Friday, October 1, 2010

What’s love got to do with it?

Another foggy night (heat wave, where hast thou gone?), another kindergarten discussion. This time, Portland and I were hashing out our ideas for what kind of school we’d like to find for Tacoma. That list is still very much a work in progress, so I’ll spare you all from wading through its free-form state at this point. But one of Portland’s suggestions made me do a double-take – “A school where she is loved.”

When I think about education, love rarely enters the picture past pre-school. I went to kindergarten here in San Francisco, and then large public schools in the Bay Area suburbs. In all of these settings, I felt safe, cared for, and encouraged by teachers and staff. I didn’t go lacking at all. But I wouldn’t use the “L” word to sum up how I felt at school.

Portland’s school experience was literally all over the map. He spent a few of his K-12 years out of the country, and also attended public and private schools in the Midwest and East Coast. And at a couple of them – most notably a smaller private middle school in the Midwest and a large public high school on the East Coast – he felt loved. When I asked him what that meant, he described it as feeling as though certain teachers and administrators cared for him like a parent. They were incredibly supportive, engaged, and encouraging, and gave their students lots of individual attention.

So I’m throwing out this question to those in the know about public, private, parochial schools alike. Given budget cuts, admissions headaches, and pressure on schools to perform, is love a reasonable addition to one’s list of school criteria? Or is it too much of a rarity, or something from another time?

24 comments:

  1. Our indpendent private school has love, its one of the reasons it appealed to us. I saw love at some of the public schools we toured but sadly we did not get in to one those schools.

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  2. Someone made a similar comment to me yesterday. I was lamenting the K process/decision and someone commented that in addition to quality of academics another factor to consider is where will your child be the happiest? These are formative years and perhaps in addition to academics another factor to consider is which school will yield a happy, self-confident, and well-adjusted adolescent. Made me think.

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  3. Given the definition that you presented - yes, definitely - I feel that the entire school community at our private school from the teachers, administrators, staff and other students have our child's best interest at heart and that there is a sense of overall community love for the children.

    Not saying it doesn't exist elsewhere - just relating our personal experience.

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  4. We are feeling the love in our tiny K-8 public charter school, Creative Arts, where everyone knows our kids' names and the bigger kids look out for the little kids.

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  5. I felt it for the 8 years we were at Miraloma - through all the changes and growth from very small "undesirable" to highly sought after. So many teachers there really "got" my kids in a way even I couldn't see. The community we met there will be our friends for life.

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  6. Thanks for naming your schools by name. Previous commenters, might you share the names of your schools?

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  7. 2:50 ... what school are you at

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  8. There's love at Grattan too.

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  9. It's our last year at Grattan and it makes me sad to leave

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  10. 4:22 here. We are at San Francisco Day School.

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  11. My daughter is in preschool right now, but their love for her is palpable. They actually help *me* see her best qualities, and help me parent her in a more appreciative way than I might. It's hard to imagine letting that go.

    I have a friend with a daughter at Daniel Webster. The family has suffered a terrible loss, and the school's love for the little girl shows in how they have responded to the situation and how closely they are watching the little girl without her knowing it, and working with the adults in her life. I was so impressed when I heard about it.

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  12. I can't imagine being at a school that's not filled with love. On my daughter's first day of public kindergarten I remember the principal saying, "We will love your children." It gave me great comfort. We're at Jose Ortega...although I think most schools have "love." People usually don't become educators unless they love children.

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  13. I think love is possible, even in public. While I don't think that our principal is going to run up and hug my kid (although she certainly knows her name and who she is!), the kinder teacher did (and still does). My kid gets yells of "hey [name here]" from other kids in upper grades and even the baby of the family was surrounded by fifth grade boys and girls last year at morning circle, all for a few
    minutes of silly faces and tickle the baby feet games.

    Of course my oldest is really well behaved and smart. Those are the easy kids to love. It's the difficult kids that I worry about, the ones who probably need it the most. Because let's face it, some of these aren't getting love at home.

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  14. I do think this is an important factor when looking at schools, but may not be so easy to assess from one tour.
    I most definitely felt loved by my private school community growing up and naievely wondered if that was possible in public school. I'm finding it is more than possible at Sherman where my kinder daughter is loved. And while I think she may be one of the easier to love as mentioned by previous poster, I see even the more difficult ones are loved.

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  15. Our girl, shy and obedient to a fault, was loved at Convent in a way that built her confidence and willingness to stand up for herself. Our boy, outgoing and boisterous to a fault and a real challenge to direct, has been loved in all his nuttiness at Adda Clevenger.

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  16. This is the exact reason that we pulled our daughter out of a trophy public and put her into an independent private school. I spent a lot of time on site volunteering at the public, and was thrilled with the love and attention that she got in the first few grades. But, by 2nd grade, I could see that the teachers were under increasing stress and that the special personal attention would only decrease in the upper elementary grades. Don't get me wrong --- I think the teachers were perfectly fine, as was the curriculum. The problem was that there just were not enough resources to help the teachers. Even just one challenging child in a class can drain a teacher without adequate support.

    Just my experience.

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  17. We definitely feel the love at Brandeis. And it's not just love for our child, but helping our child find what she loves in life. One of the missions of the school is not just to help your child be well-rounded, but to help him or her discover what they are truly great at and love.

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  18. It's an interesting question, so I asked my kindergartener if he feels loved at Lafayette. He said yes. So far, so good.

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  19. Love is relatively easy in K and 1. If you ask me, it's 2nd or 3rd grade and up that the question and its answers get more complicated.

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  20. How does it get more complicated? Is it the increased focus on testing?

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  21. I think our daughter (gr. K) feels loved at New Traditions. The principal knows her name and welcomed her to her first day of kindergarten camp with a hug. She loves her teacher so much and the after-school staff who also hug her all the time and make her feel very welcome. She says all the kids and teachers are much nicer than the kids and teachers in preschool!

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  22. "If you ask me, it's 2nd or 3rd grade and up that the question and its answers get more complicated."

    Funny, because I think my older kid would say that her (public school) 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade teachers were the ones with whom she had the most connection, who demonstrated concern, and who focused on classroom social dynamics. She's been back to visit them all more than once.

    Some teachers are suited to the younger kids and many prefer teaching the older ones who are more articulate. It may not show in the way the classrooms are set up--no dollhouse corner anymore, no rocking chair for storytime--but in the teacher who arranges for extra support for the kid whose family is going through a divorce or serious illness, the one who notices that a kid whose shoes are falling apart and arranges to have a new pair procured, or even without crisis, who knows what books the kids are reading and makes reading suggestions that he/she knows the kids will like--one who pays attention, in other words.

    Now in middle school, my kid has had a couple of teachers who are somewhat gruff in some ways but who are incredibly hard-working and tuned into the kids. She loves them and respects them and feels like they care a lot about the kids. Even though they are not exactly lovey-dovey personalities.

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  23. Thanks everyone...based on the feedback, we'll keep the "L word" on our list of things we'd like in school, although it'll be interesting to see how that factor makes itself apparent.

    (I also learned a valuable blogging lesson with this one. When opting to choose a certain song title as a post header, be aware of the fact that once your partner sees it, you may be treated to his Tina Turner impression for a good chunk of the weekend.)

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  24. Seattle..that song is now in my head! For schools with love..I toured and thought the following schools saw signs of love, all of which are very different - Friends, Presidio Hill, Kittredge, Yick Wo and Convent.

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