Thursday, January 26, 2006

School Rant

My close friends have already heard this from me. More than once. But here I go again...

I am having such a difficult time organizing my thoughts on the big bug's departure to kindergarten this September. She has her heart set on attending our neighborhood school. I believe her only reason is because it is our neighborhood school. The school she sees whenever we go for a walk. Where the children play that we can hear from our yard. We attended the holiday pageant, and were fortunate to meet the librarian and receive a "complimentary tour" of the library. The big bug was smitten. All those books. And all those smiling faces singing holiday songs. Who wouldn't be?

My dilemma is this: I don't think this school is meeting its potential. (Through no fault of the staff, but rather through lack of funding and lack of community support.) I don't know if it will be able to help her reach her potential. I am unsure if it will even be able to maintain her (right now) seemingly unlimited curiosity (that I love so much).

I, like her, love the concept of the neighborhood school. Walking to school each day. Meeting playmates that live nearby. Pride in community. All those things.

But, unfortunately, as is so common in schools in this city and others, the neighborhood chose some time ago, for a variety of reasons, not to attend this school. To attend private schools. In turn, the school suffered. And in turn, less people in the neighborhood attended it. Besides private schools, favors were called in and children of our neighborhood went on to attend "better" public schools in adjacent neighborhoods. Parents of our neighborhood joined these PTAs and Booster Clubs and supported these schools instead of the one down the street. Somewhere along the line "we" forgot that for the school to be part of our community - we need to be part of the school. I understand why parents make these choices. I understand why one would want their child to go to the best possible place for their education. But why doesn't anyone seem to see that this school down the street could be that place with their support? How do we fix this cycle?

I have thought about "un-schooling". While the concept is incredibly attractive to me, in our current situation it just isn't right for us. And isn't an idea that appeals to our social butterfly of a daughter, who has been lucky enough to attend a fabulous preschool. I have looked at Charter Schools and will submitting an application (it is a lottery process) to one of these. And I have called on someone with a connection to a neighboring school if it comes to that. I so hope it doesn't. I want to make this work. I want to work with the community to make the school on my corner the best it can be. To help make the kids in my neighborhood the best they can be.

I can go on. How has America allowed the failure of what should be its priority - educating our children? (Maybe I find it easy to lay blame as I am Canadian - but my bugs are American.) Why can't our neighborhood school afford to buy a new copy machine? Is the funding from the school district so tight? Music, art, physical education. All these programs have been cut back. Why do we accept the use in public schools of a mediocre reading program to teach our kids to read while ignoring great literature that would "turn them on" to reading? (Here is a teacher who has "turned them on", and in LAUSD even!) How did this happen? Well, we know how. But why did we let it?? I don't want to let it go any further...

Now. Where to start...


Jennifer said...

Thanks for the comment on my blog - as that brought me to your blog! Before we moved to Bowen Island, we lived in Newport Beach.

I can relate to the concerns about education and especially going to kindergarten - my eldest heads of this fall. Fortunately, the local school for us is quite good (and I'm on the board), but I remember how I felt in California, worrying about that.

By the way, where in Canada are you from?

Sasha said...

We have a similar situation, the closest school is one where the emphasis is on order and discipline, and the surrounding community does not attend the school. And this was not on our list of choices (in theory we have a choice), but it is where we were assigned for Kindergarten. The school is not a good match for my child's needs.

But I still feel very judged because I am now planning to send my daughter to a co-op school (less cost than regular private school but I must work there part of the time.)

It is hard for me to turn my back on public school and then I feel like I am part of the problem. But I also feel that the problem is too big for me and my child.

Anonymous said...

We have a similar situation with the school my kids attend here in Holland. It's the lowest ranked of all the schools in our area. We have three schools within walking distance of our home, but we chose this one. It's a small school, with a diverse range of ethnicities and we feel that the teachers really do their best with the resources they have.

Unfortunately other parents are choosing to take their children out and send them one of the other schools. It's heartbreaking (especially as I am on the PTA).

I feel that the parents should keep their kids in our school and try their best to improve the school from within.

I think you made a good choice. So many people see a division line between school and home, but I think the two go hand in hand. To ensure a good education for one's children one absolutely has to be involved in school.