Thursday, September 10, 2009

Maritza Seeks Help for School Phobia

Dear Readers:

This afternoon/evening, Abuela and I sat out on the step with Sarah, her neices, her mom and her big sister and had a big chat. Sarah has started at Orozco but she is having a lot of anxiety about it. The orientation went ok, but on the first day of school she got so nervous she threw up. The second day it happened again. Today her mom let her stay home and called me for advice. They're going to try to send her tomorrow but maybe she will just talk with someone and not go to class. On Monday her mom intends to speak with her teacher.

I asked Sarah to tell me about her experience. She said the building is very big and unfamiliar and they didn;t really walk around it during orientation. She made some friends during orientation and two of them are in her class, but they sit pretty far away from her. I gather on the first day the bus was late--it's supposed to pick her up from Chavez at 7:45 but it didn't arrive until 8:20, so she was late to class. Perhaps that was also a factor. She said she got nervous when the teacher gave homework, although when she got home and tried it she found it was pretty easy. She clearly misses her friends and teachers at Chavez andwants to go back there.

The problem is, as Tom Wolfe said, you can't go home again. Her mom tells me Mr. Correa has left Chavez and things are very disorganized now. She's also heard the stories about drugs and gang recruitment in the upper grade center (Sarah wouldn't be there yet, but soon) and she won't have her daughter go there. This sounds like a fairly titanic struggle of wills between mother and daughter. Sarah, like her mom, is a pretty determined person, but it's not in her long-term best interest to go back to Chavez. How to help her understand that, I'm not too sure.

If anyone has tips on dealing with school phobia, new school anxiety, etc., we are all ears here on Marshfield Avenue. Thanks!


Anonymous said...

I went to a laboratory high school an hour from my rural hometown and so was living away from home at age 14. The first semester I was terribly homesick (I hyperventilated one day at school). My situation was a bit different, in that I loved school; I just wanted to be in two places at once. Still, I think it helped to know that I had the option of returning home.

So, perhaps Sarah might make an agreement with her mother to re-evaluate her school options at the end of the first semester. Given the dangers of the original high school, as a mother I wouldn't want to promise that she could go back if she didn't like the new school after one semester. However, it might help Sarah get over the hump if she knows that she's not "stuck forever", that if it's really terrible after a semester, she will have a chance to make a case to her mom, and her mom will consider it.

My guess is that after one semester, Sarah, too, will realize that she's in the right place.

Maritza said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. Just one thing I wanted to make clear--Sarah is in elementary school, so it is a little different. I think the main thing here may be to make sure she has time with her neighborhood (and old school) friends after school and on weekends, so she doesn't feel like she lost them.

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