2014 High School Letter Day

Letter Day is fast approaching ("oh no!" and "thank God!")

High School Letter Day is scheduled for Mon. 3/10 on the DoE's calendar which is a little weird because they don't usually do placement announcements on a Mon. I have heard an unconfirmed rumor that it may actually be moved to Fri. 2/28 (don't tell your kids, just clear your schedule that afternoon, just in case). We probably won't know for sure until very shortly before the date.

What normally happens: The kids at public schools are given sealed envelopes in school that hold the results of their SHSAT tests, whether they have been offered a seat at a Specialized HS, LaGuardia and their choice from their main 1-12 application. The letters to private school students may be a little slower - ask your school how they are distributed. The kids are instructed to wait to open the letters when they get home. Yeah, right.
They are dismissed, and the second that they get outside the school building, they rip open the letters and there on the sidewalk in front of school, the full range of human emotion is played out in public; tragedy, euphoria, jealousy, hatred and deception all bathed in a river of tears. It is ugly and it is up to you to stop it. You must either convince your child NOT to open the letter in public (good luck) or you must be there to whisk them away to a safe place to celebrate or commiserate in private.

Here is the problem; teenagers think in black and white. Most KNOW that they will get the school of their dreams and that their friends will all be as happy for them as they are for themselves. On the other hand, they may KNOW that they never get anything that they want and life is out to get them and they are sure that they will be disappointed. On Letter Day, in public, the kids who are happy with their placements can't celebrate in the way that they should because their friends are miserable. The kids who get good placements, but not the ones they want, will be brokenhearted - even though they got great news. The kids who are disappointed in their placements often lose it, and sometimes lie about where they got in (all of which only adds to their humiliation).

You must make them promise to walk away with envelope in tact. Find a quiet space, at home, with you or not, where they can open the letter and cry or shout with people who can love them out of it. Then...at 5 o'clock, they can Facebook or text everyone, after they have calmed down and considered. They can be measured and thoughtful and empathetic and happy or at least resigned to their options.

The schools can't control what happens outside the building - only you can. You could shake your fist at the sun and curse this horrible system, but that won't help anything. It is what it is. If your child's life was an uninterrupted meadow of rainbows they will be thoroughly unprepared for what is thrown at them later on. Modeling plan B is the best skill you could ever give your child. Teach them how to handle disappointment with grit, good humor and ingenuity. This placement is no reflection on their brains or previous hard work - there is a significant amount of luck in this process. What they do with this placement says everything about their character and potential. Remember it is not the school that makes the kid - it is the kid that makes the school. The true measure of character (and real lifelong success) is squeezing all the goodness out of any opportunity. If you are crushed by the disappointment and unfairness - of not getting what you want (even when you "deserve" it) you will miss the value that is sitting in front of you. Who said life is fair? But sometimes the universe gives you a gift wrapped in an unlikely package. How are you going to teach them to live? Word to the wise, and sorry for all the platitudes.
Now that I am done preaching, if you want some practical advice (and even to laugh at this process) I am giving my High School Choice: Calm and Clear Talk on 3/10 and a new date (due to overwhelming demand) on 3/13 at 7pm at Hootenanny Art House.
tickets $30

This is a talk mostly for curious 7th grade parents, but everyone is welcome. If your child is clamoring to understand the algorithm and the difference between an "ed opt" school and a "limited unscreened" school, then perhaps they should attend, but really, it is too soon for a 6th or 7th grader to get involved in this minutiae and you should leave them home in blissful ignorance for a couple more months. Also this isn't the talk for you if you have gotten your 9th grade placement and you want to know how to appeal.