Monday, January 28, 2013

The Great Kindergarten Search: School Visit 1 of 3

Back in October, I blogged about the Dreaded School Choice first world Problem my family is currently experiencing. As the public school choice decision deadline looms, we're doing school and classroom visits to help us finally come to a decision.

Our first visit was to the Away District Bilingual school. Here's The Good and The Bad points that we had identified about this school prior to our visit (I've blogged about this before - so skip my next 2 paragraphs if you've already read my old post linked to above):

The Good = "Since none of the schools in this district are winning any awards, we figure at least our kids will come out knowing Spanish."[Also, we think a lot of the families there would be a great fit for us socially, i.e. a lot of former big city liberals now living in Podunkville send their kids there. "If this school were in a big city, there'd be a lottery for it and we'd never get in."] From the daughter of a bilingual teacher: "I'm amazed at how beautifully her accent is coming along when she speaks Spanish. The opportunities to learn Spanish are awesome."

The Bad = "It all depends on which teacher team your kid gets assigned to - there are some great teachers you will want to request, and then pray your kid doesn't end up with one of the crappy ones. The principal is a nice guy but he's not a good leader and there's no cooperation between the Bilingual teacher teams and the English-only teacher teams." Also - "My son acts out because he's bored. His teacher says he's so gifted it's like he's special needs, but instead of challenging him more in school they encourage him to attend a half hour math enrichment after school as if that solves the problem - so, what's the point of him sitting in class all day? We have to do a lot of extra work at home to meet his needs." And "My daughter went there K through 5th and afterwards we took her to Mexico to visit her grandparents, and it turns out she does not even understand a word of Spanish. We should have never trusted that school." "We didn't know our son got in until my wife finally called the school 3 days before school started and demanded to know." "We didn't find out which teacher my daughter was assigned to until literally the day before school started - she had been asking us all summer long. Frustrating." [Also, due to budget cuts, in this district there is no school on Monday mornings, and that lost time is never made up.]

My perspective on this school has changed slightly, and in a good way, since visiting five Kindergarten and first grade classes there, and talking with the principal for half an hour. I also recently ran into a mom I know who actually teaches bilingual Kindergarten, and her son, who was at my kids' bilingual Montessori preschool last year, is enrolled in the Spanish immersion Kindergarten at this very school, and he is positively thriving there. Given her own profession, she's a tough critic, and I take her words as very high praise. The school started him out in the English immersion section, but once they realized he was already reading, they asked her if they could move him into Spanish immersion. That's great - I love it when I hear about a school proactively accelerating a kid when they've identified a need.

After the visit, I could now see sending my son to this school for Kindergarten - but he would need to be in the full Spanish immersion class, that is, the one that is intended for Native Spanish speaking kids.  He already understands Spanish (but is basically in silent mode still, refusing to speak it unless he can speak it perfectly - gah!), and so the language would not be a problem. If he were to be put in the English immersion class, however, it would be a complete, total, and unmitigated disaster. He already reads proficiently in English, but I worry about how he will actually test in reading - he is a perfectionist and will try to give up when he feels pressure.

We have two more visits in early Feb, so I will post about those in a few weeks.  As usual, your thoughts and perspective are always appreciated!


Anonymous said...

Hopefully all 3 visits will be awesome so whatever choice you make will be great.

the milliner said...

Commiseration from over here. We're right in the middle of registration for L. Our top choice school is an alternative French school outside of our district. Chances are slim he'll get in (lottery system & school district kids are considered first). He's on the waiting list for our next two preferences - an affordable French private school and the English side of an arts program school. And finally, I just did the registration tonight for our two closest district schools - both French schools. Each with different pluses and minuses. Some big-ish minuses.

L sounds like he has some similar personality traits as your little guy. I think my biggest concern at this point is that he goes somewhere that honours who he is and leaves room for him to be himself. It's hard to assess that without
experiencing it, I find.

Though I am finding hearing the principals talk and observing the teachers with the kids is helping firm up my ideas about it all.

Hang in there!

paola said...

A couple of questions about these language immersion programs. To what extent is there 'immersion'? I mean, is the lesson taught completely in the target language, or is it mixed with the L1? Is this the same across the board or differ in different States, districts, or schools?

In Italy there is nothing similar to what MY understanding of immersion is, but 'bilingual' kindergartens have become popular in the rich north. In the small town where we live(lived), this took the form of an hour of English a week taught by a non-native English teacher. In the big-smoke this may go up to 2/3 times a week, but nothing remotely resembling 'bilingua'l instruction unless the school is an INternational School.

hush said...

@nicoleandmaggie - Thanks for your words and continuing support!

@the milliner - You hang in there, too, and keep me posted please.

@Paola - The "immersion" concept is applied so different everywhere throughout the US. In my locality, where everyone is generally of low socio-economic status, at this one school there is a class for Native English speakers called "English Literacy" and one for Native Spanish speakers called "Spanish Literacy." There are a handful of Kindergartners whose parents have requested they be put in the opposite class (for example, the Native English-speaker who can already read and write but who wants a challenge could be put in Spanish Literacy; and in the cases where Native-Spanish speakers have older siblings who speak to them in English all the time, so they actually speak both languages well, some of their parents opt for them to be immersed in English.)