In 7th grade, our daughter developed the idea that her future success depended entirely on acceptance into an elite university and that the only way to get there would be if she worked really hard and got excellent grades. For two years we watched her spend every spare moment stooped over her desk working on homework – trying to achieve an A or higher. Immediately after school each day she would pull out her books and get to work on her homework – sometimes till 1 am. Weekends were the same. Family events and outings were an unwelcome hindrance to her ability to complete her work. She would check her grades daily and become agitated if they dropped below As. Tears and stress were constant visitors to our home and there was little room for fun.
As parents, we worried about her narrow view of what it means to be successful; the pressure she was putting on herself; her obsession with grades; the effects that so many hours stooped over her books would have on her posture and how imbalanced her life had become. We missed the happy and creative girl that had previously been our daughter, and we tried to comfort ourselves with the knowledge that she loved and admired her teachers and that the heavy classroom workload was somewhat balanced out by many field-trips and meaningful classroom activities and projects.
When she started high-school additional pressure was now on to take honors classes and achieve grades that would look good on a transcript and ensure her future success. For the first few weeks, she was stressed out and unhappy – the school was big and unfamiliar and we thought that it was probably a normal transition. But it quickly got worse. The environment was distressing and disappointing. Each day we would hear a new story - students swearing at the teachers with no consequence; students cruelly teasing special needs children; the classrooms that had at first held a promise of being enjoyable ruined by students refusing to participate and being disrespectful; textbooks containing offensive messages; bathrooms full of pot smoke; teachers who under stress yelled or threw textbooks. By winter break our daughter had lost all desire and motivation to complete her school work and begged daily to not go to school.
Our daughter ended up at Coast Redwood High School and within one week, our whole family could feel the difference as if a crushing weight was removed and we could breathe and smile again. She has now been there a month and our happy creative girl is starting to be recognizable. In the last few weeks, as well as completing the work needed for her classes she has spent hours at a time working in our garden; she designed and worked with her dad to build and paint a shelf for her room; at night, instead of obsessing over homework she helps cook dinner and enjoys sketching and painting; in the morning she accompanies me for a walk around the neighborhood and she has taken on the challenge of reading the bus schedule and getting herself to and from school and ballet in Scotts Valley.
We are very relieved to see the positive changes since moving to CRHS one month ago and we are thrilled with all the possibilities and opportunities that are accessible through this incredibly amazing program.
Being a student at CRHS means that our daughter takes Spanish and Biology in a small group with a relaxed and happy teacher; for art, she crosses over to SLVHS to have art with her favorite teacher. She goes to the library or a coffee shop to work independently on English and math and to complete her homework. If she gets stuck in math, there is a math tutor available with regular office hours. She can get PE credit for the many hours of ballet she takes per week. She visits with her friends from SLVHS at lunch. She is done with the majority of school work within school hours and is able to relax and do other things while at home.
In future years being a student at CRHS will give her the opportunity to take classes at Cabrillo and if she wants to doctor up her transcript to look good to a university she can, in the extra time she now has, take courses through the thousands of excellent free online courses provided by EdX or Coursera or even through Stanford’s EPGY program. In addition, she will have more time for getting work experience and community service hours and, if she has the opportunity, the option to travel for a week or so during the school year. When graduation comes around, she will have not only a wonderful transcript that reflects her independence and diversity as a learner, but she will be a happy balanced person prepared to face the challenges of college and adulthood.
This flexible, individualized and innovative high school program is surely the face of the future in education and we are delighted that it exists right here in the sleepy little San Lorenzo Valley. We are thrilled that our daughter is a part of it and we wish that all students could have access to this amazing effective school model. We are so grateful for those educators who in this crazy and damaging “race to the top” have held tight to their convictions of what is best for a child and have had the courage to stay on the slow and steady road – it is a road less traveled and it is wonderful – thank you!!