Saturday, May 16, 2009

Kindergarten for the Masses

When did it become so complicated to find an elementary school? Didn't it use to be that parents went down to the district office, signed the kid up, and waited for their letter that accepted them into their neighborhood school. Apparently, that is not good enough anymore.

We tried to get the elder boy into a a magnet school within our school district we thought would fit his needs. It has an environmental focus, and large parent participation without being a co-op. We didn't get in--about 1000 parents applied to fill maybe 100 spots. Crazy!

His default "choice" now is to go to his neighborhood school which we hate. There is nothing worse than schools that do the bare minimum--no garden, extra curricular programs, fragmented parent involvement, and a business-type person as the principal. I know this school isn't the greatest. I worked there a few years ago part-time as a resource teacher, and I have worked in and researched many others schools in the meantime, so I have a basis for comparison.

There are a few great teachers in this school, but when I walked into most rooms, they were quiet, and students were busily completing one of many workbook pages/worksheets at their desks which were set in traditional rows. In my opinion, classrooms should be more project oriented, a workshop of sorts where students are busily learning; this is something I feel should be audible. There is a place for quiet and sitting down in desks for sure, but you should get a sense when you walk into a room that the kids own the room. Their work should be on the wall, they should be allowed to sit in other places besides their desk including the floor, and they should be responsible for most of the work involved in running a classroom outside of the teaching/lesson planning/grading.

I don't get this sense from his neighborhood school. I which his district would get a clue, and add other schools with a similar focus as the magnet school or other schools that are trying to do things differently. There needs to be more than one alternative for teaching a population of millions. Students are so different; we can't expect that one school format will work for them all. I know the old traditional standby won't work for my active son. Students should be able to choose schools/programs that fit their style of learning best, but unfortunately there just aren't that many options out there right now. We shouldn't all be trying to stuff our kids into a size 5 shoe. Shouldn't we find a shoe that fits?