This week, my oldest daughter transferred from one of the highest academically ranking schools in our school district to one of the lowest academically ranking schools in our school district. She struggled with math in general beginning in ninth grade and specifically now, in her Junior year - Pre-Calculus and Physics (which is more math than science). Rather than continue to flounder in a situation that left her feeling unsuccessful and totally stressed out, she asked to be transfered to the school she is zoned to. Houston ISD does not allow more than one Magnet transfer per school year, so that really limited the selection process.
At her old school, she was just another smart kid. Afterall, because of the school rankings, the best and brightest from all over the city make their way there. The school is neat and orderly. There is one full-time police officer. The office is run efficiently. There is a uniform and it is actively adhered to. The children respect their teachers and listen in class - they know why they are there and they know what it takes to stay there. At the same time - there is a lot of pressure for success there. The competition is stiff. The work is challenging. Being there comes standard with a lot of sleepless nights trying to complete (often college-level) homework assignments. Leaving middle school it's where we all thought she needed to be. And we were right. She "fit" there.
At her new school . . . there are likely a lot of smart kids who don't yet know how smart they are. Or they've learned that is better to be cool than to be smart. Or they've learned that being street smart is better than being book smart. No one is beating down the doors to attend. They, in fact, are working hard to overcome the fact that they have one of the highest dropout statistics in the district. The office workers are very nice and polite. They do the best they can to point you in the right direction, but yesterday was the second day of school and my daughter was finally issued textbooks and does not yet have a locker assigned to hold them. The principal has instituted a uniform dress code and the children are not taking it well . . . it make take her longer than she plans to get it catch on. The school is neat and orderly - at least on the days when I visited it was. There are, I believe, 4 full time police officers on duty. They are not hard to find. My daughter says she saw two people get arrested on day one and she's told that is a regular occurence. There are pregnant students and students who are parents. My daughter knew the statistics surrounding these "kinds of events" and know she knows it up close. Dorothy we're not in Kansas anymore. She said she doesn't understand why so many conversations, no matter where they begin, end with a discussion on "doin' it." I'm glad these things come as a shock to her.
On the other hand, she has gotten the first restful, full-night's sleep that she's had in 3 years. Her spirit is lighter and she's smiling a lot more. She's a bit of mystery to the people at her new school - adults and children alike. She's always been a bit of mystery to me too. And I think she likes that about herself. She's very much her own person and not easily swayed, so I don't worry that her new daytime environment will engulf her. I do believe, though, that it will help to round her out and make her more in tuned to who she is.
Right now the people of Munchkin land just want to know who this girl is who fell out of the sky and landed in their city. She looks different. She talks different. She acts different. The trick will be finding out if they can point her towards Oz and if when she gets there she'll be able to show them that the big scary stuff they've all feared is just smoke and mirrors.