Friday, June 07, 2019

"Then That's The Right Place"

When our daughter Josephine was three, I began to research kindergartens. Indeed, it became a sort of hobby for me. I must have attended 40 open houses over the course of a couple years. After our experiences in a play-based cooperative preschool, I felt confident I knew what we were looking for. I dismissed those schools with computer labs out of hand. If they boasted of test scores, academics, or what colleges their alumni ultimately attended, I scratched them from my list. If I didn't get a sense that meaningful parent involvement was encouraged, then I was discouraged. Playgrounds were important to me and I was suspicious of places that were too tidy.

It was a winnowing process, one that I took on as a game. I quickly learned that admissions directors gave you little valuable information and that all the teachers seemed great. I liked it best when I could tour while children were there: I knew what a healthy, happy classroom should look and sound like because I'd spent the past three years working in one.

At one point I shared my process with Chris David, our daughter's preschool teacher, and my most important teaching mentor. I expressed my frustration that they all had their good points, but none had everything I thought I wanted for our girl.

Chris listened patiently, then told me that Josephine was destined to get a good education whatever I decided, not because of the school, not because of the curriculum, but because of me. "You're an involved parent. You plan to stay involved. If I were you, I'd talk to the parents of the children who are already going to that school. Don't talk about the school or education, just chat. If you like them, if you can imagine hanging out with them as the kids play, then that's the right place for Josephine."

It took me awhile to process this advice, but of course she was right. I wasn't looking for a school as much as I was looking for a community, which is the foundation for any education worthy of the name.

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