Monday, August 24, 2009

First day of school: Share your stories

Today was the first day of school for SFUSD stories. Please feel free to share your experiences and stories in the comments.


  1. our first day of first grade at a new school went much better than i had imagined. (i thought that after having a great attitude about the change all summer, the reality would sink in and hell would break loose, but that didn't happen.)

    lulu switched from clarendon jbbp to fairmount, so she was entering 1st as an EO with no (little) spanish (grade 1 is the last time they'll let you enter as an EO).

    lulu's teacher, miss laura, was fantastic. somehow, she had both the experience and the empathy to maintain awareness of what was going on with so many different kids. she appears to be extremely organized as well. she found a minute today to ask me how lulu did yesterday and really listened to what we had to say. it was so kind. her class of kids appears to be calm and sweet. (having only observed them for 20 minutes at the beginning of two days, jury's probably still out on that, but that was my impression.) almost all the parents stayed briefly yesterday (the rule is that you have to leave by 9 a.m.). many stayed today as well. greeting parents with whom you don't share a language is not as awkward as i thought. i don't speak spanish, so even though i'm terminally embarrassed of myself, i force myself to smile and say, "hola!" like a big 'ole gringo. i ask them to point out their kid and then we do the mutual gushing thing. i mean, who doesn't want to brag about their kid, even if you're speaking to a spanish illiterate? that part is not so hard. and fairmount seems to have many bilingual parents. some are very skilled at bridging and translating. (i had a short convo with a spanish-only mama via a bilingual parent who herself attended fairmount as a child -- a legacy! how awesome is that?) so, we weren't talking world peace but who cares? a start...

    it is really interesting to change schools and compare cultural, procedural and demographic differences. i mean, sure, they're all teaching the mandated curriculum, but, WOW do the schools we've interacted with feel different at street level. FM puts a lot of effort into community building and it shows. it is great to see all the parents from all walks of life participating in the morning community circle (uh, now a square, apparently). and it is fascinating to see what the variety of families value in a school. i met a woman who is a parent liaison at another school, so she works in the system, who was initially trepidatious (word?) about FM because it was actually so much larger than the schools they'd envisioned their daughter attending. but that made me laugh after dealing with huge, overstuffed, 2-schools-in-1 clarendon. i can't wait to pick her brain on school stuff. she has been in the trenches in her job, man. she knows things. is all relative. of course, we didn't talk big stuff on day 1 -- we talked about where to get the cheapest uniforms.

    anyway, lulu came home and said, "there was more english than i thought there'd be," which i took to mean that she did not feel overwhelmed by the challenge. (it wasn't the english per se, i think, but rather that she felt she was still in school, it was familiar, it was fine, she could talk to other kids, and she mostly knew what to do. mostly.) i'm sure there will be frustration ahead as she is a bookish sort and likes to be good in school. also, she will have to navigate her way through forming friendships (she has a close friend there who of course already has other relationships there -- not always easy). based on day 1, though, i think she's up for it.

    continued below...

  2. walking to school is a dream come true. bringing my son along to bike over to his preschool afterwards...not having to get two kids in and out of car seats or fight rush-hour commute traffic in a car...and quite frankly an earlier start time (8:30) all work much better for our family. (9:30 start times and a car commute are hell on self-employment -- i'll tell ya. knowing what i know now, i would not have feared the 7:50 start so much, which might have impacted our lists.) it just strengthens the fabric connecting us to our neighborhood so very much -- saying hi to betty at cafe XO each day, jawing with the crossing guard, seeing friends waiting at the muni stop...we got to walk over to mitchell's with a friend from SF community afterwards, because even taking the J home from preschool pickup we had so much more time, and it was less stressful. i didn't feel so rushed to make dinner. PLUS, when you attend your neighborhood school, you have time to zip into your house and start a pot of something cooking.

    so that was our first day experience at fairmount as a first-grade transfer.

  3. funny, my guys started first grade at de avila (cantonese immersion). they came home talking about snack, lunch, the new hula hoops, the play structure, how nice the teachers and kids were. NO MENTION of the fact that they heard like five hours of chinese. it was hilarious.

    we miss our old school but have been thrilled with the progress at de avila. wow. what a team. the district picked a great principal who has established a competent team and they are taking care of business so smoothly. as a parent, i feel so comfortable leaving my two kids there. it will be a fantastic school.

  4. Kim, congrats on a successful first day. Glad it is looking good for you! Also congrats and good luck to all the families at DeAvila. (Will they ever decide to just call it DeAvila rather than The Chinese School At DeAvila?)

    We had a good first day at Starr King MI. No tears from mom or daughter. She didn't eat lunch (had it for dinner) and wanted me to ask her questions about her day, endlessly, until I was out of questions.

  5. Younger child had a good first day at elementary, despite not wanting summer vacation to end. Teacher will be great. Everything is steady there. I have learned not to worry about glitches in the first week will all come together and the teachers do know what they are doing.

    Older child loves Aptos MS and is thrilled to be back among friends, and is also looking forward to new subjects (life sciences: endocrine systems, genetics; math: pre-algebra; social studies: medieval Japan, China, Europe....) and a more adult approach of moving from class to class and teacher to teacher. Independence!

    From hearing about it last night, two teachers seemed to stand out, the science teacher who doesn't believe in extreme homework and gets the kids doing hands-on work whenever possible; and the social studies teacher who is strict and gives lots of homework "but not busywork." The common and happy theme for my child seems to be that both teachers--at least according to the report of the first day--want to teach at a high/deep level and not teach by rote, even if their approaches to that differ.

    The thing about the middle school level is that of course a lot is about friends and social life (we parents only rank when the kids need to go to ground for some reason), but for my kid and I'm sure others too, there is also an attraction to the deeper content as the middle school curriculum pushes them toward high school level work. Not sure this is what they tell each other in the lunch line :-) but that's what I heard last night: an appreciation for high expectations.

  6. Congratulations to all who are starting well, especially the first graders making changes. DeAvila seems full of promise. There are so many families with kids in the surrounding neighborhood. I enjoyed Kim Green's comments about the advantages of a neighborhood school that has a language program she wants. I would love to see DeAvila offer a general ed or romance language strand, since our other "neighborhood" school (we are actually not in any of the antiquated assignment areas), Grattan, never has any space. It's amazing--put good schools with attractive programs in neighborhoods and people want to go to their neighborhood schools instead of traipsing across town!!

  7. We moved from private to public this year and I think I was more anxious about the first day than my children were.

    They ended up having a wonderful first day in second grade and came home feeling energized. Their only suggestion for improvement was to lengthen morning recess. :)

    We're looking forward to a great year!

  8. "funny, my guys started first grade at de avila (cantonese immersion). they came home talking about snack, lunch, the new hula hoops, the play structure, how nice the teachers and kids were. NO MENTION of the fact that they heard like five hours of chinese. it was hilarious. "

    Same deal with my kid at AFY. Talked about lunch, playing at the afterschool, but no mention of that there'd been 5-6 hours of chinese. What excites us isn't what excites them, I guess.

  9. Three days now and the only words I've been able to wedge out of my kindergartener are that he likes recess and that his teacher read the class "Where The Wild Things Are" yesterday.

    He was so exhausted after the first day that he fell asleep on the couch and peed out. I assume it was a good day, though it was a revelation to him that the teachers are no longer going to tell him when to go pee.

  10. pleasantly surprised at the ease of transition for our daughter to kindergarten at Rosa Parks JBBP. Her teacher is wonderful, the school is clean and beautiful, she's making new friends of all different backgrounds, and she is really excited about the japanese. It has only been a week and I'm amazed at how much she already knows! She goes and practices writing her name in the japanese characters and sings cute songs. There is a piano in the classroom that they play every day during language time. I think that 1 hour a day is perfect for her too as an immersion program might be too much.
    It is nice too because there are 19 kids in her class since they opened a third jbbp there which didn't fill up all the way. My only concern is that they will try to consolidate 2 of the 3 which are slightly less enrolled which means the classes would be very full.
    The hardest part of the transition has definitely been the early start time and commute as we live in bernal and are going accross town. Not ideal but I feel the benefits definitely outweigh the commute issues.
    overall, we are very happy with our public school!