4/18/11

Private thoughts on the world of Private vs. Public

I attended my high school reunion this past week in NYC. You can see some pictures I took by clicking here. Marymount is a private girls' catholic school that runs from k-12th grade. Sounds fairly humble huh? Yet the school, program, facilities and location categorize it as nothing even close to humble. Instead of running down all the changes I witnessed (which were too many to list) or listing all the benefits this school gives its students (which is enormous), I will discuss the three resolves I walked away.......They are much more meaningful and personal. Click here to see the site to the school.

Resolve #1: As a parent of two growing children the biggest question that rises in me is how do my husband and I provide all these benefits to our children without paying an obviously unaffordable $35,000 a year, per child, for private education. Click here to see cost of tuition. During the reunion, students in 12th grade were invited to speak about programs they were involved in at Marymount. What most impressed me was the ease in which they spoke about current global issues. As part of a club, some girls were actively involved in learning and sharing their knowledge of some very daring social issues with the community. The issues ranged from sex trafficking in the city, some students were in cultural awareness groups, some had traveled to countries far away to do service studies in their areas of interest. The answer to my question above then lies in making global perspective and global education not the school's responsibility, but ours, as parents. By allowing our children to see the world, and not just simplyread it from a book, or see it on TV, children get a fuller picture of issues affecting our world today. This would involve some serious money saving efforts on our part to later fund trips that would put this ideal to work. I don't think there is anything more essential to meeting this goal than traveling.

Resolve #2: My second resolve will address me as an educator. When I was in High School I did not feel very bright. It's not that my teachers were not good. The fact is, my mind was elsewhere. I had also come to learn English at age 9 and did not yet feel very confident in expressing myself in the language even at 14. In addition, my home life at that time was less than ideal and I could literally care less about school altogether. The drive was not there for all these reasons. Yet, one thing I know I was very good at, and still am today, is knowing when people did not believe in me, or when people did not think I could do something. I have always been super-tuned to people around me. Then again, it's not rocket science knowing this about someone; all children know when grown ups do not believe in them. It's embedded in the way they talk to you, sometimes it's in the way they don't talk to you, the people they choose to talk to instead of you, their eyes, how they look at you or avoid you with them. We humans communicate in so many other ways than verbal ways; volumes could be written about them. While most of my teachers were amazing in high school, there were a few who I could feel quite clearly did not think I was bright enough for the task. These experiences are so calcified in children and in me, that even years later, in the presence of the same environment alone, I was reliving that feeling of not being bright. I did not fight it this time though. This time I know who I am, I did not need approval from anyone anymore.

Therefore, my second resolve comes as a promise to myself as an educator. I promise to always believe in my students and to make sure my students know it. If I care about them as human beings, and them becoming emotionally stable adults, the best thing I could do for my kids is show them my unwavering belief in their abilities, regardless of their output at the time. My open and expressive belief in them might be just the very thing to unlock their disinterest.

Resolve #3: My last resolves stems from a conversation I had with a woman from a graduation year much earlier than mine. I don't know how we began on the topic of education, but I found out fast that we stood on very different ends of the spectrum of education reform issues and neither of us was about to back down. Before I knew it I was hearing all the mainstream rhetoric I hear daily as a public school teacher, yet know enough not to believe in them. She unwaveringly informed me about rubber rooms, rampant ineffective teachers just aching to retire, unions protecting only teachers not children, and on and on.

How do you convince a person who has their mind made up? I made a decision after this conversation to always demand from people arguing their points so ardently on public education to list their personal experiences with the 'facts' they speak so surely about. In the 13 years I have been teaching I have never seen a rubber room, or met a teacher who did not absolutely love what she did for a living. Just as I think all United States presidents should see the Earth from outer space to bring them a holistic perspective. For the same reason, I also think all education reformers should spend a few years (3-4) teaching high school kids in the rough neighborhoods of S.E. Washington, DC. I'm sure all the rhetoric about ineffective, lazy, cold-hearted teachers will melt away into a much more realistic and more respectful views of them once they see what they're really up against; poverty.

1 comment:

  1. I agree whole heartedly with your assessment of those that give those scapegoat reasons why education is not working. They blame everyone except the parents and the kids. It's always the teacher's fault, the unions, the adminstrators, the curriculum. I too, have never seen a rubber room, teacher's that don't care about kids, or any of those nay sayers coming in to check it out for themselves. I think our politicians and leaders would be better prepared to make decisions about education funding if they spent a good amount of time in our toughest and most needy schools!

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