Choosing a Middle School Shouldn't Be This Hard
If you haven't been in a middle school lately, they tend to be pretty insane hotbeds of hormones, thanks to budget cuts, class sizes are huge, and teachers are fairly overwhelmed by everything on their plates. It's pretty easy for kids to slip through the cracks and fall behind simply because teachers often have less time to work one-on-one with kids. Things are a little better since Mr. O is in L.A. Unified's magnet school system. They started back in the late 1970s by a court desegregation decree to end what was the judge called the harms of racial isolation. Nowadays you have to apply by a lottery and they operates a little like a private school system within the public school system.
Some middle schools are entirely magnet, while others have magnet programs within a larger school, so when I go on these tours, I have to keep an eye out for the entire school culture. Middle school is where social issues--drugs, alcohol, gangs, preteen sex--rear their heads. I know some people don't think 11 or 12-year-old's giving each other blowjobs is a big deal, but I do. Not acceptable in my house.
All that to say that it's a little nerve-wracking to have to figure out which school is the best for him--all the while knowing that we can apply to that school and he might not get in. Really, it shouldn't be this hard.
One spot of comic relief is that over the past few days, well-meaning people have made some fascinating assumptions. The conversations go like this:
Los Angelista: Yeah, so I'm taking Mr. O on a middle school tour.
Well Meaning Person A: Middle school? Oh wow.
LA: I know! I can't believe it's already here.
WMPA: Yeah, I...wow, I didn't know you old enough to have a kid in middle school.
Blank Stare. Thanks for calling me old in Los Angeles where everybody seems to want to stay young forever--which is odd because for real, I don't want to go back to 25-years-old.
There's also this one:
Los Angelista: I'm going to check out a middle school for Mr. O on Thursday. I hope it works out.
Well Meaning Person B: He's in middle school already?
LA: Sure is. He grew up so fast.
WMPB: Yeah...it must have been so hard for you as a teen mom. How old were you when you had him?
I'm not sure whether I prefer the you're so old look at all those wrinkles version or the DANG, was it terrible having a baby at 15 one. But in the meantime, this will be the first of many trips to check out schools. Wish us luck.
Photo of Mr. O by Razi Wilson Photography
if i keep him in the charter, my hope is that he will grow into himself enough to have the confidence to jump into a big high school. but i will have the same concerns of culture shock and him getting lost in a big system because he's the good, quiet kid that doesn't stand out.
i would love for him to get into one of the magnet schools but we would have to move (just 2-3 miles) to be in that district to have a better chance. but if he didn't get in we'd be stuck in that district and the two non magnet public high schools are not anywhere i'd want him to go.
so yes, my son is 9 and i worry about all of this on a daily basis. all this to say, i agree. it SHOULD NOT BE THIS HARD!
i'd say both our boys have higher chances of success wherever they are placed because they have mothers that are attuned to them and who are going to help them thrive in any environment. still, i hope mr. O gets into your first choice school!
I wish I had some concrete advice for you. It sounds like you’re doing what you need to do. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it. Stay strong!
I know a few folks working at charters that are expanding to middle/high school and sigh, I'm not sending my kid to a school that's unproven.
Unless I get totally desperate. ;)
And you're right, we will both keep working to ensure they have the best opportunities...but what happens to everybody else's kids? Ugh. It really shouldn't be this hard. And seriously, I want to write reviews of every school after I go visit, but I'm worried about the repercussions of that on him. I don't trust those lotteries!
That's how it should be. I feel like parents need a PhD to navigate this system. It's crazy.
LOL, right? It's not the end of the world. I think whatever comes his way, we will have his back and ensure he is successful, but I'd rather zero scathing be required. ;)
Totally. You have ZERO assurance. You only get to pick one school, and then people play these crazy games where they pick LACES as their first choice, hoping they'll luck out, and then try to do the SAS route with the backup second choices. That's just a hot mess. And play up the white ancestry??? Oh good lord!
BTW, I am feeling OLD today. Mr. O got sick and I've played nursemaid all day. Not a boon to one's looks. ;)