My daughter is a freshman in high school this year. And here’s the thing: I think I hate high school.
I have been trying, hard, not to come to this conclusion. As a family, we have been struggling with one thing after another with my daughter’s school ever since the beginning of the year. I’ve tried to talk myself out of feeling this way, because I don’t like it. And I don’t think it’s productive. Or healthy.
“Look on the bright side,” I whisper to myself. Or, “It’ll get better. We all need to get used to it.” Or, “It’s a new school. And she’s a teenager. It’s normal for this to be a big adjustment.” And so on. You know, all those things you whisper to yourself at 2AM, when you’re laying awake in bed, staring at the ceiling, and worrying about how everything managed to jump off the rails. Because that’s how it feels. It feels like everything I knew about my daughter as a student has completely jumped the rails and is now barreling toward the final corner that will send us all plunging into the depths of the rocky ravine below. Actually, I feel like this about pretty much my whole life right now. But that’s a post for another time.
I dread opening up progress report emails from the school, because I never know what I am going to find. I dread having to talk to my daughter about her day, because I have this fear that yet another thing will have gone wrong. I dread having to deal with her school counselor and teachers, because some of her teachers are jerks and her counselor didn’t seem all that interested in our problems. I realize this is a blanket statement. I have actual, concrete reasons, based on personal experience, for feeling this way. I had planned to share these anecdotes in here, but I realized it would make this post a lot longer than it already is. Maybe I’ll blog about them separately. I don’t know.
I don’t know what to do with these feelings of dread. No, that’s not accurate. I do know what to do with them, but I feel like I’m not emotionally strong enough to deal with them. That sounds ridiculous. I know it does. I’m a grown-ass woman. I was a lawyer. I should thrive on conflict, right? But I don’t. I went to law school because I love the law and the logic of it and the way it works. I love the puzzle of it and the moving parts. I was good at my job as a lawyer because I’m smart and could push myself to be something I wasn’t. But a person can’t do that for forever.
I feel fragile and brittle right now. If I let myself, I would sit at my desk and cry every day. All day, every day. Losing one aunt, then another aunt, and then almost my husband, all within the span of less than a year, has done a number on me and my emotions. I know I should “get over it”. I KNOW this. And yet … I’m raw. Absolutely raw. You know that feeling of running from one fire to the next and the next and the next? You keep telling yourself that you can do this. If you put out that last fire, there will be no more fires. I mean, eventually, there won’t be any more fires, right? That’s logical. That makes sense. That’s me, only the fires never stop coming.
I feel like, if one more thing goes wrong, or if I have to deal with just one more thing, I will fly to pieces. I’m worried about my daughter’s school situation, but I feel ineffective to do anything about it. I can keep on putting out the fires as they come up, but I can’t change her teachers. I can’t make them NOT jerks. I can’t make her counselor care. My daughter feels that some of her teachers (the ones who are jerks) don’t like her. As a result, she has become less enthusiastic about school. She has started not to care. I can’t change this, either. I can remind my daughter that the world is full of jerks. I can remind her that not everyone is going to like her. I can love her and tell her how much I like her and how special she is to me. I can stay after her to be organized, and I can try to find ways for her to be more organized. And I do all of this, every day. But the fires keep on popping up.
Last week, some things came to a head regarding my daughter’s biology teacher. He has been a particular problem this year because he is arbitrary and unpredictable. He tells the class one thing, but later turns around and says he never said it. For example, my daughter and her partner had to build a cell model. One of the requirements was that the model had to show how the cell interacted with the cells around it. As an example of this, the teacher showed the class a model from a previous year that showed half-sections of the cells on either side of the modeled cell. My daughter and her partner made their cell model, and, to show how it interacted with other cells around it, they put in half-sections of cells on either side. The teacher counted off points from their project because they had used half-sections instead of showing the whole cell on either side — even though his example did the exact same thing, and even though the rubric didn’t include a requirement that they use whole cells on either side of their model. He gives unclear instructions for projects. He only returns my daughter’s emails about half the time. He hardly ever answers my emails. He has told my daughter, on more than one occasion, to meet with him at a certain time, and then not been in his room (or even in the school) when she comes to meet with him. He then turns around and accuses my daughter of not coming at all. It has been … frustrating. To say the least. My daughter feels anxious, nervous, and extremely stressed in his class, because she never knows what he will do or say. She never knows if her work is going to be adequate, even if she follows all the instructions he has given. There have been tears on more than one occasion — mine and hers.
This afternoon, my husband and I are going to the school to meet with an assistant principal. We are going to discuss the biology teacher. It needs to happen. At first, I thought things would become easier for my daughter in that class once she adjusted and got used to the teacher. I’ve always thought it was possible to figure out how to get along with any teacher, especially since you only see them for a short amount of time during the day or week. It’s not like elementary school, where the kiddos have the same teacher all day long. But here we are, at the end of the second quarter of school and bringing the first semester to a close, and my daughter is still having the same problems in biology she has had from Day 1. Clearly, I was wrong about things getting easier.
My husband and I talked about it, and we’ve decided to do something we’ve never done before. We are going to ask the school to transfer our daughter to another class. I don’t generally believe in doing this, but I feel like it needs to happen this time. My daughter was diagnosed with chronic migraines this month, just a couple of weeks ago. Stress is a big trigger, and the biology teacher isn’t helping her health. I don’t know if it’s possible for the school to move her to a different class. I’m not sure what they are going to say or how the meeting is going to go. I’m dreading it, but I’m glad my husband will be there, too. At least I won’t feel alone. Having him there helps me feel brave.
I hope something gives soon, whether it’s a new class or us figuring out a way to live with the crazy, erratic teacher she already has. Because I would really like to know at least one fire is put out, for good.