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First Impressions: Second-Choice School

2 years ago

1219 words

Photo: I love it when both of their little fuzzy heads are together and they are thinking or working or building at the same time. It’s amazing, though brief. At least I was able to snap a picture of this moment.

 

Ok, here we go. The first school open house was last night. I have to go to 6 of these things before I rank them in order of preference when we register for Kindergarten in March. Last night’s open house was at my second-choice school. Big doings here…

The meeting started in the cafeteria, which was decorated with a myriad of flags that hung from the ceiling. I’d come to the understanding later that each of the flags represented the countries the student body hails from, which is really wonderful. The school itself is an older building, well loved and taken care of. It all started with a video and a little speech by the principal. Both the principal and vice-principal are women, which was nice in my point of view.  They had all of the parents go see all of the classrooms, not just the kindergarten ones. Some people seemed annoyed at this, and I was a little too, at first. But then I realized that we aren’t choosing a kindergarten, we’re choosing an entire elementary school. It’s good to go see what the 6th graders are up to.

And speaking of 6th graders, they were our tour guides. Again, using sweeping generalizations (sorry!), I had three: A white girl, an Asian boy and a boy who I believe was Indian but could not be sure. I’m telling you this detail because it’s gonna matter later. Anyway, the kids were really lovely–excited, proud of their school, easy to talk to. They weren’t coached, they said exactly what they were thinking, and they were genuinely excited to be with us and each other. They bravely said that they were ready for middle school, but there was a bit of sadness: “I’m going to miss it here,” one of the boys said. A very good sign.

Each of the grades and classrooms are grouped into “pods” around the school. kindergarten and first grades in a “pod,” 2nd and 3rd, etc…. At each pod, the teaching team stood out in front of their classroom doors and said a little something to us before we could wander around.

The teaching staff of this school is made up almost entirely of white women. There was one white man on the entire teaching staff. I’ve gotta tell you, I was really surprised.

So yeah, the classrooms were beautiful and functional. Chromebooks assigned to all of the children in the upper grades, great. Kindergarten classroom was sweet and well-designed. Wonderful. There were pictures of all of the students on all of the walls. They represented the human spectrum of color and creed. Fantastic.

But but but…

I went out into the lobby and just thought about it for a second. No men on staff? Nobody of any color at all? How can you have such a diverse student body with an all-white, pretty much all-female staff?

One of the teachers noticed me and asked if I needed anything. She offered me some water and a mint. I told her no, went to the library, freaked out some more. Then I wandered out again and asked if I’d seen all the kindergarten classrooms. I had.

“You seem a little overwhelmed. This is overwhelming. I know, I’ve done this 4 times,” this woman said to me.

“I’m just having a hard time reconciling all the things I need for my boys. I have this little bi-racial boy, and I really have to make sure I choose wisely,” I said. “I’m really surprised by what I’m seeing. It’s diverse, which is great, but what about the staff? And are there really no male teachers?”

Nope, just the one dude. There are some regular volunteers and assistants who are men, but not full-time staff. She recognized that it was a deficit. She spoke with me about the diversity of the school. It really is diverse, generally speaking. It reminded me a lot of the schools I attended growing up. Every brown on the spectrum, which is great. They really embrace it, too. There are monthly district-wide meetings with all principals and resource officers and other leadership to talk about the diversifying student body and how best to meet its needs in appropriate ways.  They’re having a “dances of the world” night at this school next week, and all the kids participate and it’s the focal point event of the year. All three of my tour guides gleefully spoke about it and so did two of the parents. She told me about her own kids and how they’ve made friends with all sorts of different kids. “The kids really don’t see race, you know?” Yes, I know. But, “have you seen any African American families here? I haven’t seen any since I started this process.” Yes, she said. There are quite a few in the upper grades. There must be siblings coming into kindergarten next year. Matter of fact, the current class of kindergartners at this school is only 20% white. This school is the most diverse elementary school in the district.

Oh? Well that doesn’t make much sense. “Is that by design? How can that possibly be if this is all a lottery?”

“You’ll see. There are community draws for each school. It’s all about who ranks which school and why. You’ll see the differences as you tour.”

Well ain’t that interesting? I’m curious to see how that manifests as I see  the other schools.

“You’re being really honest, which is great. I’ll be honest, too. If I didn’t think you’d be a good fit here, I’d tell you.”

“Well that’s good. I need honesty for this whole process,” I said. “I’m grateful that you spoke with me about this so easily. It’s sensitive, I know, but I need clear facts as I go.”

We shook hands and parted. I guess I just happened to get the right person for the right time. That’s a good sign too, I guess.

At the end of the evening, they had the school choir sing for us. It was as nice as you would imagine it to be. All sorts of different children singing sweetly and playing instruments. I mean, its an elementary school in the suburbs. It’s all sweet, it’s all lovely, it’s all designed with the child in mind. It didn’t make my heart sing, though. But now I’m wondering–if this is the most diverse school of all 6 elementary schools, what am I going to find at the other places? Should that fact make this school my top choice? It wasn’t a bad school. Major and Minor would be just find there.

It’s just the first school visit.

I walked away feeling a bit flat. Not fully disheartened but not inflated, either. This is going to be harder than I thought.

As usual, Dear Reader, I’ll be sharing with you. I hope it doesn’t all become too obnoxious. I’m sorry in advance. This is gonna consume my life until registration.

Quiet Thoughts? Snowy Thoughts? Birthday thoughts? We’ll see what I come up with for Friday.

Until then, Dear Reader, take care.

2 Replies to “First Impressions: Second-Choice School”

  1. Hehe gonna git you a sheet set.

    All funnin aside, did they talk about the cirriculum?

    I grew up in Whiteburg just 30 minutes north of Whitesville on the Eastern half of Iowhite. I had maybe one black teacher in K-12? Most of the crew was older white ladies, but we had some age range. Males taught sports and shop, science and man things, and counselors discouraged us girls from taking anything but home ec…but from all of them, I and my racially diverse co-students learned how to be cool with each other while we studied art and music and beautiful poetry in different languages. We learned the history of the world and that people “over there” had troubles like us. Then we went on to college where we were prepared for the rainbows of people it offered.

    Keep it on the list if they seem legit. Some institutions use the color thing as a whitewash for a deficient program. These guys seemed to have some honesty and transparency at least. Good luck. Tough choices ahead.

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