The first 2 weeks of the new
school year here in Oz are complete and everything is settling down.
Em, in her final 2 years of high school - the optional 2 years, the 2
years required for university entrance but not absolutely essential for
a trade or a career in retail - has made her final subject changes and
settled into her choices.
Subject choices are fraught with so much angst! It seemed so much easier when I was observing other parents guide their teens through this. For students who know what they want to do as a career, the subject choices are based on the requirements for that career. For students who are really good at particular subjects and have a real dislike for others, the choices may also be relatively straight forward. For a student like my Em? Well, it's difficult. What would she like to do? Electrical engineering, fashion designer, physical therapist, occupational therapist, psychologist, art therapist, farmer, theatrical costume designer, human rights lawyer...need I continue? It's easier to list what she doesn't want to do (doctor, nurse, school teacher, corporate lawyer, clerk).
So what's she good at? Um, everything. Though she does have to put a bit of effort into maths and science, and it annoys her that the work doesn't come quite so naturally to her, so I guess they would have to be considered her weaker subjects, but she doesn't hate them and she does well in them.
Em is attending a school which only teaches Year 11 and 12, and as a specialist senior school is able to offer a wide subject choice and that hasn't made subject selection any easier. After much thought and mind changing, she was left with an unavoidable clash between 2 subjects she really wanted to take, Textiles and English Extension. English Extension is for English nerds, and is only open to students already studying Advanced English. (English is the only compulsory subject for Years 11 & 12, so the Maths/Science nerds take Standard English, the easiest option available.) Em really enjoys Textiles and creating her quirky masterpieces, and if she is really serious about a career in fashion, Textiles is a necessary subject.
So, Textiles was her choice over English Extension. Then she took the first Textiles class and found the teacher vague. After that came her Advanced English class where the teacher asked for a show of hands from those also taking English Extension. Em felt miserable at not being able to identify as an English nerd. After thinking about it over night she went to the subject co-ordinator the next morning and switched from Textiles to English Extension and her relief was palpable, her rounded shoulders lifted and squared, her face beamed real, rather than make-do, happiness.
"Mum, I know how to sew and create things. I'll keep doing that. I won't lose that ability. But when I lost my English nerd identity, well, I just felt, well, like I wasn't being me!" was how Em explained it.
Em's subject choices also include Advanced Maths and Biology, as these leave the door open for most of the career choices she is considering with a Science requirement. However with Society & Culture and both Modern & Ancient History thrown into the mix, her choices are definitely humanities based.
Em now knows she values being identified as an English nerd more than she values identifying as a purveyor of fashion. I guess this is one more step for her in narrowing career possibilities as well as revealing the depth of her passions to herself and gaining self-understanding.
I can't really believe that I stood back and let her work this one out for herself, only to have it settle in precisely the way I thought it should right at the beginning of the process. Yep. I'm gaining understanding too.