Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Two Vantage Points, One High School

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Two Vantage Points, One High School

Article excerpt

My son is entering high school.

I can hardly bear to utter these words. "Entering elementary school" and "entering middle school" went down far more smoothly; but this high school business is bittersweet.

Probably because it's Alyosha's last educational stop before some still vaguely defined future. Probably because this means that, even at the tender age of 14, my son, and his cohorts, are beginning to leave home, though from the look of his bedroom he is certainly unaware of this yet.

Last week there was "Family Night," a sort of introduction to the milieu of the high school and the extracurricular activities it offers. I felt distinctly out of place, as if acutely aware that I had already done the high school thing, and it was somehow unnatural to be back.

After we parents and students had assembled in the gym, listening to a presentation by the faculty and the administration, we were released into the hallways to visit classrooms, where we'd be able to speak with teachers and upperclassmen about courses and activities.

The rush of bodies brought back memories of hurrying to classes in the two minutes we had between bells, and I felt suddenly disoriented. At one point, a teacher came up to me, laid a hand on my shoulder, and, as if addressing a freshman, asked, "Do you know where you're supposed to be?"

It occurred to me that I was supposed to be at home, or outside, or in my car - anywhere but here. And then I caught sight of my son, amicably hobnobbing with his fellow presumptive freshmen, already a man about town, poised and feeling at home, possibly dreaming of his first varsity letter.

I envied him this smooth transition to high school. When I entered in the late 1960s (something else I can hardly bring myself to say), the atmosphere was very different. Freshmen were the lowest rung on the ladder, and we were told not to forget it.

On that very first September day, we huddled together like newly hatched chicks, our hair pomaded back and our faces buried in our collars, lest we make eye contact with an upperclassman - woe unto us!

Hazing was de rigueur. …

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