I'm lost! Can anyone relate to the feeling of not knowing which school you want your child to attend? It's this really uneasy feeling. You have a deep pit in your stomach. Possibly you're on the verge of tears. You're anxious, afraid to go to bed because you know you'll just lay there worrying. You feel like everyone else knows exactly which school is the perfect fit for their child—but you feel unsettled, nervous. Maybe you're starting to think about moving to the suburbs, fleeing the country. Well, that's how I'm feeling tonight. Sorry to be such a downer; I'm sure it will pass.
Before I went to the enrollment fair, I had a list of schools set in my mind. I was thinking Alice Fong Yu first, Buena Vista next, probably Alvarado immersion third. I was silly to rank schools in my mind so early because I have many more to visit but it was comforting to know which schools were my top choice. To stay sane, I needed something to hold onto.
But then I went to today's enrollment fair, which was an overwhelming, packed, chaotic event—though informative. As I've mentioned in earlier posts, I toured Alice Fong Yu, a Cantonese immersion program, and loved it. When I arrived at the fair at 9 a.m., I made a beeline for the AFY booth. I was disappointed to find that the principal wasn't there so I chatted with a kindergarten teacher. She was nice but spent most of the time talking about the homework that the school piles up on students. And then a parent chimed in with, "It's an insane amount of homework. The one thing your child learns at this school is how to study." I started to wilt.
So I headed for the booth for Starr King, a Mandarin program that I'd heard was up-and-coming. I talked to a parent, and she basically said Cantonese is a useless language. "It's like learning Latin," she said. She went on and on about why Mandarin is the better dialect to learn. In my opinion, no language is useless. Anytime you learn a language, it stimulates your mind and gives you a broader perspective on the world. But Latin—that's one I'd probably skip. Should I be considering Starr King over AFY, I wondered?
Off to Leonard Flynn. The group of parents and principal at this booth were so warm, friendly, and intelligent that I would have enrolled on the spot if they would have let me. I felt like they truly wanted me to be a part of their community. They were bending over backward to tell me about their school and it felt good to be wanted. Flynn has a Spanish immersion program, and I definitely plan to tour. And I'm thinking, Might this be my first pick?
Buena Vista. Chatted with the principal, Larry Alegre, and this school is still a favorite. Alegre explained how BV is different than the other immersion programs. They're not a Title One school, which means they have more freedom with their curriculum. "We don't bow to the mandates of No Child Left Behind," Alegre said. BV teachers can spend more time on Spanish and the arts. I'm not entirely clear on this, though it sounds good.
But it was the Miraloma booth—with a bouquet of gigantic balloons hanging high above it—that blew me away. Energy was radiating out of this booth; you could feel it. The parents were jazzed and talking a mile a minute with huge smiles on their faces about the warm family community at the school. The principal was so animated and pumped up that I thought he might start break-dancing. I imagined everyone gathering around him cheering, "Miraloma! Miraloma! Miraloma!" Okay, another school that I'm looking forward to visit. But wait, this isn't even an immersion program? Initially, I thought I wouldn't even consider a non-immersion program. Now, I'm second-guessing that. I feel like my whole world has been turned upside down.
And then there's Lawton, lovely Lawton. A small school that goes all the way through eighth grade. Solid test scores, actually some of the highest. Solid academics. Solid teachers. The science program is so strong that the assistant principal told me the new Academy of Sciences is looking to Lawton to help them create children's programs for the museum. And again, no immersion.
Talked to Claire Lilienthal. The PTA raises a whopping $200,000 a year. It's too far from my home but it sounds like they certainly have their act together. The assistant principal Amanda was formerly working in a district outside LA. She went on and on about how much better the SF district is. "I've never seen anything like it," she said. "If I need lines repainted on the playground, I just call the district and they come out and do it. That never would have happened in LA." Good to hear.
Peabody. Supersmall with only two kindergartens. Emphasis on reading. If you're child is already reading in preschool sounds like this is a school to consider. They cater to individual students—mold the curriculum to a child's level. Sounded like private school speak. This one is also too far from my home.
I also attended two workshops: one on enrollment and the other on immersion programs. I'll report back on those in separate posts.
My husband picked me up at 3 p.m. I spent an entire six hours at the fair and I was tired and depressed. I slid into the car and the first thing my husband said was, "I've had a terrible day with the kids."
Alice and Sam were sitting in their car seats in the back. They hadn't napped and their eyes were tired and droopy.
"You can't say that in front of the kids!" I said.
"Well, they were the ones who were difficult all morning," he replied. "It's not my fault!"
Errrrrrr! Not what I needed! (My husband is a great guy, but like all of us, he has his bad days.)
I started to spill out all my feelings about the fair. I don't know if he was even listening but I needed to vent. We decided to drive by Starr King on our way home. To get to Starr King, we drove through a seemingly endless stretch of projects. At one point, I told my kids to duck because I thought a guy trying to cross the street was holding a knife (I've been held up at gun point so I get paranoid at times). It turns out the sun was reflecting off his cell phone. We finally got to the school, which sits on a ridge at the edge of the projects development. I'd heard the neighborhood was rough but I wasn't prepared. Regardless, I'll still tour. You can't judge a school by its neighborhood.