Saturday, November 7, 2009

Your, um, daughter?

I took a group of my 8th grade girls to visit a Catholic college-prep girls' only school. Most people come with their daughters, but my girls' parents were unable to attend because of work.
After sending the girls to the gym for their student presentation, I made my way to the library for the parent information session.

Here's the problem: I'm 27. I was 14 when most of my girls were born. I look my age.

Every time a presenter mentioned something about "your daughters," I got funny looks. Their thoughts were almost audible: "Is she really a parent of an 8th grade girl?" "Does she just look really young? How does she do that?" I was ready to market my own line of wrinkle-reducing potions when the other leader of my group, an alumnus of the school, stood up and introduced herself.

She mentioned that she and another teacher had brought a group of students. I was sitting across the room from her, and made no move to identify myself, but there was an instant sigh of relief as heads whipped around, frantic eyes zeroing in on me, tentative smiles begging for confirmation that I was, in fact, that other teacher and not a parent.

Prejudice? No, not here! Never!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Inequity Sux

Field Trip! I took a group of girls to the local college-prep catholic girls' high school for the 8th grade day, and came back feeling 2 extreme emotions: excitement and anger.

I'm excited because this is an amazing opportunity. Twenty-two girls went today, and I wouldn't be surprised if most of them were accepted to the school. The teachers are phenomenal, the resources are out of this world, and the academic program, with its Social Justice focus, is everything I could want for my girls.

Here's where the anger comes in.

Why should only a few of my girls (and the guys who are accepted to the all-boys school) get these opportunities? The students at my school are no less deserving than those whose parents can shell out $13,500 every year.

I don't begrudge the school or its students the resources they have, especially because they seem to make good use of their location and don't buy or build things they don't need. Their library isn't impressive, but they're just down the street from the amazing 8-floor City/University library.

They should have the lab equipment and darkrooms and art studio.

So should every kid.

They should have the amazing teachers who benefit from worthwhile professional development.

So should every kid.

They should have the interactive curriculum enhanced by local and global trips.

So should every kid.

When I arrived back at school, I discovered a visitor. One of our students who graduated a few years ago was back to say hello, and she described her high school experience. "Some of the teachers are really good, but if they stick you with a bad teacher, it's terrible." This bright, intelligent young adult went on to describe schedule problems, missed opportunities, and trouble that she never would have faced at a private college prep school.

Our free public schools should be well-equipped to prepare our kids to compete. The problem isn't just that we don't have enough money; the problem is misused funding, an inappropriate focus on standardized testing, and a lack of quality teacher training.

And our kids suffer for it.