Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Making of a New Yorker

I have been thinking this summer of how, when I moved to New York City nearly 20 years ago, a big part of me thought it would be something of a lark. Never did I expect to be raising kids in this metropolis and yet here I am, the parent of two NYC public school kids, one of whom came home in June with this book for me to study over the summer:

Some light summer reading.

As big as a phone book and broken down by borough!

The two-inch thick 2016 New York City High School Directory is a study in being prepared, as well as in not panicking, knowing that you must extract, from this gigantic book, by December 1, up to 12 public schools you would like your child to apply to—that’s right, apply!—in the hopes that one of them will accept him or her for high school. No borough is off limits! In a way, it is a very great gift—if there is something you are passionate about as a middle schooler, that goes beyond the regular college prep of many schools, you can apply to a high school in New York City that specializes in that very field. Interested in earning an FAA certification in airframe maintenance by time you are 18? There’s a school for that. Want to go to work for the MTA right after high school as a train technician? There’s a school for that. Have your dreams set on being a Broadway actor, dancer, singer or musician? There are many schools for that!

Another book I have to read through: The Specialized High School Handbook!

While I do my research and get ready for school tours in the fall, I have been thinking that this process is another piece of the puzzle of what makes someone a New Yorker. Even at the middle school level, most of the kids in New York City schools have experience with interviews and the competition involved in earning a seat. Does this help or hurt a child? I haven’t fully made up my mind on that one yet. I do know that by 9th grade, a kid who has grown up in any of the boroughs of New York City has already been through a couple of levels of academic competition that kids in other parts of the United States may never have to face. I’m sure this explains not only a native New Yorker’s ease with the city—the middle schoolers I know, my son included, are so familiar with the bus and subway lines!—but maybe too their impatience and/or competitiveness.

Each school has its own write-up and admission requirements.

Every time I read through these books, I am trying to feel like I have not been run over by these, recently parked out in front of my place:

Had to include this picture. How often do you have 3 NYC steamrollers parked out front overnight?

For any of you native New Yorkers out there, I would love to hear your thoughts on the high school admissions process. For everybody else, do tell me what your high school admissions process was like. I bet we have the same story—you went to the school closest to the place where you lived!


susan burpee said...

Wow. Now, that looks intimidating. As a former high school English teacher it scares me that we are asking kids to make such serious decisions about their future so young. Here in Ontario we have specialized schools too, but most kids go to their local high school. If they apply and are accepted into a special focus the school for the arts, and hate it, they can go back to their neighbourhood high school. And many, many so-called "composite schools" like the one I taught at, have kids that are just as talented as those that attend the "specialized" schools. We offered most programs, and had a really excellent arts program, that rivaled the one at the arts school. Plus our kids had to associate with all kinds of other students: the "techies," the "drama kids," the AP kids, the kids who would go to work right from high school and those that would earn athletic or academic scholarships to big name universities. That seems healthy to me. But...of course I AM biased.

GSL said...

I attended the high school nearest my home down in North Carolina well over 30 years ago...I share Susan's opinion and bias but can see the advantages of attending a specialized school.

rosie said...

Instead of going to my local public Manhattan HS, I applied to different Manhattan Catholic HS's. We moved to Brooklyn three years later & my local HS would have been - Erasmus HS. Among Erasmus's alum was Streisand & Neil Diamond. They attended Erasmus @ the same time. Can you imagine that school's talent shows.

To finish up my senior year, I decided to stay at my Manhattan HS, mainly to be with all my friends. It was very common for HS kids to commute to different boroughs, as it is now.

There were also very elite, competitive, specialized & difficult HS's, i.e. Brooklyn Tech, Stuyvesant & Bronx HS of Science. If you got in, it was like hitting the lottery.

There were other HS's that were geared to kids not on the College track, i.e. Boys Printing HS. There were many commercial HS's, with the emphasis on typing, shorthand & bookkeeping skills. The commercial HS's were obviously geared to girls. I know, it was very archaic & obviously sexist.

There was also a HS that specialized in fashion design. I could swear it was affiliated with FIT, but am not 100% certain.

Am not sure how I feel about specialized HS's. Sometimes, its just a no brainer - you get into Juilliard - you go.

Denton said...

Glad to see you are getting a newly paved smooth street. What's not to like?

We had the same discussion fifteen years ago when it was our daughter's turn. She attended 51, as you know the local JHS.

Then as now you expected your kid to get into one of the 'elite competitive' schools, unfortunately our daughter did not test well enough, to our great disgust. However our fallback position was LaGuardia (the performing arts school) where, assuming you have reasonably good academics, admission is by portfolio. Our artistic kid was admitted in both fine arts and vocal, she chose the latter. The school has an impressive alumnae list.

It turned out being a great school for her, she sang in all kinds of places with all kinds of singers and travelled all over. The only thing it's a tough school socially for a girl who might want to date as there are so many more girls than boys and of the boys that there are so many are gay. Conversely, it must be a great school for a guy!

I don't know what we would have done tho if she hadn't made it in there.

Jill said...

Hi Susan, I wish they had something like what you are describing here--a "regular" high school you go to, or can fall back on in case you don't like the specialized high school. I'm with you, I can't believe the pressure on these kids at so young an age! xx

Jill said...

Hi GSL, I would love it if my son could get into a specialized high school, but I also worry about the workload. I've heard some of them are pressure cookers! xx

Jill said...

Hi Rosie, I am so glad you shared your high school admissions experience! A man that lives a few doors down told me the same thing about the kids traveling--that they go from one borough to another for school and don't think a thing of it! They do still have technical schools, at least I think that's what Transit Tech (to work for the MTA) and Aviation High (to work for the airline industry) are supposed to be about. And there are others, I know. I love that Barbra and Neil went to a high school right here in Brooklyn. I have heard that some of those talent shows they put on at LaGuardia are practically Broadway-worthy. I bet Erasmus was (is?) the same! xx

Jill said...

Hi Denton! I would love it if my son would audition for LaGuardia, but he doesn't want to. He is at 51 for dance but I think he has been scared off of auditioning for LaGuardia because of hearing through the grapevine about the intense competition to land a spot. Also, I think he thinks of dance more like a hobby than anything he is really serious about or wants to spend a lot of time on. He will be taking the SHSAT in fall and I am keeping my fingers crossed that he does well! xx