The Education Learning Curve

Today my children all return to school.  This year, I have two left in Elementary – one of them in his last year there – and one in Middle School and one in High School.  With four boys in three different schools its going to feel like a second job for me to keep on top of their schedules, deadlines, requirements, and commitments.

Every new year of having my kids in American schools has brought with it new challenges for me as a parent.  Between technology developing too rapidly for my grey matter, the generation gap, and a vocabulary gap because of being British, it can be difficult for me to understand what a homework assignment even requires the kids to do.  I do a lot of googling and watching demonstrations of methodologies on YouTube.  This year, however, with one kid in High School, I feel like I am in for an even steeper learning curve than ever before.

My oldest and I attended a High School induction day a couple of weeks ago and that revealed to me how out of my depth I was.  I went all the way through High School, an undergraduate degree, and a postgraduate degree, and I then taught High School.  I am, therefore, well versed in education and the transition between primary, secondary, and tertiary education.  In Britain.  When it comes to how all of this functions in America, I have next to nothing.  And I had better learn quickly because the years are rapidly flying past.

The talks that were delivered at the induction event involved a huge amount of assumed knowledge.  Acronyms were being bandied around with no allowance for anyone, like me, who had only a scant idea of what they stood for, what concepts they represented, or how they pieced together into something coherent.  What I think I grasped, however, is that there is a through-line from the beginning of High School to its conclusion that will determine prospects for tertiary education.  Yikes.  I thought I had a couple of years to figure this stuff out.  Apparently not.  So I need to hit the books myself now and get on top of such things as GPAs, SATs, ACTs, credits, dual enrollment, AP courses, and all of those other things I am clueless about.

This new experience, this new area of life I need to research, is another stark reminder that my adult life and experience was all but reset to zero when I emigrated.  Whole areas of my knowledge were voided and made irrelevant and – even after nearly four years of living in America – I am still a stranger in a strange land trying to fill those gaps in knowledge with new learning.  I am an old dog so new tricks are hard but I will work hard to understand what I need to know.

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25 thoughts on “The Education Learning Curve

  1. If ever have a particular question, send it my way. But things do change quickly and they have greatly accelerated what the kids are learning compared to when I was in school. My wife’s father was a teacher so that helps a bit. But often my 10 year old reminds me that my school days were a long time ago!

    • That’s precisely it, Mark. Things change and develop so rapidly (though sometimes I think things are changed just for the merry heck of it) that I’ve barely adapted to one mode of doing things before it’s outdated.

  2. It certainly will be an adventure, Laura. But it might lead to some interesting blog posts! ( : I’m pretty sure that after 36 years my own high school would seem foreign. I spent a decade living in Asia, so I understand what it is to live in a different culture, although I didn’t have four children to add to the mix. I have no doubt that you will have the secondary and tertiary education systems under control in no time.

    • Thanks, Ellie. I hope I can get on top of it. I’m one of those people who hates not knowing stuff – except for calculus and trig which I’m cool with not knowing. Living in Asia, you’ll have had the language barrier to deal with too. I’m very lucky in not having that to contend with.

  3. OH goodness can I relate to what you write! As a deaf person in a hearing world that’s my life: encountering unknown acronyms, assumed knowledge and doing extra research to catch up and keep up. I often feel like a stranger in a strange land that I barely can follow – and I was born here in the states. If I close my eyes in any social situation I’d not be able to tell you what language anyone is speaking. I can “hear” people who do not speak English as well or better than those who do – because I’m usually reading body language as much or more than hearing the words. Anyway, you possibly already know by now but from the bits of American life that I do know: ACTs and SATs (Scholastic Aptitude Test) and the PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test) are tests that allow a high school graduate to go to college/university. I don’t remember at this moment what “ACT” stands for. A GPA (Grade Point Average) refers to a ranking a students grade/course work is given for the year. “AP” sometimes refers to an Advance Placement – when a kid has an aptitude for a subject and is able to do higher-level coursework they get put into an “AP” class so as to be challenged. Dual enrollment – at least here on the West coast – means a high school student who is also enrolled for one (or more) classes at the local community college. Since I can totally relate to how you feel I’ll be glad to share any bits I’ve learned – and gladly share the bewilderment too. Hugs!

    • Thank you for all of that information, Sue. I have not had time to get into the research yet so it is helpful to know what the acronyms stand for so I can google more efficiently.

      I can only imagine how challenging it is to operate in a hearing world. It is interesting that you find body language so valuable. I was also interested in what you wrote about not having additional difficulty with accents. One of my sons has a friend whose parents are deaf. They sometimes struggle to lip read me because of my accent (Scots don’t generally use dipthong vowel sounds) so I do my absolute best to ensure that I am as clear as possible in my articulation and that I face them at all times. Other deaf people I have known have told me about how tricky it is when people mumble or turn their heads away while speaking as it makes lip reading too difficult so I try to be conscious of that.

      • Yes! All of that is quite true of me too what you write about your sons friend’s parents. I find people from the U.S. South hard to lip-read because they go so much slower but more so because Southerners tend to look at their shoes when they talk. People from other countries, or from the U.S. NE or NW will look directly at you when talking …. To quote my favorite author Tom Robbins, “Everyone has a hard luck story.” Lol! I applaud you being careful to look at deaf people when you speak! On the behalf of deaf people everywhere – thank you!!! 😉

    • I will gladly pick any brains who offer themselves up. My first step is to google the heck out of the various concepts that were mentioned and understand what they mean as single entities. The next challenge will be to start to understand how those click together as building blocks to create the pathway to tertiary education/training programmes/employment/whatever.

      • I would also add – all the managing of this process in the world will not produce predictable results. Human nature of the student comes into play, and so room has to be left for serendipity. And disappointment and missed goals, and getting back up again from them. That is my experience and they don’t mention the fact, either, that while the kid is desperately trying to meet all the “goals”, other things are going by the wayside. School officials count their success by statistics and college admissions in large numbers and so on. You are interested in only one person (at a time, I know there are 4). Remind yourself of that, the school will not.

      • Having taught High School and assisted students with application processes, I know all to well that schools can turn themselves into machines that lose sight of the cogs as individual human beings.

        Lucky for our kids, we are fairly laid back parents when it comes to future prospects. We work on the assumption that they’ll continue to tertiary education since, with two postgrad parents, its statistically likely and it’s an outcome we have to prepare (and brace) ourselves for. But we’d have zero disappointment if they chose another route to a successful life. If they can support themselves financially, are happy, and enjoy what they do, then I think that’s ambition enough and the rest is detail of their own choosing.

        But I need to get to grips with stuff just so I can understand the options they each have.

      • Well, my intention is to not get swept up in it. But my oldest is only 14 so we’ll see what happens. I’ve already had several people tell me that I’m limiting my children’s potential by not having them in sports or playing musical instruments, that they’ll never get into the good colleges if they aren’t competitive in those fields now. My preference as a parent is to only have my kids involved in things they enjoy and to follow their lead on that and not have kids who are burned out before they even make it to adulthood. Maybe my attitude will come back to bite me on the butt but I’m trusting my gut instinct.

  4. Yikes! I have always wondered about things the opposite direction — I read a lot of British literature and the school system there is incomprehensible to me — so I can imagine how confused you must be. I hope you feel more informed and comfortable with things soon.

    • I completely understand. I’m sure that’s the case. I’ve taught in England and Scotland and both have different education systems despite being neighbours on a small island. It keeps we parents and educators on our toes I suppose. I think any specialized system – education, law, medicine – develops its own systems and language that makes perfect sense to those operating within it but is alien to outsiders.

  5. You’ll get there Laura and be an expert for the next 3 boys!! Sounds like a lot to get your head around though, it’s a big enough struggle in our house just trying to keep up with the technology stuff and make sure he’s not too far ahead of us (kidding ourselves there….)

    • I gave up trying to be ahead of the kids on technology long ago. I’m a “use it or lose it” type of learner – hence I’ve zero clue about any advanced math stuff or how to calculate moles and such any more. My kids do a lot of their schoolwork online these days and it drives me nuts because inevitably we have glitches I don’t siesta know how to sort. I use google and YouTube a lot. Mostly I just shout on my 14 year old to come and help me.

  6. One difference, as far as I’ve been able to work out, is that the British system requires kids to narrow down their interests much earlier than the American one does. I can see the pluses and minuses of both systems, but I don’t suppose that matters when you’re nose to nose to nose with either system. The question is how to navigate it. Wishing you both all possible luck and wisdom.

    • Yes. I get the feeling that, even at college level, students are able to operate as generalists and gradually specialize in a subject. That whole credit based system will be new territory for me too. But one new education culture at a time: I need to figure out the High School part first. My oldest son is very academic and has chosen to take all Honors subjects so at least, as my guinea pig child, I know he’s not closed off any pathways or doors going forward through the years. I probably should have figured this stuff out before he started HS though.

      • I’m willing to bet that you’re ahead of many American parents. Those who don’t have an academic background themselves aren’t able to give their kids the kind of support you do.

        When I was in high school, I narrowed down my interests by default: I took only the math and science that were required, then I bailed out because (a) I hated them and (b) I was lousy at both. I’m not sure whether the chicken or the egg came first, but they were clearly linked. I think a lot of kids do that, but kids whose competences are broader than mine were are able to keep their choices open much longer–into the first years of college if they want.

      • Yes, I narrowed down my options too because I obviously wanted to focus on subjects I was successful in. I am an Arts and Humanities person so I ditched things like Math, Chemistry, Physics, and Geography at the earliest opportunity. I did then pick up additional subjects (one of which was self-taught) but they were all decidedly not STEM subjects. I definitely ruled out careers in medicine, science, engineering but I have no regrets. It will be interesting to see what happens with my own kids.

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