"Wow, this is the greatest school ever!” “I can’t wait to get to school today!”” “I know I’m sick, but can’t I go to school anyway?” “When is Monday ever going to come?”
Parents and staff have all heard versions of these comments from the mouths of excited children in their first month of school. At Highland, we are glad to hear students express enthusiasm for the school and their desire to be here. We are aware, however, that the sweet honeymoon period usually doesn’t last forever. After a while, the honeymoon excitement begins to fade a bit. Students still may retain their desire to come to school, but some of their comments switch to “Does Sam have to go to this school? He’s so annoying!” Or, “How come everybody but me gets to play on the computer?” Or, “Everybody likes Susan better than me.” Or, “It’s so boring at school, the staff won’t teach me anything.”
It can be very hard on parents when children who were so enthusiastic begin to complain or bring home problems from school. The temptation is to try to solve the problems for the children or think about moving to Florida. One thing parents need to be aware of is that the shift from the honeymoon period is a normal part of growing in a democratic environment. Kids start with an idealized version of life at school. Like all humans, students have a picture of what they think their lives will be like in their new school. When they start to experience real life and realize that they are responsible for their choices, what seemed like an easy paradise becomes a lot harder.
Staff find it harder too, as students (especially those with conventional school experience) lean hard on them for answers and demands to “Tell me what to do.” This is a critically important time in students’ lives and staff are trained about how to respond. Staff say “You wonder what to do,” instead of supplying a list of possible activities. When staff are asked to take over planning a project, they know how to help with research without interfering with students’ leadership skills. It is a difficult process and, with experience, staff become better at interacting.
Students often struggle with interpersonal issues, learning to explore their own interests without being told, figuring out how the school works, and explaining their experiences to others outside the school community. It is a normal and challenging process. Becoming a self directed learner and responsible member of the school takes time and support for students.
Parents can help. Solving kids’ problems for them, while tempting, doesn’t help in the long run. However, parents CAN support their children by saying “I have confidence in you. I believe you can figure out what to do at school.” Or, “It sounds like it’s hard being with Sam right now. I wonder what you might do to change things.” Giving your children your trust in them is a huge gift. It will help at school throughout their years, regardless of the problems they face.
Yes, the honeymoon is over, but don’t move to Florida. Your students have many meaningful, experiences ahead. What seems a struggle at times is really an opportunity for growth. Don’t be afraid of the change, it is worth the trouble.