Wednesday, June 18, 2014

What Makes High School, High School?

My daughter's school is a relatively new one: they add a grade a year as the current students grow into new grades. So next year, they'll be starting a high school with my daughter and four other ninth graders. Eventually, she'll be in the school's very first graduating class. She's hoping for her name on a plaque.
As a teacher AND a parent of this inaugural Freshman class, I very much want to make this high school experience . . . well, a high school experience. Already in the two junior high years, parents and students (and staff) were noting the need for the kids to be differentiated more from the elementary school kids. They wear different uniforms; they have different teachers for different subject areas; but there is still a need for them to develop an identity as junior highers . . . and now as high schoolers.
But how exactly to accomplish this? Our first reaction is to look to our own high school years as a model. Unfortunately, a lot of things that marked high school for most of us are not feasible in such a small but growing school. (And others are not desirable.)
Like, lockers. When my eldest started high school after years of homeschooling, her first “uh-oh” moment was when she was given a locker combination and had no clue what to do with it. (That struck me as particularly funny because when she was a baby and I was first introduced to the idea of homeschooling through high school, as my brain was turning this idea over in my head, I half-consciously said out loud, “But . . . she'd never have a locker . . ." My friend guffawed at that; so did I. Even as I said it, I realized what a ridiculous objection that was.)
I don't think the church we are meeting in would appreciate our installing lockers in their halls. And we don't have enough space to physically separate the elementary and secondary kids very far (although that may change next year).
The distinctions will need to be not in the cosmetics but in the culture. Which is probably better anyway because then we have to be more intentional and thoughtful about what culture we want to create among our high schoolers.
I have ideas. So do some others. We'll need to get together this summer and brainstorm. But I'm also curious what my readers would have to say about this. What events, behaviors, routines, expectations, environments, etc. would constitute the culture of a high school? And a healthy culture, of course – we all know there is stuff that defines high school these days that we'd just as soon eradicate if we could. Our school can hopefully nip that stuff in the bud now, if we're consciously doing so.
Suggestions, friends? I'll write about this again as I get more to share.

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