October 08, 2003

Public School Blues (Clues)

We generated some very fascinating and impassioned (my favorite kind) of conversation over here the other day with my post about going head to head with the Principal at Jenna's new school.

We picked this particular school (rather than the "traditional' traditional public school right around the corner) because we thought it would offer us an opportunity to get a smart montessori graduate six-year-old (whose birthday just missed the very-firm first grade cut off date in Georgia) out of Kindergarten and into first grade. This particular public school is of a self-directed flavor, so, therein, thought I, was my hope for having a say.

What we got was two months of the runaround.

So we met with the Principal, guidance counselor, and I'm not sure what the other one was, on Monday to express our dissatisfaction over what our child wasn't learning, and WAS learning, in their midst. To discuss her growing frustration at being stuck listening to lessons from two years ago (for her) without an opportunity to help the younger children ("my teacher says, thank you jenna but I don't need your help..."), thereby turning an enthusastic learner into an increasingly discontented kindergartener.

The meeting was absolutely, positively exhausting.

Several times in front of them I turned to George and said, "Are you sufficiently beaten down yet?"

I felt as if we were buying a Buick.

George held the bad cop role="Just move her to first. Why are we wasting time here? You're going to lose her."

I held the angry but open to discussion role="So what are you planning to do and by what date?"

At one point, the Principal pretty much told us, in her nicest southern drawl, that we should find the best place for our child. I said, "Can you translate that? Are you telling us to move her to private school, and is that the kind of decision you'd be happy with?" Then I went on to explain the reasons I chose this school in the first place. She backed her demure southern ass right off.

We made a good, if not exhausted, team during the meeting.

In the end, after an hour and a half back and forth, examining her reading comprehension and test results, they agreed to let her go to First Grade for reading and math work, and to re-evaluatae where she's at with us at another meeting in two weeks.

Beyond the interesting and facinating themes on education that run like a current through posts and comments like this, I couldn't help but consider how blogging played its part in that meeting.

I told George on the way home, if the discussion around the situation, and resulting encouragement from bloggers who commented, hadn't happened before our meeting with the school officials, I fear I might have backed down about half way into the meeting.

But I didn't.

One--although not the only--reason was that I kept hearing the words of Elaine and Yule, Stuart, adamsj, Trevor, Brooke, Michael, BMO, Jeremy, and the illustrious Mr. Paynter.

This is NO small cast of characters!

And in the back of my mind, playing like a virtual "you go, girl" theme song, were all of you. I was conscious of not only not wanting to disappoint our daughter, myself, and the very principle of the matter (not principal, mind you), but I didn't want to let down the bloggers cheering for us that morning, cheering for Jenna to get back some of that school-inspired fire she's known for. And, cheering for VOICE versus INSTITUTION--our ongoing battle HERE.

Man.

That is intense.

You were there with us. I knew I had to come back and report on what happened. And I was damn sure not going to come back empty handed.

So thanks to those who offered their insight. The information of all flavors was appreciated, considered, and is STILL playing a part in my emerging understanding of what I can expect and what I can as a parent of a school-age child in this country. Understand that we haven't "won," but we have lengthened the battle and learned a heck of a lot from the fight.

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