Oh, boy! This year is set to be very different than any previous year for school. I have two students headed back to college classes and one who I thought was going to be entering as a college freshman but decided in early June that he was going to pursue a different path despite getting into a top tier national university.
I think two of the more apropos cliches in this situation is that nothing in life is guaranteed and that the only thing one can count on is change. And, wow, we do have change! On top of it, not neither of my students are what can be considered traditional.
My oldest, almost 26 years old, is a Ph.D. student in the fields of Statistics and Environmental Science. I had no idea that one could have two majors in a doctoral program, but apparently, it is possible! He has concerns about going back this fall. The concerns surround the issue of isolation. Many restrictions have been put in place for the students in his department. Even with research assistantships paid by the university system, these graduate students are being limited to a day a week in the office. He happens to share an office with another Ph.D. student who likes to work at different times than my son. Their office has a door. So, what is the issue? If one is there from 9am-3pm and the other from 9pm-3am, they’d never see one another. But, this is not acceptable per the university rules. It’s too restrictive. The faculty all have back up plans, but the students? Apparently, they are required to keep up with their classwork even if sick. This is not equitable. Fortunately, the student government is addressing this mismatch of empathetic responses by the institution.
Although an introvert, my son is comfortable in socializing with like minds. But, it seems that even this will even be limited. As such, it is not a healthy approach for the students’ mental wellness. He has been home much of the summer, and returning to campus has not been anticipated with the same zeal as the years before. It saddens me.
My middle son, aged 20, will be starting at a new university this fall as a transfer student. He is sincerely hoping for in-person classes. As a reflective person, he knows that his level of success will be much higher if he can engage with his classmates and professors. I sincerely hope it happens for him. He has transitioned to a polytechnic university which will fit his learning style much better, but only IF the students are still allowed to take a hands-on approach. By taking a year off, he realized that he needs to return to a university setting to accomplish his goals in a more timely manner. He wants to be a mechanical engineer and is certainly motivated to accomplish his dreams. I am so proud of his desire to return to school, especially after taking a year off of academia. Before that, the last university was a mismatch and his experience in high school was not optimal. He is an out of the box, conceptual thinker that was made to fit into a traditional prescribed learning box. He is so much more than a typical student. I only hope he realizes that now. If he does, he’ll be in a much better position to advocate for himself.
My youngest son, as mentioned earlier, was set to attend a highly ranked state university. He was admitted to his first-choice school, one that is a top pick among students in the nation! It is a school that is selective and some of his high school classmates who desired to get into this university, did not. Despite this, he came to us in early June, seeking to withdraw his acceptance in hopes of successfully pursuing another path. Like any good parents, we are supporting his dreams. He is an artist and is pursuing a career as one.
This fall also marks the end of our personal involvement in the school system, after 20 years, we will no longer have a student in the system. During all those years, we’ve been very involved parents. I’ve served on numerous committees, led groups, developed enrichment, and advocated for countless students beyond my own. I substituted for eight years and volunteered for all but one (this last one). While I’ve enjoyed most of it, parts of it have been extremely frustrating. And, for whatever it’s worth, I am very glad that we don’t have to navigate the K-12 system this year. I’m tired. And, it’s not a time to be tired.
There is a lot of work to be done.