The system otherwise known as the NYC Public School System. It’s sad I feel, considering that I once was a product of that system. If I can say so myself, I’ve done okay. The key word is OKAY. I’ve always felt that somewhere along the line, through the years of schooling, that something went wrong at some point. How was I once a highly motivated, straight A student that wouldn’t settle for anything less, who became a student that was OKAY with being slightly above average but not “the” best.
It wasn’t until I watched the movie, Waiting for “Superman”, when they so cleverly illustrated the system, did I have that — AH-HA! — moment. I was happily chugging along the conveyor belt, always on the UP track for a good number of years until one teacher decided that I no longer belonged on the UP track. One might say that I had run a good run, how much damage could one drop “DOWN” be? It turns out that the one drop DOWN could be equated to swimming against the current. I could try my best to jump back on the UP track, but if I didn’t make it early on, I would have to work even more harder with the odds increasing against me over time. Eventually I’d tire and either settle for the MIDDLE track if I was lucky. If not, I would continue the road DOWN.
I consider myself most fortunate considering the odds. I can see clearly now exactly where that momentous change occurred — in 5th grade. Following completion, I no longer was in the SP designation also known as the special class. You see, my school broke up each grade into 3 divisions. You were either in the Gifted with a G designation, Special with the SP designation or Regular with the R designation. I was not deemed Gifted and that was okay. It was a designation awarded in kindergarten for a few selects and would remain their designation through to the 5th grade. I entered in as an SP, special and by no means, Regular. I remember distinctly entering the 6th grade and looking at my classmates who were all comfortable with one another, that I didn’t fit in both socially and academically. I knew I was put in the BAD class, but what was the little 6th grader to do?
Even at such a young age, I knew that I had lost favoritism in someone’s eye. Someone no longer cared about me and my future.
As a parent myself now, I vow for this never to happen to my children, I will never let them settle for OKAY. Maybe it’s a little tiger mom of me, but I see their potential and they will never lose favoritism in my eyes. I am not naive enough to think that blame can be solely blamed on the system. There were many contributing factor’s I’m sure. One of which I can now say, and not blame, was my parent’s removed interest in my education. It wasn’t a deliberate disinterest, rather a result of life and the many kinks that it throws at you. What I can say is that the power of a good education, a good educator, is worth more than it’s value in gold. As is a parent’s involvement which sadly can be often affected and governed by various socio-economic factors.
I am currently neck-deep in evaluating the right school for my daughter’s pre-kindergarten education. I feel lucky that I have the wisdom and the opportunity to explore all avenues of school from public, charter and private schools. I’ve made it my mission to be most informed about the choices available that may impact the future of my children. What has been most revealing about the process is huge disparities between all three types of schools. Governed or motivated even, each by different bodies, their focuses are all so diverse, it makes selecting one school a real daunting task. In a perfect world I’d take portions of each and make it a program that should be available to all children. The reality is that I have to make ONE choice.
Growing up as part of the Public School system wasn’t terrible, but what is happening there now is. I have personally seen how they can fail a student. In my neighborhood alone, the teacher to student ratio can be something as much as 1 to 34, where a child in that class can get lost all too easily. Some of the schools are so overcrowded that trailers have been erect in the school parking lots as classrooms and that is a sad sad shame. I’ve read stories of students being turned away from kindergarten in schools that they are zoned for and put on waitlists. That’s why I can’t even begin to comprehend how a system already broken can justify the firing of so many teachers, when there isn’t even enough to begin. I can’t even wrap my head around the idea that the youngest of teachers are being turned away for merely being inexperienced. What they lack in experience, they make up for in passion I think. It’s hard for me to swallow sending my child into an unknown future.
Another lesson I did learn almost too late, was that there are always options. I remember being told growing up that I would be attending a State University if for no other reason than that my parent’s have paid a considerable amount of taxes that has afforded that education at a “bargain” price. Told early on that a private education was out of the question for the “middle” class. It was only for those with scholarships designated for the poor and obviously the elites who could afford it. I was just average, something just in the middle, something I should have been used to by then. To make a long story short, the moral of my story is that there are options. You’ll never know that they were there unless you inquire or try. Behind my parent’s back, I applied to a private university and was accepted with a substantial scholarship, making my yearly tuition significantly cheaper than a State University education. I am by no means saying that a Private education is better than a Public education, but if that is a route you want for your child, don’t shut the door before you try to open it due to perceived cost.
I definitely acknowledge that this playground my kids are growing up on is so very different than the one that I grew up on. Kids seem smarter, more mature, maybe too mature at an early age. I’m like every other parent, who wants only the best for their child. So this is me, doing the best I can, fulfilling a childhood promise, to put my children’s future first and never waver from my commitment to providing the very best in opportunities for them in whatever road they choose. So that’s the thing, it’s a little part the system, but it’s also a BIG part of me, and my husband. Sacrifices may have to be made, but as a parent, I expect that and I can’t think of a better investment than my children.