Our Director of Marketing, Jenny Oelkers, had an interesting public school vs. private school experience.
The dollar signs started flying in front of my eyes like the leaves on the blustery October day. My 14-year-old son, Jake, had just shared his aspiration of attending an elite private school for the remainder of his high school career. I was shocked. Jake had always experienced great success in school, had been enamored with finally sitting in the student section at the high school football games and seemed to be embracing much of what high school in suburbia had to offer.
What was driving his desire? It took awhile to get to the bottom of things.
1. One of his best friends had recently made the transfer to the private school of interest and although the friend admitted the expectations were much higher, he was thoroughly enjoying his experience.
2. Jake has aspirations of admission to an Ivy League college. Harvard and Stanford are high on his list. (Little did he know that if we started paying $25K for his high school education, he would be lucky if we had two shillings to rub together to send him to ANY college). He thought attending this private school would heighten his chances of admission.
3. He knew that he was not working hard in his current school environment and still getting straight A’s. He believed he needed to be pushed.
We let him entertain the idea of a private school education. We explored options . We received the glossy brochures. And, we went on the school tour and allowed Jake to shadow his friend for the day.
As a parent, I will not deny that I was impressed. The school looked regal – brick buildings, vines creeping up to the eaves and a sense of community and freedom for the students that I had not previously seen. When we toured the school, we had the opportunity to meet a science teacher. The passion for her subject matter oozed from her as she discussed phylums, nematodes and arthropods – my eyes glazed over, but I couldn’t escape her excitement and passion! The creme de la creme were average class sizes of 12-1. I can imagine this environment is a teacher’s dream.
Jake came away from the day intrigued.
My next mission was to make sure we were aware of all the opportunities that our suburban high school had to offer. I arranged a meeting with an assistant high school principal who had been a teacher of Jake’s in the 7th grade. Jake really liked her and I knew she related well to him.
The assistant principal was honest and forthright. The private school that Jake was exploring most certainly delivered a high quality education, but there were a multitude of opportunities at our suburban high school as well. She spoke directly to Jake and told him that he can challenge himself and he can be a leader in his high school, he just may have to work a bit harder to find those opportunities. She continued to say that he could blend in and take the easy route or he can make the choice to be involved – the responsibility and choice was his.
Winter break came and went and the application to the private school remained untouched. As I considered introducing a Scrooge Christmas, began contemplating downsizing our house and researching the nutritional value of ramen to see if we could sustain ourselves for four years on one simple soup; I finally just asked Jake if he had made a decision about applying to the new school.
“Mom,” he said, “I don’t think I’m going to apply.”
“What led you to that decision?” I asked.
“There just weren’t any cute girls at that school.”
Ahhhh….the simple (and often frightening) mind of a 14-year-old boy.
Ultimately, the exploration of schools was interesting and eye-opening. My hope is the words of the assistant principal ring true in Jake’s head. It is his decision to be the best he can be and probably one of the best life-lessons he can learn.
Thank you to the passionate teachers out there who love what they do and the teachers (and administrators) who aren’t afraid to give the kids the responsibility and power to take ownership of their lives and their futures.