Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Freshman fear factor

Earbaby has now finished the first half of her first semester of her first year of high school.

And she's doing all right.

I've watched her come home day after day, negotiating taking public transportation, working through more hours of homework than she's had for the first two years at this tough exam school, and I've watched her earlier fears melt away, at least a little.

When this year started, EB was an old hand in a new situation. Although she was a sixie (the nickname for the kids who start this school in the seventh grade, so they're there for six years), she was surprisingly worried going into her freshman year.

"Everything counts now," she kept telling us. I hadn't realized the previous 10 years of schooling (she went to kindergarten 1 and 2 before first grade) were just practice for high school. But it was as if a light went on when she entered school this time around. Now she has to actually start thinking about where she will go from here.

And it's been an interesting ride. Last year she struggled with at least one teacher whom she truly didn't like (and he didn't seem to like her much either) and had to learn the hard lesson that you're not going to like all your teachers, but you still have to get what you can from them. When they offer afterschool help, bite the bullet and go. She fought with us about that for awhile, but when she went, she improved and finished with a solid B at the end of year.

And she's learning to ask for help before she gets in dire straits.

Last year's Algebra tutor let us know he was available, but EB said she wanted to see how she coped with AII on her own before sounding the alarm. She didn't want to become dependent if she could figure it out. But when she started to get confused, she let me know right away. The tutor is back and his methods seem to sink in and help her understand the concepts that seem confusing in the short classroom time. The fact that she looks forward to the tutoring shows that she is more willing to do and understand the work now, rather than make excuses about the teacher not explaining properly, or knowing how to teach, etc.

Because "everything counts" she has become more self-sufficient in getting her work done.

I'm proud of her growing maturity.

This is a kid who used to never get out of bed without a daily morning rant. Never an early riser, even as a baby, we shuddered to know she would suddenly be required to get up before the crack of dawn to make a 6:40 school bus to get to school by 7:10. When she had to be at school at 8:15 in her other school, the mornings were always filled with a lot of cajoling, yelling, and grabbing food to go in the car.

She made the transition to early riser rather quickly when she went into seventh grade. But someone would always still have to get up to move things along.

Now she's in high school. And between 5 and 5:10 a.m., we hear her head downstairs and start her day. She's slept through her alarm only once, and she was mortified. But every other morning, she's up alone, getting herself together. When it's her friend's turn to pick her up (we switch off weeks at dropping at the train), she doesn't even see her snoozing parents. She's out the door all alone. Even the dog doesn't get up to see her off.

And she really doesn't mind. I asked if she would prefer to have one of us up with her and she said no, and meant it.

She's the same way at the end of her school day. There is never a time when I have to say, "time to do your homework." She comes in, sits down and starts. Usually she has an afterschool activity, dance, or gymnastics, or tutoring, so she is good about managing her time. Projects get done ahead of time (not at the last minute the way her procrastinating mom did in her day) and weekend homework is usually started on Friday and finished by Saturday. Rarely she has work to finish on Sunday.

She is still finding her way on some subjects. Although her lowest grade at her progress report was a B, she still wants to do better and there are fewer excuses when she doesn't. She no longer whines that we don't know how hard this is and that we want her to be perfect. She's less fearful of disappointing us and more fearful of disappointing herself.

This is freshman year. From here on out, everything counts.

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