The Bee has started high school and the change in our home could not be more noticeable. Our days begin with her getting herself up and ready for school, with little prompting from me. Most days she is ready to go, her uniform ready and prepared. She has everything neatly arranged and there is no more of the mad, dash scramble for her supplies. She seems excited about what she is doing at school and what she is earning in class, sharing her day with anyone who will listen. What a far cry from middle school in which we engaged in daily battles from the moment she would reluctantly get out of bed and through her morning routine until we pulled up to school.
The high school she attends is Catholic, as was her middle school, but The Bee’s attitude towards school is so much more positive. Middle School was such a chore and with some time and distance I can reflect on what the changes could be. The middle school is in a very close-knit neighborhood. Close in that the neighborhood is full of people with generations of family who attend or attended the school, attend the church and just support the school, which is pretty decent. But this positive thing also was a way in which a divide was created at the school. There seemed to be one way of doing things for the neighborhood kids and a second way for everyone else. We found the school as a result of the closing and merging of other Catholic schools in the area. In the beginning, the school was happy enough to have us there as students to help keep their school open, but we weren’t exactly welcomed as was evidence during a parish meeting in which neighbor and parishioners wondered if “the other students coming in would bring down test scores and raise the debt.” At first we tried to make the best of things, taking part in activities, getting involved but soon we found that although the school would say that we were welcome, being included was another story. I would talk to the principal about things I would hear (people seem to think library = confessional) and she would agree that there was the need for something but would never be able to offer any solutions.
Because of the transition from a Friends School to a Catholic school, I made sure to speak with The Bee as positively as I could about the school. I totally admit and own my prejudices against the Catholic Faith and had done my best to educate myself so that my bias wasn’t so strong. Also, because we had such a difficult time at her elementary school, I assumed that we were the ones who needed to do more. Towards the end of her time at the Friends school, was the beginning of the hard times. The norm was a moody and defiant child, still reeling from the changes with her dad, but not being able to express herself. The change in school was meant to be a positive change but soon it was an uphill battle, akin to every level of Hell. The norm at home was lots of yelling and fussing. Mornings started out with me threatening and yelling for her to get out of bed and get ready for school. She was constantly unprepared, leaving things scattered throughout the city between home and her dad’s. We were late to school so much the secretary gave us a stack of late slips to keep in the car. When I would try to talk about it she was such an unpleasant person that The Dad and I were almost allies as we tried to figure out what to do. Her behavior felt almost personal and I would wonder where my sweet child was and who this possessed person was. The Bee just being so blatantly apathetic; her schoolwork suffered, home suffered and we contacted the school for help. The school assured us threat they “loved” The Bee and that they were doing what they could to ensure that she succeeded. We got a tutor, I changed my work schedule, we got things we thought would help her succeed but nothing seemed to work and it seemed like I was losing my child.
We limped towards the end of 8th grade and all I could do was hope high school was better. A few weeks in and it seems that my child is back. She is less stressed, happy and is enjoying school. She is open about everything and this change has even prompted my mother to remark that The Bee was a new person. I have spoken to several friends and parents about this change and even as they assure me that I shouldn’t allow mommy guilt to reign, I really feel bad about middle school and allowing The Bee to remain. Especially since she has left she has informed me of things that happened at school but she didn’t want me to know at the time because she didn’t want to cause trouble. These were things such as:
- Her teacher, THE TEACHER! asking why there was a Black Entertainment Television station.
- The kids in her class asked where she was from. Like, what part of Africa. (Which is not an insult but does show just how close minded the neighborhood was; the only Blacks they knew had to be from another country)
- When she would wear her hair braided, the kids would say she looked like Medusa
- The kids would ask if they could touch her hair and wonder why she would move her hear away
- The kids would call Philadelphia “The Ghetto” (I can’t really be mad about this one; there are SOME sections of Philly but my complaint comes from )
- the students saying people from Philly are from Ghetto and the Ghetto was dirty and poor and full of crime.
I had mentioned my concerns to the principal and the assistant principal as well as on a school survey with no response. I feel terribly that my child had to go through this and while we are excited that high school is going so well, I hesitate to accept that the greener grass is indeed greener (forgive my horrible mangling of this idiom). So far high school has recognized that there ARE people who are attending the school and that maybe, just maybe, these people attending the school are not Catholic and from the same small neighborhood and, gasp, are different! When I recently attended a meeting at the school, the principal and I began chatting about the girls and how they change from day to day. The principal laughed as she mentioned that it’s always amusing to see the children come in one way on Friday and all changed on Monday due to a different hairstyle. At The Bee’s old school a change in hair style would be cause for discussion and not positively.
Progress reports came last week and The Bee is doing quite well. She has even spoken about getting honors and feels good about getting good grades and excelling in school. Home is much more relaxed and I think we may have a good year.