But I don’t want to wait to post until I have it all figured out for a few reasons. One is because I want to tell you about something with a deadline. See, there is a contest running in Australia now to nominate your favorite teachers. The winning teachers get a surprise visit, supplies for their classrooms and an iPad each. All teachers nominated though get to know that their school, peers and kids appreciate what they do. The teachers who stand out really do need to hear what a great job they are doing. So please, if you have a special teacher in your child’s life, take five minutes of your time to fill out a nomination for them. Tell the other parents at your school about this contest. It is the first time in Australia that families can participate in nominations. The deadline is rapidly approaching, so click on this link and say thank you to an educator who has made a difference. Then you can come on back and read why it is so important to me.
This might be a long post. I am pouring my heart out and it feels really full at the moment. I never really touched on why we pulled Gemma out of the ex-school and I want to get some of that out as well.
See, it all started when I was expecting Gemma. There were so many books on picking the right preschool and warnings about getting on lists as early as possible or you would miss out and ruin them for life. I swear practically the second phone call I made after getting the double pink lines on the pee stick test was to our top choice Montessori in West Los Angeles. Gemma got in and as a toddler was going full time. She loved it. We loved it. Then we moved.
This meant starting all over in our search for education and now had twins to consider as well. Like LA, we arrived in Australia to find there were lists upon lists that we should have been on for years already. We popped our name and deposits in a few locations, but were lucky to find a private school that had space to take her right away. It was a bit of a drive and we knew that being an all girls school would not work for Kieran when the time came, so it was a temporary solution. She was happy enough there, but at home she was asking to learn to read. When I brought it up with the teacher, I was met with total shut down. I was told that they don’t believe in teaching kids to read so early. That children her age were not ready. That it was a play based program, so no teaching. It was the first time in my life as a mother that I realized schools had agendas other than educating the kids. My child was ready to learn how to read. Suddenly school was holding her back. I had newborn twins though, so when she was offered a spot in an elite private school just walking distance from our home, I thought we were good. We signed on a lot of dotted lines with the pressure of having to decide right away lest we lose this highly coveted spot and again ruin her forever!
The first year was uneventful. They taught phonics so Gemma got her reading support. I felt very removed from Gemma’s education though. I chalked it up to having the baby twins. The following year we got a beautiful teacher. She is a gorgeous and gentle soul. Gemma also met her first Aussie best friend. She fell hard for those two elements of the school. I started to make a handful of friends, but our doubts were creeping in. The twins were growing up so different from their older sister and it was obvious that this would not be the school for them. This was my second education epiphany…all schools are not right for every child. I was still under the allure of this private education fog…that if it was so much money it had to be good. It must be right. Surely I was the misfit.
Then came the really terrible year. The year where we got a teacher who clearly should not be put in charge of a class full of six year old kids. The teacher who screamed at them. The teacher who shot Gemma down with “There is no time for questions” and shamed the kids who were a bit harder to handle than others. The year where my daughter got in trouble for multiple offenses like her hair not being in a full ponytail, wearing a necklace (under her buttoned up and fastened with a necktie collar) and other ridiculous issues. Her curiosity was not being met so we did more at home. One day she asked for a graph paper book and had me fill it with maths questions. She then happily did them all on her own. When Gemma finished her readers earlier than others, she was told to read whatever she wanted in the library. No list, no guidance. There were many other issues that I will not get into here, but the final straw was when I was sitting in the hospital holding my daughter’s feet as they stuck out of the MRI…She was having migraines weekly. They were ruling out brain tumors.
I walked into the front office with a term’s notice (still not ready to get into the hell that ensued from that) as I had already spoken with the principal at the local public primary school and signed those papers for Gemma to begin in Year 2.
The new principal was amazing. She listened. She cared about what would be best for my child. She knew who would be the right teacher. She made me feel for the first time ever, that I had done the right thing. I don’t recall ever even meeting the principal of the first school and the principal of the ex-school was so disconnected that he called my husband, Alec, the wrong name all through our exit interview.
Let me just say that the first year at this current school made me so happy. Gemma was excited to do work because they were learning based on a curriculum of inquiry and while they hit all the state required marks, they did so with topics guided by the kids. I was happy to sit in on a class one day where they were breaking down advertisements and messages that media sent.
They were teaching kids my favorite way…how to think, not what to think.
That year, Gemma had only two migraines. Total. Her teacher made all the difference. ALL the difference. That deserves recognition. There are so many deserving teachers at her current school and I have made sure to nominate at least one for A Day Made Better. It is the least that I can do.
This story does not end here. In fact, I have a lot more to say about it all, but this is already long enough with words and short on images.It is a long journey and it will be even more different for Kieran and Clover who will start there in January. With Kieran’s Sensory Processing Issues, I am scared for him in a traditional school setting. I am comforted by the knowledge that I can speak directly with the principal and she will care enough to make sure he is with the best teacher for him.
I am also finally open to looking at what all of our options are. Even if we can’t hack the home school thing, I now have so much information of how I can support their learning for life. I want my kids to keep on loving all the experiences that cause them to grow without making them feel like chores. What a beautiful age of information we are living in today. I have been listening to the experiences of someone I admire greatly and soaking up all of what works for their family. It might not be right for us at the moment, but I adore the feeling of having options. While others are already asking me where the kids will go after primary school, I am relaxed and happy thinking that we will make the best decisions for our kids as we go as long as we follow their leads.
My hat is off to those teachers who are going into the profession today with less money behind them and more children in front. You make a difference. Thank you. Thank you for all you do for our kids outside of school hours as well. The times you spend your own money and the moments that are shared with your free time. We don’t want our kids to think that learning only happens inside the school grounds, so the example that you set is priceless.