No longer the turning point

It’s here. The end of sophomore year in high school for my youngest son. I know, it is usually not a milestone that is marked. For our family, it has become one.

Yesterday, we attended parent – teacher conferences at our high school. Never again will we have a sophomore aged high school student. A couple of his teachers were not there. One was his art teacher. We saved talking to her for last because she likes to show off the student work and chat about their progress, so you might end up wandering the halls of the building to view their creations. But, she was off setting up at a student art show at local vineyard, where his paintings will be displayed with his peers. His social studies teacher was also absent. But, he’s doing fine in both of those courses, so all is well. We spent the most time with his AP calculus teacher – hearing how he is preparing them for the AP exam later this month and visiting, as this teacher has had all three of our boys.

The conferences were good, as they always are, and we go mainly to keep the lines of communication open with the teachers, since we do not really have concerns.  But, the end of this sophomore for our youngest child is significant. The goal I had for him this year was to finish it still being happy with going to school and enjoying what it has to offer.

This might seem like an odd goal but there is some history behind it that will explain more. In the late winter of our eldest son’s sophomore year, he was so disenchanted with being under-challenged, he ended up going through the open-enrollment process that  allows students to attend school in a district in which they do not live. He enrolled, with our permission, in a virtual high school within another public school district three hours away. Sophomore year, seven years ago, was his last year as an official student at our resident high school, the same school his brothers now attend. It was a good choice for him. He ended up not only being more challenged but also being the Valedictorian of his class at the school he attended virtually for his junior and senior year.

Two years ago, our middle son experienced his sophomore year. This is when somewhat of a pattern emerged. By the end of his sophomore year, he was experiencing difficulty with a teacher who had been unprofessional and callous by telling him he was “stupid” in front of his peers. I am really not sure how anyone who is taking pre-calculus sophomore year in high school can be categorized as stupid, but that is what was said. Two years later, I can honestly say that event was a turning point for him in his educational process. Staying in that class, knowing what the teacher thought of him, prevented from getting any kind of help with the material (why would you go to someone for help who spoke in such a way to embarrass you), led him to questioning his self-confidence and his abilities. His motivation has suffered. It was an awful experience, one I do not think he has fully recovered from yet. It happened during second semester, sophomore year.

Thus, I began to see late winter and early spring (February – March) of the sophomore year in high school for our boys as a turning point. So, when this year began for our youngest,  I had a sense of trepidation. I hoped that he could get through the year without any major event that would alter his course or change his feelings about school. Like our other two, he has a fairly heavy load with an AP class, playing two varsity level sports, and furthering his artistic abilities.

And, here we are. The last PT conferences of the year and he still likes (I could even say loves) going to school. He loves being challenged both academically and with his sports participation and art projects. He’s had a great year. No, he doesn’t have straight A’s. I learned that doesn’t really matter. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great if you have them, but does not really mean all that much if you don’t. Our grading processes need an overhaul – but that is a subject for another post. Happiness is what matters. A sense of belonging and being understood matters. Being challenged matters. Knowing you are respected by your peers AND by your teachers matters.  I think we are over the hump. Our third, and last sophomore will make it through the year still with a love for school. And, I think that is priceless!

12 thoughts

  1. All teachers need to read this. I think sometimes we lose track of what it is we are supposed to be doing for kids, especially in this late winter-early Spring period when we are tired and long for summer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for your comments. You make a great point. It is a time of year when we all can get off track. I appreciate that you think it is an important read. I love teachers, in general. And really, have wanted to be one my entire life! (I am a non-formal environmental educator now and have taught at the college level in the past.) I think we need to remain conscious that however brief an interlude we have with students, we always need to try and think of how we are relating to them. It can make such a difference!


    2. I teach all sophomores, all day. It’s my second year to do so. (I’ve taught 23- mostly middle school.)

      Your post haunted me all day… So many times I doubt whether the middle school philosophy that is so deeply ingrained in my psyche does an injustice to my students.

      I teach regular track and CWC classes. I feel like sometimes I am too focused on restoring their faith in themselves as readers, writers, and students and do them an injustice by not being more of a traditional high school English teacher.

      I think I needed to read this.

      And I am definitely glad your son has had a successful year!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for your reply to my post. It is uncomfortable to think about….even two years after it happened. Words are so important as they can cut into one’s memory and leave a scar. In education, it is so easy to talk about our triumphs but when something makes us uncomfortable or we are not sure how to handle it, it often gets brushed aside. This is what happened here. It’s good to have examples of what shouldn’t be done. And the fact that my post “haunted you” and you “felt like you “needed to read it” tells me you most likely would never make comments as harmful as this one was to my son. And, for the record – not being a traditional HS English teacher is probably a very good thing! Thanks, again!


  2. Congratulations on getting through this milestone with your last sophomore! Your comments bout the teacher calling your son “stupid” reminds me that words can hurt and cut and wound. Teachers need to guard their words and concentrate on words that build and encourage and honor perseverance. That part of your post really broke my heart. Thanks for sharing. Your pride in your son comes shining through…and for good reason.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your kind words and comments. It is true that as educators we need to watch what we say and how we say it. Sadly enough, Such a small incident made a huge impact. He is looking on to the next phase of his education – college – with excitement and hope for a different experience.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks! Yes, I think he’ll be fine. He still doesn’t care for this teacher and knows they negatively affected him, but he’s aware that he’s had an important lesson – one that many do not have until well into college. I think he’s thankful for that.


  3. This is an important milestone and I am so glad that you not only recorded it, but shared it and celebrated it. Your post also made me think about my sophomore year of school and while I hadn’t thought about it before reading this post, I would have to say that my outlook on school changed significantly after my sophomore year. I’m going to have to reflect on that further!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I’ve been waiting and watching all year for how things were going. It really is an important milestone for us. I am so glad I shared it as apparently it resonated with quite a few people. This event got us talking yesterday to another teacher who was discouraged by a teacher he had in 8th grade, my husband had a similar experience with a guidance counselor, and I had an experience close to my son’s in math class – apparently, I asked a stupid question in trigonometry – never took any more math after that. A few words can really be impactful. I hope you share your reflection, too. Thanks again for your comments.

      Liked by 1 person

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