On decision day, an impassioned plea for courtesy and common sense

Here’s one great thing about a school that ends in Eighth Grade – it forces families to make an active, informed decision about where to go to high school. Simply staying put is not an option. Young teens and their parents grapple with choices — public or private? in-state or across the country? – that most families don’t face until it’s time for college.

keepcalmbeniceAs boarding school decision letters arrive this week, middle schools around the country are full of excitement (and its companion, stress). For many children, this is the first experience they’ll have with rejection. For those accepted to their first-choice high school, jubilation comes easily – but tact is sometimes in short supply. Gracefully celebrating a friend’s good news when your own is disappointing? That’s a skill that even grownups have trouble mastering. In fact, it’s often the grownups who make the most cringe-worthy comments. The result can be a tsunami of hurt feelings and misunderstandings.

It gets even more complicated when the topic turns to “should I stay or should I go.” At our school in the Rockies, Aspen Country Day, about half our graduating Eighth Graders go on to independent boarding or day schools. In a small town where the public schools enjoy a strong reputation, high school choice is a political landmine. Parents who choose to “send their children away” are cornered at the grocery store checkout and challenged to defend their decision. Those whose children will be staying home get quizzed: have they fully considered all the options? No wonder some moms don large sunglasses and floppy hats so they can run errands incognito.

In an effort to calm the waters, Gretchen Cole, our director of admission who handles high school placement, sent out an impassioned plea last week. She wrote to parents, “We would like to take this opportunity, just a few days before boarding school “decision day,” to encourage you and your children to be mindful, considerate, and supportive of each other’s journey to ninth grade.” Click here for the full text.

You may be saying, “good luck with that,” but we think it was worth a try. In a few weeks, we’ll let you know how it worked.

Carolyn Hines

Carolyn Hines is Director of Communications and Alumni Relations at Aspen Country Day School, a PreK-Eighth Grade school in Colorado. She has two boarding school daughters - one a junior, and one now in grad school.

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