School Days

{I’m sorry I’m delinquent in posting this. It’s been a crazy couple of days and I have wanted to take the time to actually write something of substance, and unfortunately this week was just too nuts. I also felt like an asshat posting something like this when a friend I care for dearly are grieving the family she will never have. I mean, if that doesn’t offer some perspective, I don’t know what would.

And then… I finally wrote this on Tuesday and had it set to go up on Wednesday and it did, as a new PAGE on my blog! What a rookie move!

And then…. people couldn’t comment on the post. So I’m posting it yet again. Jeez!

Now, without further ado, the post about my daughter’s Kindergarten placement. Take three!}

As I mentioned before, San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) mailed their Kindergarten placements last Friday. I originally assumed we’d get it Monday, but then the mother of an older child (whose younger sibling is in my daughter’s class) said we’d probably get it Saturday, since it only had to travel within the city. I was super excited to have two fewer days of waiting, and dug in my heals for the final count down.

Of course it didn’t arrive Saturday and I spent a quick to Target (birthday presents for seven parties anyone?) raging against the insanity of the ridiculous system. As the weekend wore on, I felt more and more resentment at having to participate in this insane lottery and for having virtually no say over one of the bigger decisions most parents make.

Finally Monday came. I was doubly nervous that morning because not only was I waiting on this all-important piece of mail, but I also had an appointment with the pelvic pain specialist that was three months in the making (it was rescheduled twice). If this woman didn’t have any answers for me, I knew nobody would.

It was hard to concentrate at work. I was reminded of the impossibly long days before ultrasounds in the early months of my pregnancies, when I worried every prenatal appointment might be the harbinger of devastating news. Finally, my last class was over and I had to pay close attention to my speedometer to stay under 80 miles an hour on the drive home.

During my commute, a good friend (whose daughter is in my daughter’s class) texted to say that she got Paul Revere Spanish Immersion. That was our second choice, and I knew it was high on her list as well. I was thrilled for her, and responded telling her so. But I also recognized that very real sprouting of jealously in my stomach, and the forming of a new fear I hadn’t considered before: what if everyone else got into schools of their choice, and we don’t.

I can’t really explain why this kindergarten placement letter meant so much to me. I’ve tried hard to understand it myself over the past week. On three separate occasions I woke up from nightmares about opening the letter only to see words I couldn’t read. I knew I had to stop stressing about it, but I couldn’t seem to let go of the fact that I had no control.

I still don’t really understand why this was so important to me. What I do know is that that one of my biggest goals as a parent is for my children to be legitimately bilingual. I know I’ve worked really hard over the last almost-five years to give my daughter a strong foundation in Spanish, but I doubt I could ensure she’d be a proficient (let alone bilingual) speaker without a formal education. I’ve also seen what an incredible student of language my daughter is, and I know that in the right environment she will absolutely thrive in both English and Spanish. Finally, all the stories I’ve heard about the SFUSD have instilled a very real (and most assuredly accurate) belief that I have absolutely no say in the outcome of where she would ultimately be placed, despite all the subsequent “rounds” available to try for other schools after the first placement.

All that to say, I was really nervous when I finally came to a screeching halt in front of my house Monday afternoon. My hands were literally shaking as I tore open the envelope. At first I couldn’t figure out where on the page to look, but then I saw it: Program: Spanish Immersion. School: Paul Revere.

We got our second choice.

This, of course, is amazing news. I immediately felt a huge amount of relief. My child can continue her bilingual education. All the work of the last five years will not be in vain.

And my friend’s daughter will be there too! We can continue our friendship easily with our kids at the same school!

I have every reason to be totally thrilled by the news we received. And I am. My daughter will be in Kindergarten next year (how is that even possible?!), at a Spanish Immersion school. It’s what I always wanted.

And yet as the days pass I feel so much ambivalence. This is such a huge choice and I can’t know if I’m making the right one for my daughter or our family. Will we be able to get her there by 7:50am every day without huge issues? Will we be able to secure a spot in the aftercare program? Will my daughter thrive in that environment? Will she be challenged? Will be exposed to great teaching?

I thought knowing she was in a Spanish Immersion program was all that I cared about, but of course, like most things in life, it’s so much more complicated than that.

Yes I’m happy. Yes I’m relieved. Yes I’m excited. But I’m also scared, and unsure and nervous and confused.

How did you, or do you, plan to choose your child’s school? Are you happy with where they are, or will be, going?

21 Comments

  1. I think all major change brings ambivalence. Congrats on getting what you guys wanted! WE did not get into the Spanish immersion charter school program and I was kind of bummed, but B will be going to the neighborhood public school, literally on the next block. I like the concept of staying in the neighborhood for school and have hopes of building friendships through this, for all of us.

    1. “I think all major change brings ambivalence.” WORD

      I think the neighborhood aspect is REALLY important and I hope it brings you a sense of community that you end up really valuing. This school is not far from us, as the crow flies (though kind of a pain in the but to get to on public transportation), and I hope we find a sense of community there too.

  2. Congrats to all of you on a great placement. I’m so relieved and excited for you that your hard work resulted in what you really wanted. Thinking about school stresses me big time. Ideally, I would love for C (and new baby) to go to the private school I attended and taught at, but financially the chances of that happening are minuscule. We aren’t zoned to a good public school because of where we chose to move to be as close to G’s school as possible. At least we have 3 years, and who knows where our life will be then…

    1. I hope that in three years you have a clear sense of what is best (and what works for your family) so that this isn’t a really hard decision for you. Ugh. I wish education weren’t such a huge obstacle for so many people in this country. We REALLY need to rethink our priorities on this stuff.

  3. How awesome that she got into an immersion school! I SO wish that was an option out here. Public school is the only option in my town, and thankfully it’s a good one, because no way am I driving 30 miles to pay to put them in a private school in a different town.

    1. I am VERY excited that she got into an immersion school. I really think she is going to thrive learning two languages.

      I’m glad you like the school available to you, and I’m sorry you don’t have the option to go the immersion route. Most people probably don’t.

  4. We are still waiting to hear if my daughter in Kindergarten gets into the dual immersion. It starts in 1st grade here. My 2nd grader is currently in the program and I would love for her sister to have the same education. They don’t guarantee that siblings will get in the program. We just have to wait and see. There are 5 first grade classes and only two have the Spanish classes. So nerve wracking!! Congrats to you and your little girl that she got in.

    1. Siblings are also no guaranteed placement in the same programs in our district, though they have priority over other students to get into those programs. Still, it’s pretty crazy that they can’t guarantee that. I’m sorry you’re dealing with that uncertainty right now. I hope your daughter gets into the same program your 2nd grader is already enjoying.

  5. Oh congratulations! I know how important this was to you! How exciting!

    And… How scary! Before preschool, all I cared about was the school… And I got Matthew on all of the “good” waiting lists. And we happily sent him to 2 year preschool waiting to find out where he’d go when he’s 3. Well, I learned in 2 year old preschool how important the teachers are, and not just the schools. We ended up getting into all of the “best” schools bit we kept him where he was, because we liked the teachers. And now we’re doing the same damn thing for kindergarten. Public (no school or teacher choice) our private? Our thoughts change daily, but we think we’ll end up in public school because our neighborhood school is ranked the best in the metro. In middle school, our district sucks… So we’ll be moving at some point into the best district overall.

    I get it.

    And I’m still excited for you!

    1. That is so interesting that your elementary school is ranked high but your middle school sucks. I wonder how that is happening… what is the ranking based on? API scores? I hope you find schools that works for your family, all the way up through college! 😉

  6. YAY! I’m glad you got an immersion program.

    School is the most weird part of parenting for me, in that we have this disconnect where we live between people who view choosing the best school for your child as ideal or making the local public school the best for all children including yours (outside of the public/private debate because here private school is a different beast than where you are). We chose our kid’s school based on what was accessible and since we have one car that’s mostly used for getting me around, that means the elementary within walking distance. Next year she’s eligible for a magnet program at another school that would include transportation there… so decisions. Maybe. If we live here next year.

    I feel like choosing a school is very nuanced in that it needs to be a good fit (if you are fortunate enough to have a choice obviously) but also that it’s ideal if it encourages the kid to be outside their absolute comfort zone so they can grow. I think we will choose housing first, school second if we wind up moving and figure out school as we bumble along (unless there’s lots of available housing and then we may reverse and try to find a school first). The kid needs a very particular set of things to succeed in school so trying to hit as many of those as possible is very important and I’m glad we’ve figured so much of it out, but oh the trial and error was hard. Oof.

    1. Thank you for this thoughtful response. I am wondering if I totally understand what my daughter will need to thrive at school. She is an interesting mix of very smart and easily socially overwhelmed. She also struggles mightily with containing her energy. I don’t know if the schools in our district offer much difference in some of these areas anyway, at least not the schools with immersion programs. I’m going to tour our top choice school and the school we got into and see how I feel. We may try for our first choice but I don’t think so. We’ll have to see…

    2. I think your priorities moving forward make sense. I’m glad you know what your daughter needs and I hope you can find those things all in one place and that she can go to a school that has them. This education stuff is so, so hard.

  7. This is fantastic news!! I’m so happy for you. And education stress is real! Today I rang Molly’s potential high school because people had told me I should start now – whaaaaaat! Yeah to some good news

    1. WHA?!?!?!?! That is crazy. What could you possibly say to the people at her potential high school now?! Gawh, this stuff is so stressful.

      And thank you for your enthusiastic congratulations. It is much appreciated.

  8. My baby’s not even here yet and I already get it – trying to choose a day care (and I do get to “choose” but – geez, the pressure!) is hard. I also want her exposed to Spanish — Option A has a Spanish-speaking teacher in every classroom up to Pre-K, but is more expensive and refuses to cloth diaper. Option B is cheaper and will cloth diaper, but does not have a Spanish presence. I’m so torn I cannot make a decision… luckily Option C is opening next month and I’m crossing my fingers they’ll make it easy on me and have it all!

    1. Oh, I TOTALLY feel you. Finding a place that had Spanish AND accommodated cloth diapers felt like a DREAM COME TRUE when we were shopping for daycare/preschools. We were so lucky to find our school, which has been a good fit in so many ways. But even it is not perfect. It’s more structured than I would like for kids this age, but I LOVE the teachers and am happy with the experience overall, and that is what is most important.

      I hope option C makes your choice easy! (And email me if you want to hear more about the specific challenges of cloth diapering at daycare, email me…)

  9. Congratulations! We went through this last year and also got our second place. We LOVE the school and I am feeling insanely fortunate for this (I don’t think our 1st choice would have been as good a fit for us). The truth is that this is really important. And it is scary. Being a teacher, I’m sure that you know what you want from school but I find that I am pretty much learning as we go. And most of what I value most about our school is not really even about academics.

    1. I’m so glad you ended up at a school that is a good fit. I think maybe our second choice is better for us than our first choice was. I’m touring both soon to see if we’re going to try for our first choice again in Round 2, but I’m guessing I might not want to in the end…

      You’d think as a teacher I would know what I’m looking for, but I’m less sure, as a secondary teacher, what to look for. I’m hoping I’ll know it when I see it.

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