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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

when is "good" enough?

now today i had every intention of posting a self-portrait. i like the may theme. to introduce myself - to show something you may not normally see of me here in this forum. instead i am posting the rant i mentioned yesterday. it shows a part of me you may not have seen. a part that in person i do not so easily share. but that here i feel more comfortable. where my words can be chosen more carefully. deleted. then chosen again. i respect that everyone has their own take on this topic. that everyone wants the best for their kids. and that there are a lot of different "bests". this is just where we are now.

big bug will be off to kindergarten in the fall. i have written about this before. it is cause for many sleepless nights for me. not that i worry about her going off into the big world. she is ready for that. she wants to go out there. and i feel that we have given her the best foundation for that.

my most recent anxieties - the cause of my sleeplessness. the concern i have over whether or not the school we have chosen to attend in the fall is a "good" school. everyone keeps asking me this. even our pediatrician. and i don't know how to answer it. of course it is a good school. would anyone intentionally send their child to a bad school? to a mediocre school? i hope not. yet when you look at the test scores for this school, it ranks below others nearby. (though well above the national average.) it does not have a state of the art computer lab. or a dedicated art teacher. the yard hasn't been transformed into a gorgeous garden. california remains in the bottom 10% for per student funding in public schools in the U.S. many things that should be provided to schools aren't there. there isn't a strong pta or booster club at this school to offset what is lacking.

i don't believe in test scores. i question the value of my children spending time on a computer while at school. art is (very) important to me. and a big part of our lives. she, and her sister, will get an art education. at home if not at school. i think environment is very important as well, but also think that is something we can work on. i believe that parental involvement is - now more than ever - vital for the success of a school. and i am not alone. i believe (naively?) that this is also something we can work on.

the school is in our neighborhood. right down the street. we can walk there together. we can walk home. together. the staff there is lovely. dedicated. caring. wanting the best for all the children. our neighbor and friend is in the process of designing a new mural for the school. we have a lot of support from our neighbors - parents of prospective kindergarteners. together we dream of a garden. of more murals. of reading and painting and being. part of the school. the school is part of our community. i think there is a lot to be said for that - isn't there? to be invested in one's community. to be part of our immediate reality.

yes. i am sending my daughter to a "good" school. though it may not stack up to some of the more prestigious schools in the same way. i would say it is more than "good". it will provide more for our girls. it will teach them the importance of being part of your community. of understanding and accepting - better yet celebrating - differences. of being yourself in this great big world. and having your place to be proud of. it will show them that together we can make improvements. and that our involvement in the school, as a family, is a powerful thing.

god i hope i am right...

13 comments:

Mama Urchin said...

We seem to have a national obsession with perfection and it is so evident in how we collectively raise our children. But here's the thing - very few things in life are perfect, if any, and that's okay. I think that is a very valuable lesson for a child to learn. Sure, I want the best for my children but the best doesn't necessarily mean easy or state-of-the-art computer labs. I could go on and on but it sounds to me like you are making a great decision especially since you are informed and committed to pitching in to make your school a better place.

lisa said...

you are!! thank you for sending your child to a public school. i work on behalf of improving public schools so that all of them, despite the neighborhood, provide an equitable education. your child deserves it, every child deserves it!

Tracy said...

i have goosebumps. thank you so very much for your support. you have no idea what it means to me!!!

Alicia A. said...

Oh Tracy. Isn't it just so hard to do this parenting thing?!

I'm going to email in a minute, because we are having VERY similar issues with our Jack who is the same age.

this single spark said...

It is hard for me to participate in this discussion because a) I don't have kids and b) I live in Canada where the system is different. But I wanted to say that I went to an inner city school (way back in the 70s, so the social climate has changed, but still...) that lacked many of the things that other schools had. The things that made the biggest difference in my life were not those I lacked, but those I had. Committed teachers like Ms. Laponsee, friends that I got to see every day, and a mom that was invloved in my life and education. Only singling out my mom because my dad was away a lot. Either parent would do. Or both!

I know that your decision isn't the default choice, but one you've given a lot of consideration. Trust yourself.

melissa f. said...

I think so many of these questions about "good enough" are asked by parents who are unsure about their ability to teach their children-- or, worse, parents who are unwilling to supplement their kids education, believing the job of "education" rests solely on their child's teachers. We live in an area of town with poorly "performing" schools. Paul will most likely be teaching at one of these schools in the next year or so. I wonder how my view of public education will change once we're a part of the system-- i'm sure it will. For now, I hope I can trust myself as much as you seem to be doing.

shim + sons said...

Tracy, I really appreciate this post. My graduate school career involved studying parental involvement among families of varying SES. I truly believe "quality" education cannot be measured by test scores and we as parents do have the ability to supplement in areas schools lack.

Tracy said...

Thanks everyone. This is a very emotional issue for me and as I said earlier - your support means a lot.

mama urchin - I think you are right on the mark. "we" have become obsessed with the "best" and have stopped seeing what kids really need.

lisa - thank you for doing the work you do! (i'd love to hear more about it...)

Alicia - I would love to "talk" futher!

c - you know as always your support means so much. xo

Melissa - I am trying really hard to trust myself!

Sally - It is so reassuring to hear your feelings on test scores - it seems to be an obsession in the parental circle of em's friends lately and it has me pulling my hair!!

stephanie said...

tracy, this is a really great post. i was right where you are a year ago, and i wish that i could say that a year later i'm done agonizing about it, but i'm not. we were lucky enough to find an alternative school that was in walking distance. we really made proximity a priority because i think it's an important part of my kids' quality of life. not just not spending time in a car everyday, but being a part of their local community. our school doesn't have the best test scores either, but it has happy kids and families that are always welcome. the primary grades have no computers at all by choice. i spend at least one day a week in my daughter's classroom, and i love it. you can help a school change and grow to encompass more of your ideals if the administration is open to parent involvement, so that is an important thing to look for. what makes a school a "good" school in my mind? community. i hope you've found it.

Tracy said...

thanks stephanie. it sounds like you have found a wonderful place to be part of. i do feel that our neighborhood school is interested - wants! - parental involvement. my only fear is that the parents may not come through... i guess this is a part of our lives that will continue to pose challenges for me!

(love that your school is computer free!!)

{m} said...

kindergarten--huge rite of passage for sure. our son entered this year. i shared similar concerns, wanted to be proactive... i started the schoolyear reading william bennett's "the educated child" and now ending it with rosalind wiseman's "queen bee moms and kingpin dads"-- the many realities of elem school set in fast...

samantha said...

you know I think this is one of the toughest parenting decisions because the impact is huge! I get sick of people questioning what 'we' have chosen to do with our daughter re schooling. Either the school is too snobby, it should be co-ed, she's too young why don't you hold her back? I keep reminding myself that in fact these questions actually stem from THEIR issues, not from mine. So be proud that you have chosen a school because it is what YOU want and suits YOUR child. That is all that matters....

Heels said...

Ohhh, Tracy, if you think selecting a school for your child is difficult in California, try it in (sigh) Alabama.

My oldest child is entering kindy in the fall, too, and after a very difficult selection process (which I blogged about extensively starting last December), we've chosen a private school over an academic magnet school and, honestly, for me, the art program was one of the reasons, along with the gorgeous brightness of the school versus the flat academic gray of the magnet school.

One of the things that gut-punched me about the whole process is that for the first time in my daughter's life, I handed over the decision about her future to other people (in the application process, anyway). It's scary, scary stuff and it's oddly emotionally challenging.

Even now, as I write checks that put an ache on my bank account, I am so relieved that the process is over. I hope it won't sting as much with my youngest child.