Tuesday, March 13, 2007

School

A quick read of the Cooper-Young newspaper, the LampLighter (article is on page 20), found me paying attention to one of the articles. It was written by a woman whose blog I enjoy reading. She and I have probably met in real life a few times; we know several people in common, and let's face it, Memphis is small. And the midtown/downtown parenting community is even smaller. Add to the equation that we seem to share similar views on parenting (and probably much more), and it's fair to say that I'm likely to be at least sympathetic to her viewpoint.

The article, in a nutshell, explains her (and her husband's, and her children's) choice of private school instead of public school. I feel a need to present another side to the story.

My children attended private preschool. My daughter attended this school from age three until kindergarten. My son attended from age two to four. Susie began public school in first grade. We chose our neighborhood school for several reasons, and were very pleased with our choice. My son joined her there for kindergarten.

When we moved downtown, we faced a decision: to stay at our old school, which we loved, or to move to a school that would be closer to our new home. In the interest of full disclosure, we did not choose the school that was our official "neighborhood" school for several reasons. Mainly because it did not participate in the city's "optional" program.**

Susie, my very pragmatic daughter, made the choice. She determined that it was silly to drive across town to stay in the old school when there was a perfectly good school much closer. (No, I'm not linking to our current school. If you want to know more, email me.)

She made a good decision (but we do miss a lot of things about the old school). Our new school has fantastic programs, very well-qualified teachers, and a great staff in general. My kids are learning, they're challenged, and they're making friends. They also participate in excellent after-school programs. And whoever says that music education is dead in public schools? Hasn't been to our school. THREE music teachers, as well as others who teach group piano lessons after school (violin and guitar, too). Susie participated in the West Tennessee Festival Chorus, the only fourth grader from her school to be invited. All in all, I'm pleased.

And it was clearer than day on Friday afternoon that the kids are in the right place. It was time for our annual meeting with the CLUE teacher (that's the gifted and talented program, in which both of my kids participate) and the school counselor, since intellectually gifted children in Tennessee are served by the special education division (same division that deals with kids with disabilities). It was IEP time.

As a former special education teacher, I know what IEP meetings are and what they are intended to accomplish. For a disabled child, these meetings can include a host of professionals. And a lot of time. And heartache, too.

For a gifted kid, these meetings are shorter and smaller. Just the CLUE teacher, the counselor, and Craig and me. Not too much to talk about, since her "disability" is being smarter than the typical kid. We discussed goals for the upcoming year and her strengths and what she "brings to the table" in CLUE.

I didn't learn much about Susie in that meeting, which is excellent news. What I learned was that the teacher knows a lot about Susie, beyond her IQ and achievement test results. She knows more than how Susie behaves nicely in class and turns in her work. She seemed to have a great understanding of Susie's character. Of her hot buttons. Of her weaknesses, no matter how trivial they are compared to children with learning difficulties or unstable family lives or those who live in poverty. And she and I were seeing a similar picture.

Alex is younger, and he hasn't been IQ tested yet (that happens in third grade). I have no question that his score will be the same or higher than his sister's. Which means he'll remain in CLUE as well. His CLUE teacher is a different teacher, but the two teachers communicate a great deal, and the conversation drifted to Alex for a few minutes. Susie's teacher seemed to know a decent amount about Alex, too, and again shared insights that matched my own perceptions about him.

Knowing that for at least five hours a week, my children are getting instruction from these very dedicated (and way beyond competent) teachers is heartening.

Knowing that my children have a school counselor who knows them on a personal level? Fabulous.

The enrichment programs? The field trips? All great.

But is it the right choice for all kids? Not a bit. My kids are exactly the kind of kids that school was made for. They attend, they stay on task, they stay in their seats, they follow rules. But not all kids are like them. In fact, most kids aren't. I see kids who are just as smart as my kids (IQ results) who have trouble. They don't focus. They don't stay quietly in their seats. And I wonder how it can work. I wonder if they need smaller classes, or more out-of-seat time, or a less-traditional instructional style.

So, I can't blame a mom for choosing something different. But I'm happy to tell people that the public school system works for us. Like a charm.

**Memphis City Schools, in an effort to provide better educational opportunities, has several schools or "schools within schools" that are designed for greater academic achievement. These programs require students to test in, with achievement tests, and they require that the students maintain attendance and behavior requirements. Here's more information.

1 comment:

alan said...

out of curiosity, what was Susie's IQ score?