My views on schools (a bit of a ramble, be warned!) - A Movement In Time And Space
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priyabradfield
priyabradfield
My views on schools (a bit of a ramble, be warned!)
I'm sure I hit a nerve with some about my view of private school. I don't mean to stereotype, but it happens, yeah?

The thing that really bugs me about private school is how some parents who send their kids there do so because they claim that the public system sucks. Well, yeah, it does suck in certain areas, but how does running away from the problem help? I am a firm believer in getting involved in your children's schools and education. If every parent did an hour of service at their child's school (and it doesn't even mean going TO the school during school hours) can you imagine how much US schools would improve??

I know that everyone's situation is different and getting involved is not possible for everyone. But instead of putting all that money towards private school, how about part of that money donated DIRECTLY to the public school your child would/should attend? Forget the taxes we pay, we all know that beauracracy prevents every cent from getting to our schools. That needs to be fixed too, but again, people are apathetic when it comes to politics in the US, myself included unless it has to do with certain issues that I base my votes on (if anyone wants to know, I'll be happy to do another post about those).

Looking over what I have just written, I sound quite optimistic/idealistic. Yeah, that is me.

Now, you may ask, do I walk the walk, or just talk the talk? I like to think that I practiced (and would still do so if in the US) what I preach. Maya's preschool in the US was a co-op. It was parent-run. Chris and I were REQUIRED to work there three mornings a month and do housekeeping on a Saturday twice a year. We also brought snacks for all the children once a month. And we were required to participate in fundraisers.

And the school I wanted Maya to go to for Kindergarten and Elementary school was a public charter school. Charters are started by parents with specific goals in mind. Alternative, better education, without the price. A little more "touchy-feely", I suppose, but better than the institutional feeling from some schools (private and public). Charters and Magnet schools use public funds, funds that are there for us to use if only we take the opportunity to do so.

Of course, this is a bit of what I didn't want in the first place - these schools take away from the normal public schools resources and parents who want to be involved. But who wants to try and better the system at the expense of their own children's education? Certainly not I, but what kind of message does that send to Maya and Nadia? I have to balance that as well. Rather than work at bettering what is there for the good of society, take your enthusiasm and put it to something that will better the lives of only a few elite.

That is a depressing lesson for me to teach.

But the difference is that charters and magnets are still public schools. Anyone can go there and the population at these schools is quite diverse. Kids are bussed from all over the city to go to these various schools. That was and is my main concern for the girls - their exposure to people who are not exactly like them. I suppose I don't have to worry about that too much while living in Korea though!

I'm sure there are lots of things here that you can call me on. And I welcome your comments. Open my eyes. I'm open to debate and discussion and maybe even changing my mind a little!

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What I'm feeling: contemplative contemplative

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Comments
From: glk71 Date: November 8th, 2005 10:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Ooh, I feel a thorny debate coming on here!

I can only speak from a UK perspective. I have only ever been to a private school - since I was 4, I've known nothing else. However, I do know that public school are remarkably well equipped, more so than private schools, but at the end of the day it's not the fact that you have the most up to date computers, or nice new gym equipment that counts. It is the TEACHING.

At my school most of our teachers were exceptional in their fields. It doesn't mean I liked them, but most of the time you could tell they knew their subject and knew it well, and the taught to a very high standard. They also didn't take any crap from pupils, and homework was set nightly and you were expected to take a certain amount of time over it.

A colleague at work whose kids attended a public school was constantly bemoaning the fact that his kids never seemed to come home with any homework (or not enough), and that they were being poorly taught in school. I know for a fact he even went and spoke to the head teacher about these issues. This sort of thing would have been unthinkable in my school, but if it did, you can bet there would have been immediate action and heads would roll.

My wife has often said she believes the Canadian public system outstrips the British one for quality, and I can believe it.

Like I said in the previous comment, it is the attention to detail that sets public and private schools apart. In public school the teachers go through the motions, the curriculum as the government would have them do - keep those exam figures high and don't stray from the path. In private school you get that, plus a little bit extra which is worth it's weight in fees.

Having said that I tend to agree with you that if parents with kids at public schools would take the time and effort to make a contribution to their school, even by helping out at events, it might make a big difference. My concern is that a great number of parents (and you, me and no doubt others are NOT included in this simply by the fact we are discussing it here!) just do not care enough to make the effort.
priyabradfield From: priyabradfield Date: November 9th, 2005 02:39 am (UTC) (Link)
I tend to think that teachers in public schools are overworked and underpaid. I hear that the burnout rate is very high. And no wonder - little pay, you have to sometimes bring in your own supplies cause the schools don't have enough money for them and the students are not expected to actually respect them. Corporal punishment, while I don't necessarily condone it, is no longer allowed and even time-outs are detrimental to students' emotional welfare (bunch of crap).

And yeah, the homework thing...a lot of parents I think complain about too much homework and that their kids don't get to be kids. BAH! Youth is so wasted on the young!

Teachers in the public school system don't have enough support - financially or from the administrators or the parents. I know that I don't have enough patience for a lot of children or sometimes even for my own. I totally appreciate how hard teaching as a career is.

I wish more parents would feel that way...
gnotobiotically From: gnotobiotically Date: November 8th, 2005 11:25 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, My bros have gone to nearly every kind of school imaginable. We had to send them to a private school in DC because they kept getting beat up in the public school. We even had to take them out of school a week early because the violence towards my "white" bros was getting pretty bad.

Every situation is different. We've never had a problem like that before or since.
It was just the location. It was a bad part of the city. My brothers no loger got strangled during recess or had their lunches stolen (everything including their lunch boxes...)

But what can you expect when you live on a military base/post? The places they place them seem to coincide with the crummiest areas possible. And since they don't provide schooling on base (they do up here) we always had to search high and low for a proper school.
I remember living in Boloxi. My sister and I rode our bikes to school, but sometimes they would forget to unlock the gate. We'd be late for class because we had to climb the fence and walk the rest of the way. It was a really unfriendly part of the city.
I am actually apalled upon retrospect, that my parents actually sent us to that school.
My sister had a teacher there that was actually abusive. I remember sitting in my classroom across the hall and being able to hear her teacher yell (not just scold, but holler at the top of her lungs) at her students all the time. She even hit my sister on the head with a textbook for talking. (she didn't really lob her one, but from what I know it's abusive to knock someone with an object in that manner.)
I remeber our evil neighbors as well. The family we lived next to was very dysfunctional. The father even slapped me once. Now either my sister and I were the biggest brats ever and deserved this kind of treatment, or my parents just weren't knowledgable enough to prevent it.

I guess that is why I'm so over-protective of my brothers.

Anywho, I'm sure in the end, you will find what is best for your children.
sammykate From: sammykate Date: November 8th, 2005 07:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Okay, I posted a quick response to Priya's original post earlier, but I just had to come back and chime in here. (Hope you won't mind.)

I attended a private school from K-8th grade, then went to a public high school. My elementary/ junior high was awful. Some of the teachers were not certified. My brother had a learning disorder that was not detected until he was in fourth grade. My best friend couldn't read until I taught her how (in 6th Grade!). The principal once threw my brother up against the wall in her office - he was regularly locked out of the classroom and sort of smacked around by teachers. My sister was bullied, fell in with a rough crowd and ended up with all sorts of problems. She later dropped out of high school and married a clinical psychopath. I was picked on in schooI because I was my brother and sister's kid sister, and my family had kind of a reputation for being drunks, drug addicts, etc. I was put in advanced math because I had a high average (due to my language arts, history and science grades), because the only advanced studies class they had was math. I did terribly and can still just barely add. I once saw a teacher stuff half a sandwich down a kindergartener's throat becasue he didn't want to eat. He choked and I had to Heimlich him (I was 12). The same teacher smacked a 6 year old girl for accidentally stepping on her foot.

In high school, I didn't have much trouble (got beat up a few times) with the students, but there was a lot of violence and my friends, who were mostly punk rockers, were always getting the tar beat out of them. The teachers hated me. When I asked questions, they would look past me as though I were not there. When I eventually dropped out halfway through my senior year, I knew nothing about applying for college, getting scholarships, etc., and had to figure that all out on my own. I heard later that German students involved with Student Exchange program requested that my high school no longer be allowed to participate in the program because it was "a war zone."

So, there you have it: One lousy private school and one lousy public school.

The best solution, I guess, is to research individual schools (public and private) and, for cryin' out loud, be involved and know what is happening to your kids at school. I don't think my parents had a clue.

And, I have to say, given my own experience, I would rather NOT pay for school on the off chance that I will spend all that money and it will STILL suck. Expensive doesn't always mean better and, as it turn out, my own daughters got to a LA County public school that is classified as "Title 1." This, according to the principal, means that we fall into a certain demographic that causes powers to be to expect a little less of our students. Nevertheless, our test scores are among the highest in the county and rising. My girls both excell academically and are smart as whips. They feel challenged and seem to be thriving. That, of course, is an option here in the States, but may not be where you are, Priya. I wish I could be more helpful.

I wish all parents faced with decsions about their children's education the best of luck. It is a such an awesome responsibility, shaping these young minds that will one day be our leaders. Whatever road you choose, stay involved. That seems to make the most difference.
sammykate From: sammykate Date: November 8th, 2005 02:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
There is an old Arlo Guthrie song that contains the line, "You can't help no one with money if you can't with your hands." Justice has tested "highly gifted" and, in fact, scored 600 out of 600 possible points on her math standardized test last year. She is a product of public school education (with the benefit of avid parent involvement). You're right, you don't have to actually be at the school during school hours, but you do have to have a voice. And you do have to spend time at home with your children, exploring their world with them and getting them excited about learning.

Hhhmmmmm....I could go on for hours. Looks like you may have sparked a blog entry of my own on the subject....

You know, I am rather passionate about it.

Sam.
priyabradfield From: priyabradfield Date: November 9th, 2005 03:51 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes, I think you and I have similar ideas on this subject, Sam.

And of course your children are gifted - you are, after all, SuperMom! (Seriously, everyone, she is!)

I would love to read your blog entry on this subject. Wish we were still there to compare notes and schools.
slave2three From: slave2three Date: November 8th, 2005 06:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
i'd like to learn more about these charters and magnet schools... i'm from washington, and i dont know much about the Seattle schools, i know there is one really cool school that is public here, they start teaching foreign langauges from kindergarten, not just introducing, but will spend half of children's day in speaking it at school. They also have smaller classes.
I'm really hoping that if we stay around here to get Benji in there. As for the schools across the water.. Public really stunk... they got their pratically all of their levy's, especially when they threatened to cut out sports..., for our small town they were making decent money. The classes were crowded, very few teachers had the respect of students and you could tell they didn't care. My Step brothers would get pulled from national testings because the teachers knew they would score badly. Their was no reason for it, they were smart when motivated.. but they didn't care, so they got pulled out of testing... In highschool, the kids that wanted to do Running start (go to College classes in stead of regular highschool classes (where I just spent most of the day sleeping and still got As...)) were treated like crap (I was one of them). yea... lots of crap. My little brother went to private school.. they were small enough that he got more one on one attention and he didn't have to worry about comming through the system tagged as belonging to a "trouble" making family.

Anyways... For Benji I'm still trying to decide, and when I'm not sure where we will be in the next couple of years, its soo hard to. I've looked at homeschooling and Montessori's, we're too poor at the moement for private schools, and besides that one public school I mentioned before, I'd really rather not put him in any around here, and instead supplement diversity/interaction with activities such as group muisic classes, martial arts, play groups, etc. I'd love to find out more about charters and magnets though, do you have any recommended sites?
priyabradfield From: priyabradfield Date: November 9th, 2005 04:10 am (UTC) (Link)
I am definitely a believer in after school activities. Maya is busy almost everyday...it is almost the end of some activity sessions, so I am looking forward to the break.

I don't understand not encouraging kids when they actually want to learn or do something! UGH

I've just made another post with some helpful links about charters and magnets. Hope they help. And feel free to ask questions here.

My one piece of advice: start researching early. Doing your own homework a year or even two before Benji is ready to enter KG is not a bad idea.

Have you looked into a group called MOMS Club? Their website is http://www.momsclub.org When Maya was born, I joined one and made some wonderful friends for Maya and for myself. You can get playgroup information from them, along with lots of other tips and info. A few years ago, I also started a new chapter of MOMS Club in my immediate neighborhood. sammykate, who has commented in this thread, was in my playgroup back in the States and is currently President of the chapter I started. It is a great way to meet other moms with similar-aged kids in your area. My playgroup went through all the stages of babyhood, toddlerhood, preschool and finding good schools together. It is easier when you have friends going through the exact same thing at the exact same time! The website I gave you can get you in contact with a chapter in your area. I highly recommend it. Joining MOMS Club was what helped me get out of the throes of post-partum depression when I had Maya.

:-)
From: stuckincustoms Date: November 8th, 2005 09:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
The government does everything poorly - schools, disaster relief, postal mail, etc. When the "buyer" gets disconnected from the "seller", then the whole system loses its incentive structure and quality suffers.

Everything should be privatized and for-profit to make sure the best interest of consumers are served.

If you can choose who cuts your hair and who cuts your lawn, why can't you make the decision of who educates your kid? Madness.

Anyway, you guys all know I am quite Libertarian. The government does everything poorly.
priyabradfield From: priyabradfield Date: November 9th, 2005 04:19 am (UTC) (Link)
I agree that the government is to blame for a lot, but not for everything. The general public should take a lot of blame as well. To use your example, if the "buyer" doesn't care about the quality of the product, what incentive does the "seller" have to better it? We certainly are paying enough taxes to have decent schools, health care, disaster relief. But when idiotic riders get attached to bills that siphon off the money, if we as the tax-paying public do nothing, who should be held accountable?

I do agree that we should have full control over who teaches our kids and what they teach. For example, I sure as heck don't want my children to be learning religion in school - that's our job as parents. It is bad enough that the US government is trying to get the right to tell women what they can and cannot do with their own bodies.

Oh, but that's a whole other ball of wax that I shall save for a later post...talk about a really thorny subject. Grrr....

But I don't think that government is solely to blame. It is sort of a question of what came first: the public's apathy for government or government's disregard for the public?
minminminminnie From: minminminminnie Date: November 9th, 2005 04:05 am (UTC) (Link)
I went to private school from age 2 to kindergarten, public from 1-4 and back to the same private school 5-8, then to a private high school. My dad always regretting pulling me out of the private school... they actually pleaded with my dad to keep me in... my dad was just mad because they suggested that my little brother repeat Kindergarten.

For me, my dad asked me to choose what private high school I wanted to go to, and I chose it, because money wasn't an object when it comes to education, for my dad. Mostly because all of my friends were going there... I mean, I was an 8th grader, what would I know... but it ended up being a great decision, because my school is very excellent. All of the teachers love teaching, and even with me being the slacker/procrastinator I am, I learned a lot. I've never known any different, thinking that the work I was doing was normal until I heard about experiences from various public high schools. My high school was private, Catholic, all girls, college prep.

It really is different for school systems in different areas... I am zoned for HISD, the largest school district in the US. My younger brother goes to a public high school and... I don't know, I feel he isn't learning anything. I look at the work he has to do, and it's on a much lower level than what I received for the same topic. I know there are excellent public schools, but in Houston, it seems you have to go to the newer developments that aren't actually Houston anymore... out in Katy, Sugarland, etc.

I've been asking my friends, all of the ones that went to high school with me, if they would send their kids to private school and they said yes. I would, too. I think my high school was an exception, because they gave a lot of financial aid so many students weren't always flush with money. The tuition for my school was actually several thousands lower than what it should have been, with a lot of fundraising going on to make up for that. That's not the case for all high schools, of course. But even with the budget deficit, there are a lot of innovative programs going on at my high school, such as laptop programs and such. I know now that public schools have that now, but back when, it was still really new.

I don't know, I think that if I were in a new development with a good public school system, I might send my kids to a public school, but most likely I'd send them to private school.
From: junetoo Date: November 9th, 2005 06:11 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm a product of public school K-12. I think I got as far as I did because of a few awesome teachers, myself, and parenting.

I can still remember those teachers who actually loved their job and were great at it. Overall though - outdated textbooks, few computers, slow curriculum - mainly because of money issues I believe.

Me and DJ both want our children to attend school in Thailand, at least until high school. I want them to have that appreciation of knowledge and respect for teachers that most people have in that part of the world. Plus it will keep them in touch with their father's heritage.

I'd kind of like them to attend public high school in America though. I don't want them to be as socially constrained as many Asians. I want them to have that American freedom and rebellion attitude too.

I come from a pretty intelligent family. We were always being shoved into those honors/AP courses and I mean "shoved" because unfortunately my family isn't really the "school" type. There are a lot of dropouts in my family. I ditched A LOT in high school, but I had no problem keeping up. As far as college goes I'm a bit more motivated and interested because you get to choose your classes and have meaningful discussion with professionals. But still not as interested as I should be. Heh I think my kids NEED to go to an Asian school.

As far as parenting goes...my parents weren't attentive at all to our schools or to our grades lol. But they were attentive in other odd and meaningful ways. TV time was extremely limited, we were encouraged to read, we had a "library" room in our house - nothing but books, and were encouraged to "go for it." Like my father traveled the world when he was young and he loves that I do it now. I guess that's where I get it from. But just the type of advice and the things my parents let me and my brothers do was usually highly different than my friends, even my peers would put it out to me. I just had odd parents I think. I often wonder how odd I turned out.
priyabradfield From: priyabradfield Date: November 10th, 2005 02:29 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm a product of public school K-12. I think I got as far as I did because of a few awesome teachers, myself, and parenting.

That's me, exactly.
shortindiangirl From: shortindiangirl Date: November 13th, 2005 07:41 am (UTC) (Link)
> their exposure to people who are not exactly like them.

A wonderful thought. I like the idea of exposure to people who are different from various perspectives, but particularly different financially / economically.
priyabradfield From: priyabradfield Date: November 13th, 2005 11:43 am (UTC) (Link)
It has always been a priority of mine. For me, different culture and religion. I learned this growing up in places where I was the only non-Caucasian, non-Christian person around. *shudder*
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