Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Schooling Of J

It was a surreal experience meeting with J's homeroom teacher and guidance counselor yesterday afternoon. After requesting an audience with the later for half a month, I was finally granted one with both. I had expressed concerns about J's potential to get bored with the curriculum and explore the possibility of challenging her mind some more. I have already heard her say "I wish I could stay home and not have to go to school" a few times.

They were both quick to point out that I had a cultural background that found enrichment only in learning but there was much more to life besides that. This after my emphasizing to Mrs. H several times that the blossoming of J's social skills was key to me and that she should keep me posted on any concerns in that regard.

They know that I am a single working mother. I had thought this was useful information for the school to have so the teachers would know to be sensitive about J's absent father and that they have always been. It is also helps because they know not to expect me to be a PTA superstar like some moms are.

Today, was however different. Talking of enrichment outside learning, Mrs. H said "There are plenty of opportunities in the area but everything costs money". I wondered for a moment if I looked like a case of teenaged pregnancy, stuck with a baby and no high school diploma. I was so astounded that I did not know what to say. Soon thereafter we got talking about after school programs and Mrs. C mentioned the Y had excellent programs and "also a sliding scale membership fee for low income families. As a single mother that would be helpful for you".

Here I am brown skinned, divorced and a concerned mother of a child with unconventional learning needs living in a posh neighborhood that is 95% white, talking to two white women with wedding bands associating me with every negative stereotype that my "kind" engenders. I had to tell Mrs. C. "I would not qualify for the sliding scale membership so it really does not matter if it is the Y or someplace else".

Once my financial solvency had been established I was given a plethora of enrichment choices for J - theatre, a quarter violin, the piano, a week of skiing, art lessons at the museum of fine arts. I was just waiting for one of them to suggest that I fly her to NYC and get her prepped to audition for a Broadway musical - that would surely be very enriching and completely unrelated to "rote learning".

When I asked Mrs. H what I could do at home to help J, she asked if I had computer and an internet connection. By now I was prepared to be asked if I was lived in the trunk of my car or had a real home. They were having a hard time believing that one such as myself actually lived in their neighborhood - infact just across the street from the school.

This is the best elementary school in the county and everyone in my town raves about what a great place J is in. At the going rate, it will be the school that will make me relocate from here. It is at times like this I wish I could be a stay at home mom and home school J.


ggop said...

Oh dear,
This depresses me. I always thought only California public schools were bad after reading how dismally low the educational spending is per child..
Good luck finding a nice activity that J truly likes. I hated learning Carnatic music as a child. But I have a lot of appreciation for my mom for at least exposing me to the genre.

ggop said...

Forgot to add - everyone has these preconceived notions about others :-) Maybe that Malcolm Gladwell's Blink actually does make some sense!