Sunday, August 28, 2011

The first week at Elementary School

It seems like just yesterday I blogged about embarking upon the dreaded San Francisco Unified District school tours. We found out which school we got into back in March. Then the rest of the year frisked right by and the beginning of the school year hit us. Geekygirl is a kindergartener, with two full weeks at her new elementary school under her belt. She loves it. She loves her uniforms, navy and white, though I failed to calculate the number of possible permutations and combinations a creative girl can consider when she has five different bottoms and three different shirt styles to choose from in the morning. When you add in the fact that they are allowed to wear legging or tights of any color under their skirts we still end up taking quite some time to get ready of a morning!

She has made new friends already, and she loves her teacher. She even loves the afterschool program. I was a bit worried about this. In her daycare/preschool all the families had working mums (or two working dads), so I had comfortably avoided making her aware of the concept of a parent who stays home and picks up the end of the school day, which is early afternoon here. A lovely friend who also has a kid in her class, and has a more flexible schedule than mine is going to take her home one day a week though (thanks P!), to give her a bit of a break from school.

Which brings me to why I'm loving the school. The community. One of the reasons the district changed the application policy for the schools this year was to try and make them more part of the communities they were located within. Not everyone has been delighted with this new policy, but I love that when I drop off at school I see the same families we play with in the playground, kids that I went to mummy and baby classes with, and mums I remember being pregnant at the same time I was. There are also families who live in the less affluent part of our neighborhood who we otherwise wouldn't interact with. I love that the school is so close to our house.

Admittedly, most of the families I know are in the much lauded Spanish language immersion path at the school. We are not in that program, we are in the regular General Education English language track. I did a fair amount of outreach into our parent community over the past year, and for the first time a decent proportion of this class also is from "our side of the tracks". A bonus of this not being one of the popular schools in the city means that there are only fourteen children in Geekygirl's class.

 As part of my rallying effort I had asked the kindergarten teacher at the time to meet with prospective parents. This lady, a thirty year veteran teacher, spoke about assessing each child's needs and grouping the children according to ability to ensure all children progressed, rather than teaching to the lowest common denominator. This gets called "supporting differentiated learning" here, and apparently it isn't philosophically supported by all schools. The teacher we met with retired over the summer though, and the teacher of this years K class is new.

The only nagging concern I have is whether she will be able and willing to meet the needs of all the kids in the class. There are kids who have had no preschool, kids who don't speak English well, and kids like Geekygirl who can read and write already. She seems really lovely, but I would like to have a conversation with her about this concept without sounding like a pushy parents who is convinced her child is a genius. Any suggestions?!

Happy back to school, everyone!