On 8th Grade, now and then

Will in the crowdWill graduated from completed eighth grade yesterday, and Greenhills had a lovely little ceremony celebrating the occasion.  Here’s a link to a few more pictures.

Unlike his “graduation” from 5th grade from Estabrook a few years ago, Will isn’t leaving so much as he is moving to a different level and a different part of the building.  Greenhills is somewhere around 500 or students 6th through 12th grade, which I believe actually makes the entire school smaller than his elementary school.  He will have new teachers and classmates of course, but he has already had some teachers who are teaching both middle and high school, and all but a dozen of his classmates from this year will be around next.

I’m about 90% sure we’re making the right choice in sticking with Greenhills.  We decided to go the private school route beginning with sixth grade because we weren’t going to be able to sell our house to move out of the Ypsilanti public school district and we knew that Greenhills had a great reputation.  A few minor issues aside, the ‘hills has lived up to the expectations, and Annette and I decided back then that if we were going to do this, we were “all in,” so to speak.

Will has had a bunch of great teachers– Mr. Wilson was his favorite, and I’m glad he got a chance to be in his class because he’s off to Emerson next year, but honestly, they’ve all been what I can only describe as “shinny pennies,” just some of the best and brightest.  He’s got great classmates, and while Greenhills isn’t as “diverse” as the Ypsi schools and Will is certainly not one of the “rich” kids in the group, it isn’t all a bunch of white trust fund babies either.  The school’s reputation as extremely solid college prep is well-established.  It’s been great so far and I expect high school to just continue that greatness.

Then why 90%?  Well, there are alternatives that cost considerably less.  A couple of Will’s friends are leaving Greenhills to public or other alternative schools, and one friend is going to the Washtenaw International High School.  I’ll be curious to hear more about that because it could be great– it’s free, and it promises rigorous academic standards and it is trying to be a part of the International Baccalaureate tradition of schools– or it could be not so great because it is simply the unknown.  And after all, there are lots of public school alternatives that might have been a good fit for Will, including Ypsi High.  We’ll just not know, thus 10% of lingering doubt.

But I’ll take that amount of doubt. Not too many things in life I’m 100% on, frankly.

Anyway, Will’s graduation completion made me think back on my own middle school experience so long ago.  The head of school/principal, Peter Fayroian, gave a nice talk about the transition from eighth to ninth grade (aka high school) where he described eighth grade as the worst year he remembered as a student.  Which made me think back to my eighth grade and how little I could remember of it.  I was a pretty geeky and modestly picked upon child whose interests in science and math were in the process of being crushed by my inability to keep up with that work.  I remember I hated hated hated my English class.  I had a “mentor” of sorts in an art teacher named Ron Streed who let me borrow some camera equipment for making goofy little stop-animation super-8s (by the way, I did a search for him and learned he passed away this past March– rest in peace).

Oh, and I don’t recall a completion ceremony, either.  Nothing for grade school for that matter.

But that’s about it.  Maybe that’s because my eighth grade was actually the middle of my junior high that went grades seventh through ninth, or maybe because the interesting stuff didn’t happen until much later.  Someday I’ll have to ask Will what he remembers of all this.

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