Acceptable and unacceptable eye rolls, your own experiences vs. your kid's present and future, and why military bases aren't the always the worst
I will spare us all a blow by blow from last night's school district community meeting about the boundaries because 1) you don't care and 2) nothing new happened. More tone deaf gobbledygook from the district, though I suppose it did reach an impressive new level of condescension, much of which, disappointingly, came from the involved principals. I guess the new thing is that I went from "assuming we've lost and wanting to burn things down" to "whoa, there are a LOT more people pissed off about this now, maybe we still have a chance?" So.
(What I really want to rant about is the exhortations from the future principal of the "overconcentrated" school to "just believe!" and "think positive!" and "trust us!" as if we are idiot children who think a substandard crappy building will also be full of horrible teachers who will lock up the disadvantaged and underserved children in kennels for six hours a day while they snarf down donuts in the staff room and play Candy Crush. But I already wrote an incredibly bitchy (for me) comment on a local school blog about that and now it's out of my system. Well, not really. But I'm TRYING HERE, OK?)
There is one parent who made the same comment I've heard her make a few times now, and it always makes me think. Her child will be assigned to the substandard school building (mine won't) and she's mainly trying to make peace with it. So she stood up and told the district folks that that neighborhood is exploding in population and what's to say that this tiny neighborhood school won't be instantly overcrowded within a year or two and the boundaries will have to be redrawn all over again? She wants stability, community, and a place where her son will make "lifelong friendships". And I thought: HUH!
Because honestly, the "having to pull a kid out of second grade and send him to another for third grade" is not at all what I find scandalous about this whole situation. And I would bet this parent wouldn't rank it at the top either - she's firmly on the side of This Shouldn't Be Happening. But that's the added consideration for her and, I know, tons of other parents who are facing the redrawn boundaries in all of North Seattle. They are all about not "disrupting" kids and making sure they have "stability". I'm sure a lot of MY unconcern and lack-of-thinking on the topic has to do with the fact that my kids will stay in the same place. But as I thought more about it I also realized how much of my own background has to do with my perspective. How every time I hear a parent talk about "lifelong friendships" I involuntarily (nor do I stop myself) roll my eyes.
The summer between fourth and fifth grade I moved to a new school in an entirely different country. I did it again between sixth and seventh grades, including the new country part. And again between ninth and tenth grades, to a school in, you guessed it, another new country! (Well, actually, one of the countries I'd already lived in. But the opposite end. Eh.) Andthe community I was in during those years, that was, like, hardly moving at all. Those military families had been moving every 2 years their whole military lives. My friends had lived in ninety-seven different places before I met them. What stability?
Which is not to say that I think switching schools and moving and a life that gets turned on end every couple of years is no big. None of those moves were easy ones. And now that I can look back with an adult's eyes, I have more understanding for behavior and attitudes I encountered from my fellow students, especially in high school. I have often thought friendships that began in elementary school would be amazing to have, especially when I was a very lonely college freshman and my roommate had a gang of insta-friends from her high school to do things with. (Of course I thought this was way lame at the time. HIGH SCHOOL. SNORT.) It would be so fun to have peers who knew me way back when, instead of, say, my PE teacher from 2nd grade who stayed friends with my parents all that time.
But I think there is also a lot to be said for Something New, and I think if capacity issues (which are huge and real in our district) required my kids going to a new school, I don't THINK I'd freak out about it. I probably would freak, but more for my own self (having to get to know a whole new school/principal/teachers/system) than the kids. Last year Molly didn't stay with the cohort of 2nd graders who'd been mostly kept together since kindergarten because the parents (and kids) were so happy and gelled together. She made new friends in her new class and this year she's back with much of that cohort, but also knows all the OTHER kids. Granted this is Molly, the most easy going child on earth, but this would have been good for Jack too. I shared this with a parent friend who is upset with the class her daughter is in this year in hopes of encouraging her. Sometimes change is really good.
I see, though, that this is me looking back at my experience and thinking, "I turned out okay!" (RIGHT?) I am actually often wowed by the idea that my kids WON'T move, that they'll live HERE and be from HERE and won't be 25 or 30 until they feel like they're FROM somewhere. My kids are going to have a completely different experience! WHOA! (An eye roll here WOULD be appropriate.)
One thing I DO feel strongly about is the experience of attending diverse and equitable schools. There was ONE school and EVERYONE went to it. We were all different ethnicities and races, and while there were socioeconomic factors, the base commander's kids went to the same school as the lowest NCO's kids and everyone partook of the same resources and offerings. The first time I realized this was my first week on the University of Washington campus. There were tons of white kids, more Asian kids than I'd ever seen in my life, and the handful of black students were all, as far as I could tell, athletes. Were there Hispanics? No idea. I remember calling my dad and babbling incoherently about it. (And then my best friend from high school, a Filipino-Chinese guy who went to Berkeley came up to visit me and and marveled about my "whitey" campus. Which - could there BE more Asian people at a campus? APPARENTLY SO.)
I don't know that American Department of Defense schools overseas are the model of integrated funded schools (hello, your taxpayer dollars funded many foreign country crazy fun extracurricular trips for me, thank you) but it does give you a certain frame of reference.
Because I went to those schools I also got to go to very small schools where everyone knew you (it helped, perhaps, that your parents were teachers). And if I got to choose for my kids, they'd go to very small schools. Our school has grown from 250 to 350 and next year the brand new school can fit 660. It's not my ideal, but we live in Seattle where the reality is that there is no space for a whole bunch of small schools and maybe not even enough space and funding to build the giant schools we need. I don't want to live in Small Town, WA so this is the trade off we make. I may have had the opportunity to play sports AND do drama AND be on the student council AND be in the band AND pretty much everything else my high school offered, but I hear the giant local high schools will have way more opportunities and pathways not to mention all different kinds of people than the tiny somewhat stifling 50-person graduating class I had.
Speaking of high school - moving during high school was probably the Premier Formative Event in my personal history and I probably will do everything I can to make it so my kids don't have to switch high schools because it was so miserable for me. Does this negate everything I said above? Hopefully not - even if my kids had to move high schools, it wouldn't be the same experience I had. It could be worse (but I think because it wouldn't also be in a new country with all new everything and where everyone's dad is off bombing Bosnia a few times a week and a Thick Dark Existential Fog hangs over the community it would be easier... but I digress.)
ANYWAY. The fact that Seattle Public Schools is, in essence, creating a segregated school FROM SCRATCH remains utterly scandalous, in my opinion, and yes, my own experience colors this and I need to be more understanding and open to the other reasons other people object to it. I need to save all my eye rolling for principals cautioning us to "speak positively" about the decision, even though THEY are the ones creating the negative environment, not ME. FTLOG.
I don't really know if I made a point, if I was trying to make a point, or if I was exploring my own convoluted thoughts on a convoluted subject AS PER USUAL. I've just noticed this idea has come up in my brain more than a few times and sometimes getting it out on virtual paper at least reminds me that I told myself my thinking should expand. I have now spent all of preschool time writing this instead of writing the most interesting PTA newsletter on earth, YOU'RE WELCOME.