At Home Abroad: Class of 2023
By Regina Costello
My twins entering high school this year brings to mind their first days in kindergarten and their subsequent years in elementary school. For four years I drove past the high school many a time to pick them up from primary school. The high school building and entrance seemed overwhelming to me and thoughts of my little 5-year-olds one day attending such a huge school, was a source of distress.
I would delude myself by thinking that such a day would never arrive, and that they would forever be tender hearted, innocent angels who would never leave the haven that was Hilton Elementary School, under the guidance of a sincere, caring professional principal, Dr. David Martin. Parents know only too well that the passage of time accelerates as the years go by. And yes, the day I thought would never arrive is well and truly here.
My kids now take the bus to high school. The delicate teenage years are fraught with anxiety, muddled with struggles of finding their place in the world, and figuring out who they are, who they want to be and which path is best for them. Freshmen are already encouraged to think about careers and set up online accounts to help guide them on career paths chosen by them.
New teachers, new subject choices, athletics, clubs and speech and debate, homework – their days are full and challenging. It’s a transition also for us as parents. It’s a reality check that our kids are growing up, and they really will leave us one day.
It makes me feel old. It makes me feel sad. It makes me wonder how I will fill that massive void when they do actually leave. Deepak has a plan in place. He hopes to drop down to part time work, and from there, perhaps he will teach a health class at middle school. Fiona informed him that he is not qualified and will have to return himself to school to qualify to apply.
Also on his bucket list is bagging groceries at Heinen’s’ grocery store. I am not quite as organized or futuristic minded. I hope they will attend university close by and I dream that they will come home every weekend with bags of laundry and share their ventures over dinner and bottles of wine. Yes, I do make a habit of deluding myself.
My years at secondary school in Ireland seemed simpler. The hours were kinder – 9AM-4:15PM. Yes, we did walk to school; no, Neil, not barefoot and yes, bicycles were around in our youth. We had a one-hour lunch break that enabled a good bunch of us to walk home and enjoy toasted sandwiches and hot tea.
We also had core subjects that were supplemented with electives. Physical education was part of the curriculum. We had very few clubs, and there were no after school activities. There was no drive or facilities for swim classes, soccer practice or other activities to keep kids busy.
School was our life. Our job was to perform well academically. It was our full-time job. With the National University of Ireland – Galway on our doorstep, attending college was an expectation, not a negotiation.
Four years of tough work with long hours of homework each night and a good part of the weekend working on projects and writing essays felt like an eternity. We didn’t even think about college until our final year. I think a lot of us had no clue regarding our futures or careers.
A good number of us completed arts or business degrees thinking that perhaps upon completion, maybe then we would have a better notion of what we truly wanted and to enter a post graduate degree from there. This was a result of no counselling from the schools then regarding real preparation for a tenable future. You were essentially on your own figuring it out. But it worked out in the end.
The majority of kids in my grade attended university and a large percentage later acquired advanced degrees. This is not unusual for Ireland. More than 50% of young people in Ireland have advanced degrees, and the Irish have more degrees than the rest of the European Union. With little or no guidance, we turned out alright.
The first week of high school for my kids required them to set up accounts with Naviance. Goodness, I thought to myself, after they explained what that was about – it’s a little premature to be thinking along those lines already. Perhaps it’s not. Perhaps more of us who graduated from high school in the 80s would have chosen our electives better, maybe shadowed a number of careers and found a better path, or better avenues to a fulfilling career.
My kids are busy little bees and I love the school logo – Brecksville Broadview Heights Bees. They are solid workers and I have every confidence they will meet the challenges of High School that to my mind seem at times to be overwhelming. With access to the many resources and mentors at their school, their futures can only be bright and well planned. The journey of life continues at home abroad.
Sources referenced: www.cso.ie
*Regina is a graduate of History and Philosophy from the National University of Ireland, Galway and a post graduate of Library and Information Studies from the National University of Ireland, Dublin. She is the former Assistant Librarian of the Economic and Social Research Institute, Dublin; former Curator of Irish American Archives of the Cleveland History Center; former Executive Director of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument Commission and former Executive Director of the Northern Ohio Rose Centre. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Mayo Society of Greater Cleveland. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org