Wednesday, June 22, 2011

penguins no more

Countdown to the end of the school year was pretty busy, as usual. There were all sorts of extra things going on at school for the kids and any foolish volunteer parents.

The librarian asked for parents to come in and help her on one particular day. I showed up and observed about 10 moms repairing bindings and taping together ripped pages and relabeling books with their shelving numbers and such. The librarian looked up at me and said, very enthusiastically, "Hi, can you please take all the books on this whole half of the library and move them one shelf over to the left? Yeah, thanks so much."
I cut my library volunteering plan WAY short that day.

Later there was a potluck brunch for all the school volunteers put together by the teachers, which was nice. And second-to-last week of school I attended a field trip to the zoo with Kate's class. She was happy to have Jake and Tiffany in her group with me.

My troops visiting "Penguin Island", which kept them laughing constantly. The penguin is their school mascot, and Penguin Island is the name of one of the playgrounds at school. They lingered here for quite a while.

We had a great day at the zoo. I carried their lunches in a pack with me and we were able to wander the zoo and stop when we wanted and where we wanted for a lunch break. We met up with classmates here and there and saw Allison with her group a couple of times as well.

On the second-to-last day of school I attended a field trip to a technology museum with Erin's class and my group consisted of 6 girls. We watched a really spectacular Imax movie and the kids had fun with the various hands-on displays, but I hardly had a chance to observe or try out anything myself. The 6 of them never wanted to do the exact same thing at the same time and keeping track of my particular 6 girls with blue shirts and (except for Erin) black hair among SO many others was fairly exhausting.

Then came the very last day of school, which fell on one of my usual volunteering days. The first graders in the twins' village made these silhouettes with a little poem about themselves on each, and they took turns reading their poem to the class.

Later on the whole school gathered for a sing-along outside, with one teacher playing piano, one on guitar, and Erin's teacher and Allison's teacher leading the singing as usual.

And then some tying up loose ends in the classes and packing for home every single thing possible, and then the many goodbyes began. Erin's been at the school for four years and it wasn't the usual waving as you walk past knowing that you'll see these people again after the usual short six-week summer break.

Though I think I was really in denial about it at first, our kids being minorities in school created a whole bunch of strange situations. Though doing so was optional, for the fall we've enrolled them at the school near the new house which is ethnically much more "diverse".

The school principal has an open meeting with parents once a month, called the Parent-Principal exchange. They always took place in the morning shortly after school starts and I've attended several. There is typically between 5 and 15 parents there, more at the beginning of the school year and then it kind of drops off. At one meeting when Erin was in first grade, there were 5 other parents there, all Caucasian, which is an extraordinarily strange coincidence given that there are only about 20 white kids out of 525+ kids in the whole school. Our principal is Caucasian too. Surprised, we all kind of looked around at each other, and after a general question or two everyone launched into all the problems their kids have faced by being white and that became the whole discussion for the next 45 minutes. At the time, I didn't have much to say because I was still in my denial phase and there was nothing specific going on with Erin that I knew of, or at least acknowledged. By the next school year when the twins were there too and I was on campus much more often, I snapped out of it and a few months later we were house shopping.

We hope that their social life will improve and there will be more than 1 or 2 kids that they'll get to see outside of school. People I know whose kids go to the other school tell me how great and social and close-knit everyone is. I've visited the classrooms there, had a meeting with the principal, and talked to lots of people about the new school to help me make this transfer decision.

I'm convinced that overall this is the right thing to do, but I still felt pretty bad on that last school day. We literally won the lottery to get Erin into their old school and only 1 in 8 families get a spot. It has such a fabulous curriculum and atmosphere and philosophy and there is a whole laundry list of unique things that I really like and that drew me to apply for this school in the first place, which we won't have at the new school. It's been hard to think about all that the kids will be certainly leaving in hopes of something else I hope they'll gain. I hope I'm right.

The new school's mascot is the tigers. For a long while I think we're going to feel like penguins inside of tiger suits.


Trish said...

Tigers rawk! And ruuuuule the school!

Penguins, well, are ummmm, nice I guess. But they never change the world.

Girls, just don't grow up to be a Pirate. ;-) Or a drummer. ;-)

mommieN. said...

All other ethnic and racial groups completely accept being drawn to their own kind. Only whites are held to a different standard -- largely by other whites -- in which it's un-PC or even racist to say you'd like to be around more of your own race. Yet other ethic groups gravitate toward each other and face no criticism ("Japantown"). Everyone says they want "diversity," and most of us do to a large extent, but whites also feel pressure to deny the natural comfort of being around like people who share the same upbringing, traditions, culture, and language -- a comfort which other groups take for granted with no risk of being called racist.

You're gaining so much in your move, much of it intangible, and much of it not related to school. The bigger picture IS worth it!