Sunday, June 10, 2007

a small school

Friday was Georgie's "transition ceremony," or sixth grade graduation. It was a very touching and emotional event for most of the parents, as their children have been in this Spanish immersion program since kindergarten. They showed a video of pictures of the children over the past seven years. Georgie didn't go there until fifth grade, so there weren't many pictures of her, but her friends enjoyed pointing out to her who was who in all the photos. As each of the sixty-three children received their certificates, a teacher who knew the student well said something about him/her. I really like the teacher who spoke about Georgie. She is one of my favorites at the school. She's soft-spoken, kind, and good at teaching. About Georgie she said, "Georgie joined our school two years ago and adapted very well. She has a great sense of humor and laughs at all my jokes. She is, without doubt, the Rubik's cube champion of the school." She said something else referring to G's good character but I don't remember the exact words.

Lidia watched the ceremony too and enjoyed it. She also looks forward to "graduating" from the school in sixth grade. When J asked her if sometimes she feels like going back for fourth grade, she admitted, "Well, yes, sometimes." But she said she definitely wants to try homeschooling for fourth grade, and then go back to the Spanish immersion school for fifth and sixth.

There are many things we've loved about this school, but one of the things we like best is the sense of community. With only about 75-100 students per grade, everyone knows each other. It is very close-knit. This personal and moving "transition ceremony" was evidence of that. I can understand why people would choose to send their children to small private schools rather than the big public schools, if only for that reason. Community. I think that is a wonderful thing for families to find in a school. I don't think the enormous public schools in our city have that. They seem so impersonal. For many kids, that might not be so bad at the high school level. I know that when I was in high school with less than 5oo students, I longed to go to a large school where I could meet different people. However, for grades kindergarten to sixth grade, I think kids benefit tremendously from a small-school setting and the strong sense of community it provides. Any thoughts on this? How important is it to you that your children go to a school with a sense of community?


athena said...

it's the same thing for church and feeling like you have a family. everyone knows your name and is there for you. right now i don't have that at church but thank god for the school, a great principal, and a crazy bunch of kids. for the most part the kids drive each other nut crazy but our kids will look back on this and say, yeah, it was crazy but it was good.

athena said...

did i read that right that you're homeschooling lidia next year? still making decisions about what to do next year here too.

Montserrat said...

It sounds like a great school experience. {{sigh}} I wish we had more education options here.

Mark and Carla said...

I think community is hugely important and something I would list very high on my needs list.

But you can find community within even large schools if you find your niche in sports, music, arts, etc. The trouble where you live is that often to be a part of those organizations you practically have to be a professional! But I've seen lots of kids do very well and feel very good in large schools.

It depends on the child's temperment, though--some just feel overwhelmed by the whole aspect--others aren't great at participating, esp. if they have to try out for everything, for others it's just that indefinable something that isn't right. When I got to college I couldn't believe all of the classes that my friends had taken at large suburban high schools compared to my dinky Montana one. But in the end I was just as achieving and successful as they were and I don't know ultimately that I missed out on all that much. I think the same way for my kids here in Tanzania--they are getting so much, but I know so many people would look at all the activities and classes they don't have and won't that hurt them? America seems to have such a preoccupation with getting kids ready for something down the road and not letting them fall behind somehow. We seem to end up pushing and rushing them to the next thing. I've always admired your take on things--your activities are what your kids are interested in and what fits your values and family priorities, not what someone seems to think they need for some nebulous future. Which is not at all on the subject of large schools, but on fitting in with community. Which your kids do. Mine would have a really hard time now at their former schools fitting back in because of the lack of community that they would feel (even though the schools would strongly assert they work hard on it).

Karen ~ said...

I didn't know Lidia was going to HS next year! Are you doing traditional or MNVA? We should talk!

As for community ... the school B & T went to prior to MNVA had about 60 kids per grade so it did have a good sense of community. All the Bloomington elementary schools are about that size so I'm surprised to hear the EP ones are so big! Actually 100 kids per grade at Georgie's school sounds BIG to me :-) I think it's the cutltural leaning that enlarges the sense of community at your school, though, since everyone who chooses it has at least that one thing - a desire to be part of the larger world than just Minnesota - in common.

Email me and remind me what the final choice was for G for next year, too.

ave said...

One of my favorite years in school was that year I lived with you and J. Provo High was so huge, and I felt just fine being a termite in a mound.

Julie said...

Yes, I believe a sense of community would be very important in school. I've got five kids attending public school in the fall. Two of them will attend an elementary school which is small enough, I think, to easily have that sense. Another two will attend a middle school which has been described as the best school in our city. They seem to have quite a strong sense of community there and I am very pleased that my girls will go there. The oldest will attend a high school. That one seems SO HUGE to me. I went to a high school that had about as many kids TOTAL as this one has in their grad classes. Yikes. :-)

Are you homeschooling Lidia next year?

Calandria said...

I thought I had posted about L's and G's schooling choices for this fall, but seems not. Lidia will be doing school at home, using the Minnesota Virtual Academy. She really looks forward to it! She longs to have more time to write stories, knit her hats, and practice violin and dance. G will be going to the public middle school, grades 7 and 8, here in our city. It is a very large school, but other parents have told me the same as you, Carla, that kids find a sense of community in the activities they do. I'm still not sure this is the best for G, and neither is she, but she wants to try it out. As she says, the worst that can happen is that she won't like it and will then switch to the charter school.

Carla, I had a very similar experience going from a rinky-dink high school to the largest private religious school in the country. In some ways I felt better prepared than other students, and in a sense less prepared. I think you hit the nail on the head with this statement: "America seems to have such a preoccupation with getting kids ready for something down the road and not letting them fall behind somehow. We seem to end up pushing and rushing them to the next thing." I don't think things were that way when I was a kid, or at least not in central Maine, hahaha. I don't know why, but it strikes me as hilarious to imagine the parents of central Maine rushing their kids around to different activites. Not hah-dly! We had plenty of time to make all kinds of mischief, right ave?

But here, because we limit our kids to one activity each outside music lessons, we're freaks. Thanks for your kind words about our freakishness, Carla. :-)

Karen, G's 6th grade was just 63 kids. I think L's 3rd grade was 80. I believe they start out with around 100 in kinder, but then there is some attrition and no kids knowing enough Spanish to fill those spots. Thus, our opportunity to get into the school. I didn't know that your city had such small elementaries!

Ave, I got sick of our high school, too. After I got back from Ecuador, I was like, "What am I doing here?"

hey Athena, I'm interested in know what you guys decide.

Mark and Carla said...


Mark taught at Georgie's school for 14 years (and I taught there for 2). My friend Ann, whom you've met, also teaches there. We know tons of teachers there still and loved it as a workplace--really fantastic place to work as a teacher. We had so much autonomy and really felt empowered and able to be creative. Of course, it's public school and nothing's perfect, but I really enjoyed my time there, and so did Mark. When he left for a suburban school bordering it (the one named for the big lake) he really saw how great he had it!