BZZZT. From the depths of my handbag my phone is telling me I have a new text message. I scrabble around and finally locate it among the pens, lipsticks and other handbag detritus.
Casually I swipe the screen to read it, and immediately experience a jolt of shock that’s been happening more and more often lately…
Next year my eldest son Jack will be one of many of Queensland students that will start high school in Year 7, rather than Year 8 as has traditionally been the case.
Despite having known about this for over a year now, my mind is still having trouble coming to grips with this information. It continues to ambush me at odd moments, for example while picking the boys up from after-school care a few weeks ago…
“Next year it will just be Oscar and Max at after-school care… BECAUSE JACK WILL BE IN HIGH SCHOOL!!”
Or at a school function the other day…
“Oh look there’s good old Helen (who I’ve known since Jack was in prep). OH GOD I probably wont see Helen much after the end of this year… BECAUSE JACK WILL BE IN HIGH SCHOOL!!”
I think the issue is that by starting in Year 7 Jack’s transition to high-school will be so profoundly different to my own that my mind literally can’t take it in.
I had what has been the typical suburban Brisbane experience of moving into high school, starting Year 8 in 1990 as fresh-faced “vegie”.
For those who did not grow up in Brisbane, Year 8s when they started high school were universally referred to as Vegemites – or vegies for short. I have no idea how this term originated but my high school teacher mother says that its still used at her school today.
Prior to this I’d spent the entire Year 7 swanning about my primary school with a gang of girls thinking we were the coolest things ever. I had triumphantly barn-danced with SEVERAL boys at my graduation dance and considered myself ready for anything high school could throw at me.
This misconception lasted for about the the first three minutes on my first day of Year 8 at at a huge private co-ed school, where I was made immediately aware that my position in the pecking order was somewhere further down the ladder than I had bargained for.
In contrast, both the current Year 6s and Year 7s are kind of getting ripped off.
All kids look forward having their moment as the top dogs in the school, but for these kids its a glory they have to grudgingly share with the other grade. They’ll also have to share their graduation ceremonies, end of year dances and all the other rites of passage usually associated with saying farewell to your primary school years.
But after going to to the information night at Jack’s soon to be high school this evening, I am left feeling that this new system has some distinct advantages as well.
For example high schools will now be split into Junior Secondary (years 7, 8 & 9) and Senior Secondary (years 10, 11 & 12). There will be a designated Junior Secondary precincts within schools where the absence of the older kids will probably go a long way towards reducing anxiety and feeling of being overwhelmed that I experienced in my first year of high school.
Our school has also structured its teachers so that they double up on certain subjects. For example Jack’s English teacher will also be his Humanities teacher and his maths teacher will also be his science teacher. The over all effect will give teachers more time with the kids so that they have a chance to establish relationships with individual students. It also means less stress on the students as they have less classroom changes and more continuity of care.
So a different transition to high school for sure – but one that I think has the potential to be a good one all the same.
The following words were on the first slide of the principal’s presentation this evening. I’ve decided that they will be my mantra every time I feel anxious about the start of Jack’s high school adventure…
And that’s OK with me.
** My thanks to my friend Fiona for providing the photo of me in high school xx