on a sunny highway. It’s your choice — not theirs, really.

Yes, you’re busy. You work and have problems. But realize it’s true of each and every parent. So…

—Question #2—

How Should I Participate? 

Suggestion #1

Pay Close Attention & Be Kind

Please oh please read and understand every email, text and newsletter piece that comes to you from your teen’s school. Read every word. Understand that it’s being written by another thinking, feeling, stressed human being who is trying very hard to make each child’s school experience a successful one. It is very difficult to issue one-size-fits-all communications. No one is great at it. But everyone who does it has the very best of intentions. So READ the stuff, ok?  That’s the most loving and polite thing you can do.

Don’t write back to them with a bunch of complaints. Give them a break. They’re doing their best, “the Lord’s work,” as my mama used to say. They’re not working in your teen’s school because they’re losers or because there is so much money to be made in education (they’re isn’t — that is, unless you’re living on some other planet) or because “those who can’t, teach” (what a miserable lie). They’re there because at some pivotal points in their lives, they concluded that teaching and working with your kids is a worthwhile, right-minded, enjoyable thing to try and carry forth. It’s a life’s purpose. Understand this key point and help them help you.

Don’t be a jerk. Don’t send impulsive angry emails in the middle of the night or after one-too-many Sunday-afternoon highballs in front of a computer screen. Those emails are the worst. Those letters are the most talked-about within staff ranks. The staffers will circle their wagons. They’ll just resent you and they’ll sadly back off of helping your kid as much as possible. You’re. Just. Too. Scary.

Suggestion #2

Volunteer

Donate some valuable time whenever and wherever you can. Join the parents’ booster groups. Volunteer, even if it’s only once during a school year. Attend family-targeted social events, performances, awards ceremonies — even if your kid isn’t getting one. Show them how to be good community members who strive for the collective good. Be a sport. Be a team player. Lead, that is, if you have the time, heart and talent. Express gratitude.

Suggestion #3

Donate

Donate money to your kid’s school. Donate a lot if you can or a little if that’s the best you can do. Every school — big or small, public or private, rich or poor — is a bottomless pit of need. It’s just the way it is. Each school desperately needs your monetary help in order to get to the next rung. Just do it.

To those of you who’d enroll your kids in some expensive private school but for whatever reason find yourselves knocking at the door of a public school: I’ll never, ever understand why you are willing to pay many thousands of dollars to some well-heeled private institution, but you aren’t happy to give the same or even a few dollars to the mission and efforts carried forth within your poor/public place that truly needs it the most in order to do its very best for your kids. What’s up there? I lie awake nights in trying to be at peace with it.

College Journey Part4:

The World Has Completely Changed. Covid-19 and College. Read it Here

Suggestion #4

Think before you speak

And PLEASE. OMG. Stop your complaining. Your kids’ school staffer is not your babysitter, minion, ex-spouse, miracle worker. All of them are your partners. They’re doing everything they possibly can to make everyone happy without losing their own minds and souls in the process.

This is a tough and touchy topic and it’s a mouthful.

And circling back to college? If you take the high road, chances are great your child will be well-handled and -prepared to enter a great one.

If you choose the low road? Well, it’s a crapshoot and I wish you luck.

Missed Parts One through Four? Find them Here.

Anne Cochran

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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