Wednesday, September 5, 2012

First Day of High School

My son had his freshman orientation at Tech Valley High School today. He had a great day, despite having to get up much MUCH earlier than usual. In fact, he said that he had so much fun that it went by so fast and he was surprised when the day was over. Now we just have to get all the family, including my still-homeschooled daughter, to bed earlier to support this whole early-to-rise routine. So, we're just trying to get our bearings - it seems like the boy is the only one who's acclimating with no real signs of anxiety.

Relaxing attracts cats
Of course, it's just the first day, and the regular class schedule starts next week, so we'll see what develops.

My husband and I both are noticing they aren't strong on communication - for a school with "tech" in their name, they don't utilize it fully to keep parents in the loop. Infrequent Facebook page updates, a few emails sent late in the day with more questions raised than answered, and no indication of who to ask or where to find answers. I'm hoping this is just beginning-of-the-year disorganization, and that we'll have a better sense of what's what in the coming weeks. Onward and upward!

There's another issue with technology at Tech Valley, and that's the use of laptops. While every student gets issued a laptop to use for their high school career, they are heavily restricted in how they can use it. No taking it home, unless very special circumstances crop up. No downloads, games, or anything not related to schoolwork, and no use even during free time that isn't specifically school-related - not even to send personal emails. No HACKING either, which can encompass a lot of things - many of which I'd say were valuable skills.

 This attitude is a reflection of the NY State Education Department's "standards" more than it is a coherent and progressive policy invented by the school itself. I'm not sure what, exactly, these laptops are supposed to accomplish with such strictures, but hopefully the classroom experiences will make up for it.

In the meantime, we'll be getting him a smartphone, so he can have his own danged internet access without a whole bureaucracy breathing down his neck. I like to think I've raised him well enough at this point that I don't have to worry about him running a Nigerian scam, downloading and distributing porn, or hacking into the Defense Department, and I prefer he have unfettered access to technology. No need for him to internalize that it's something to be feared and locked down as much as possible, as that goes against our family values. Bigtime.

On a much better note,  the school announced that tomorrow they're having a special guest visiting the school - Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computers and inventor of the Apple II! This immediately ratchets up the Tech Valley High School coolness factor to OVER 9000.

I've already instructed the boy to do what he can to get The Woz to autograph my copy of his autobiography. And pictures. Lots of pictures. Hopefully there's no dopey rule against that, because I might have to have a hissyfit!


  1. Except for the tech restrictions, sounds like this is going to be an amazing experience for the boy!

  2. He's really loving it, the culture of the school is really great - there's respect from teachers and upperclassmen automatically, all part of the team oriented focus. He's managing the early rising thing really well too - because he's motivated to get there and get going!

  3. Gina,

    My son, Hunter is a senior at TVHS and has taken his laptop home EVERY day for the last 3 years (except for that one time his privs got taken). I think they set the bar high so students AND parents realize the responsibility of having a school owned laptop in their care. At least one of the districts actually has WiFi on the bus so kids can do work on their trip home.

    As for communication - much can be found on Echo. I am not sure when echo gets set up for the freshman. You can ALWAYS call Ms. Jensis with questions, she is most helpful

  4. Thanks Mike, I definitely got the sense that it was more of a "canned" policy - i.e., maybe a BOCES/Questar boilerplate, but I'm not sure.

    TVHS definitely did lay it on thick with the boy, and us, in hard copies and email, about it being super rare to take it anywhere, etc. So, we'll see what pans out. I don't know if this is a new emphasis and policy for incoming freshmen onward, or if it's just a way to drive the point home that it's not a toy to be abused, lost, etc. Of course, the boy still wants a smartphone too - which is probably fine, since the whole email/personal use issue can be sequestered to that format. We live a good portion of our lives with online interfaces intermixed with meatspace around here ;-)

    I just heard from his advisor that Echo will be explained to us at the first Parent's Night/Open House, but they don't have that date yet. Thanks for the tip about Ms. Jensis, I wasn't sure who would be the best point person!