Having an 11 year old girl going on 12 is hard. No, not because she is going through puberty. That parts the easy stuff. Mood swings including active defiance, sadness, stubbornness and superiority are nothing new to this household. And frankly the five year old is better at it!
No. What makes this age so difficult is a change in circumstances which is still months away but is already needing review and consideration. Yes, my darling daughter is heading to high school.
Next February may seem like a long way away, particularly in light of the simple fact that it IS. However, upon investigation, it seems that high schools require locking in and filling forms much sooner than I imagined.
My mission to find the 'perfect' high school for a quirky, clever kid has been eye-opening and fraught with angst. My angst. The first step was to call every high school in the vicinity, and then a few further away. One is Catholic, the others all State schools.
Most of the phone conversations went well. In one instance I was actually transferred to the curriculum advisor....who told me to try another school. At least she was honest! Another was most put out when I asked for the prospectus and enrolment forms to be sent to me and after stumbling for a good while over my surname.....D....a.....l....l.....apostrophe....capital O....s....t...o, agreed to post it straight out.
One week later. There I sat, surrounded by glossy covers and forms as complicated as my surname, trying to decipher the information and facts from the waffle and choose what will become the launching pad for my daughters future.
The first one mentioned Art, Sport, Cookery, Choir, Music and the basics....English, Maths and Science. This one I carefully placed on the bottom of the pile as it was uninspiring and had very little to offer in terms of diversity of education or creative thinking. Catholic School....out.
Next came one with a high gloss cover and a 10 page introduction to what many consider the best school in the region. A school which places value on it's 'Tradition of Success' is one worth noting. 44 subject choices for years 11 and 12 and in Junior High School, 8 in the Arts. So far so good. The specialist facilities boast such things as a Performing Arts complex, Recording Studio, 9 science laboratories, Sporting complex and others. Although it was possibly unnecessary to include the sick bay in it's list, it certainly sounds impressive. The school even boasts Yoga Meditation as a co-curricular activity.
Right, sounds great. So, how do we apply? Well, after your child writes an essay on why the school should accept them and you provide any and all awards they may have received, the only thing left is a simple two page application form. We don't live in the catchment so we need to apply for what is referred to as SELECTED ENTRY.
There are four categories here; 1) Academic. This must include report cards (2), photocopies of academic achievements and indicate interest in the International Baccalaureate program. (yes, it's Cairns High). 2) Visual/Performing Arts. This requires relevant qualifications and/or achievements in one of four areas. These students are required to attend an interview as well, in April. 3) Sporting. This one requires verification of achievements and it is noted that District Representation is the minimum level needed. The last category is General. This is for students applying on the basis of Leadership, Community involvement or inability to enrol elsewhere.
Good grief! This is high school? Still, with applications closing last Thursday (yes, last Thursday), I ensured all details were complete and off went the Application. We are not holding our breath however and with years 11 and 12 costing well over 2'000 per year, this is an example of a public school which is not accessible to all.
Then I came to the last one received so far. Two others are on the way but will not be available till mid year. Trinity Bay State High School. My old stomping grounds. Well to be more accurate, it was the place I was stomped on.......repeatedly. At this point I should probably confess I HATED high school. With a passion. I was ridiculed, harassed and left bloodied and bruised and never felt comfortable in my skin. It was the most horrific of times and left me with permanent scars.
On the plus side, I had three notable teachers at that school. As a teenager who felt so very alone, good teachers became my refuge. I was clever and obstinate and quite enjoyed correcting teachers, much like my daughter and possibly a good part of the reason I never fit in. Of the three teachers I admired, one is now the Principal of the school and as much as I was initially determined not to consider the school, here I sit with it's forms in my hands.
Nice matt finish and a simple but clever tri-fold design means it's easy reading and well set out. One segment features two glaring grammatical errors and I thought to myself......Really? On a prospectus? For a school? ....and then I moved on.
Excellence is written into no less than four of it's numerous titles. This school claims to have a Tradition of Excellence, Academic Excellence, Visual Arts Excellence and is a place where excellence is nurtured. Excellent!
It has a 1:1 student to computer ratio which is better than the alternate schools. It boasts a Centre for Artistic Development (or CAD program) which was implemented while I was there and has grown and now thrives. There is a planetarium, an astronomy room, Science Academy, Visual Arts Centre, Sporting Development and Gifted and Talented programs.
All sounds fantastic as a parent but the thing which impressed me most was something missing from the other two.
In bold type, this school boasts it is a place where community is valued. This school has won a national award for it's anti-bullying program; Speakup, Speakout. They value respect, friendship, kindness and happy students.
THESE are the marks of a good school. Quality education includes personal development and a commitment to providing the best academic, sporting, creative AND well adjusted member of the community possible. This is what was missing during my years there. And this is the reason we are hoping our enrolment forms will be accepted.
High school is not a simple choice any more. Each one specialises and offers different degrees of achievements, with focus on alternate areas. How many children aged 11 or 12 really know who they are or what they want from life? Not too many I would guess. Possibly the best piece of advice she has received so far came from a teacher who said it doesn't really matter much where you spend years 8. 9 or 10, it's years 11 and 12 that count and you can always change schools.
When asked what she wants to do as an adult, she says animator. It will be interesting as a parent to see if that changes or stays constant through the next few years. She was the child who as a 5 year old dressed in an outfit depicting her future career as an entomologist, I can't wait to see what happens next.