Posted by: alegra22 | June 3, 2009

Sometimes a Stick…

If we are good parents, this will be Sol's next birthday present.

If we are good parents, this will be Sol's next birthday present.

Dan and I went to visit a potential school for Sol and Zaviera yesterday. I won’t name this school because well, first off, I believe in the potential of the school. I went to this type of school in highschool and I know the quality of human being it produces. Students emerge into the world as passionate learners, solid individuals and with their creativity firmly rooted in their worldview. Sounds great doesn’t it? Well, to me it does. The only glitch is that this type of education is…well, I think I might be able to best illustrate this ‘glitch’ with our experience. I am going to try to not take too many liberties with my paraphrasing here, so with that disclaimer in place, let us jump in to an Alegra-Dan moment.

Picture us sitting on small wooden chairs in a large room with pink pastel walls, gauze curtains and shelves filled with toys that consist mostly of: rocks and pine cones, plus a few ‘dolls’ that are nothing more than material tied around a soft round pillow the size of a softball (sort of like the ghosts you can make out of tissue paper and cotton balls but on a grander scale). The kindergarten teacher (who I will refer to as Ms. K) is sitting before us wearing knitted booties, a big shapeless skirt, no make-up, and gesturing with floaty-fairy hands (I will repeat this phrase ‘floaty-fairy’):

Ms. K: “This space is the womb within which we protect your children…”

Next to me I feel Dan shift at the reference to the salmon-pink walls as being a womb. And so it began. Next, the woman led us through a description of her wisdom about our children. Little gems such as:

“Now, your child must come here wearing a hat because while they must be moving all the time in order to expand and grow, their heads must also be warm or their growth will be stunted.”

“You will never see a kindie teacher wearing black. Black reflects nothing to the child. It does not allow them to grow or expand. Nor do we allow children to wear black. We wear nothing but colors that nurture and comfort the children. We also don’t wear any jewelry or perfume. These things corrupt the childrens’ enhanced senses and distract them. Nor do we allow them to wear any clothing with pictures on them.”

I would like to point out that both Dan and I are wearing black. Dan: black shorts, black hoodie.  Alegra: Dark grey pants, black long sleeve shirt, black vest. We are both wearing cologne/perfume and I am wearing *gasp* a beaded necklace. It was right about this point that my spine began to straighten and get a little tense, like a battle was on the horizon. And then the woman continued:

“We do absolutely no writing in front of the children. We leave that in the outside world (insinuating once again to the amount of stress we parents put our children through by writing and reading in front of them and wearing black). If we must write, we do it discretely so that the children do not see it. None of our books have words in them, just beautiful, nurturing pictures, and I personally would prefer no books at all until they reach the age of 7 when their consciousness is ready to handle that sort of thing.”

I wanted to chirp up with, “Well, I am a writer and a student. My kids see me writing and reading all the time, is this going to be a problem?”

She then went on to explain that they don’t believe in any toys that don’t allow the child to project their imagination on to the object. As in, anything with a face or defining features. They are given sticks, stones, cloth dolls with no faces, and er, that is about it. She declared that at this age, a child will pick up a stick and turn it into anything they want it to be. She hasn’t met my son. If I pick up a stick and tell him it is a snake, he will look at me and say, “Mommy, that is a stick.” “Well, we can play that it is a snake.” “No Mommy, we can’t, it is a stick.”

So back to the beginning of that ‘consciousness’ theme. At this point, the teacher paused, flourished her hands in the air, fixed us with her serene gaze and dropped the bomb.

“You need to know we believe in reincarnation, while we are based on a Christian worldview we do not bring any of this into the curriculum but we do interact with your child with this belief in reincarnation and if we feel we need to get a better grasp on who your child is, we will do a ‘child study’.” (I am assuming based on the idea of the child’s past life).

At this point, Dan shifted in his chair again and I was feeling my teeth clench. Why, out of all the potential teachers at this place, did we have to get this woman as the introduction? My gut was screaming, “Take your children and run…” while my mind was battling with the fact that I have experienced this type of education at the upper levels and I believe in its larger picture. I know it works.

So, just as I was about to walk my black-wearing, pen-wielding, perfume wafting self out of that woman’s womb, the principal of the school showed up to give us the rest of the tour. The first thing I did when I saw her was to blurt out, “Hey! She is wearing black! Isn’t that WRONG?”

The principal was hilarious, down to earth, professional, my kind of woman. She has three kids, two of them have been through this school. At this point in the game I figured if I couldn’t be straight-up, this whole situation was not going to work, so I cornered her and said, “Can I ask you a personal question?”

“Yes.”

“My husband and I are pretty middle of the road kind of people. We are never going to be airy-floaty lalalalala people. Is this going to be a problem?”

She cracked up, “Hey, I am a middle of the road woman.”

“Yes, that is why I am asking you about this.”

“Look, half the people at this school are hippies, the other half aren’t. The uniting thing with all of the parents here is the concern with quality education. It is unfortunate that all of the kindergarten makes your kids look like quakers but trust me, home life and school life can be very separate.”

“I have no problem with hippies, half my friends are hippies,” I said, “What I am concerned about is getting in trouble for wearing black!”

As in, I am not going to enroll my child in a school with a teacher who thinks that my child is being stunted by the fact that Dan and I will not take on an extreme worldview that requires us to fill our house with pine cones as toys, paint the walls in pastels, hide all visible writing, eat plain food, never use words to discipline our children, and ditch the deodarant, black clothing (I wonder if that is why Spaniards are so fiery and ambitious – they were influenced by all of the black-favoring fashion), and well, I could go on. I don’t want a teacher to be projecting a bunch of ‘issues’ on to my children because Dan and I don’t fit into her worldview of what we should be. Teachers should be partners with the parents and I think this woman wants devotees.

I got home and had to vent, so I grabbed my dad on the IM and we started coming up with ways to torment this teacher. My favorite is this one:

Send Sol to school in a black t-shirt with big words on it saying:

Sometimes a stick is just a stick.


My dad never fails me when I need a partner in evil scheming.

Dan and I realize that any school is going to come with its annoying teachers and that compromises need to be made. We are going to put ourselves on the waiting list and keep exploring our options because I know this woman represented the extreme end of the spectrum. She represented everything about this type of school that has put me off the idea of enrolling. The dilemna is that I know the education works. I have friends with kids that have gone through this program and like Dan and I, they are black wearing, middle of the road kind of people.

Oh yeah, goals.

This week: I read through some articles, submitted a story to the Flash40 competition (Editor Unleashed) and um, not much else. The nause is still here, but slowly backing off, so hopefully I will pick up steam next week.

Wow, this has been a long blog! All these WORDS. Naughty, naughty words. At least they aren’t written in black.

POST NOTE: Dan just summed it up when he came home and said, “Babe, I had the most bizarre dream, I think it was from that teacher. There were all these older women dancing in the woods and they were all pregnant but they were too old to be pregnant and there was this one woman in the middle of all of them and she had all of these children trapped in her womb, she wouldn’t give birth to them, and their hands were trying to reach out of her…”

How bizarre is that? I didn’t even give Dan my tagline of ‘the teacher whose womb knows no bounds’…but that sort of summarizes my gut instinct towards this particular woman, she felt as though she were the true parent to all of these children and that we were invaders of sorts. Ah, the journey of being a parent….

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Responses

  1. An adventure for sure.

  2. Lol! I wonder if when students misbehave they give them a ‘time-in’….

    I didn’t know schools like that existed in NZ. I thought everyone was too pragmatic and cheap (I suppose the latter has been exhibited in spades though).

    Maybe they have group exercises with giant sheets (since they won’t spend the money for a parachute) and play ‘return to the womb’ as they all run under the sheet and tuck it behind them…

    • So funny, I totally thought about that ‘time-in’ that was the distinct vibe I got from this woman. I totally believe in the basic thrust of this school’s philosophy and I know it has the potential to nurture amazing children into adulthood – a majority of my friends went to this school back in the USA, but, having said that, I also understood the potential to have to deal with some extreme personalities like this ( and I was being kind in describing her – Dan’s dream sums it up best ) and I don’t mind that as long as it doesn’t interfere or influence my children in a negative way. Obviously we don’t want to place our children in an environment that is judgmental towards our natural ‘middle ground’ approach to things. I don’t do well with extremes in any form and Dan, as you well know, is never going to start wearing pastel Jesus sandals and hand woven shirts and implementing the ‘non-verbal’ disciplinary approach ;o)

  3. I envy your & Dan’s “big picture” view on this visit AC. I would have bolted at the mention of no books before age seven. Why would I punish my kids and keep them away from the joy of a well written story until the age seven? Boy Prince was an early reader & has been reading chapter books (sometimes all the way through in a night-long reading binge) since he was five. I can’t imagine telling him he can’t read in school.

    Anyway, I’m on your side with the larger issue of considering the whole education experience, but still…no reading in kindergarden?

    Oh, reincarnation’s all good as long as they also discuss Shinto, Islam, Judaism, Taoism, Buddhism, and as many other traditions as they can fit in a school year.

    Well done Clarke clan.

    All IMHO,

    Sid.

    • Yes, the ‘no words’ thing really was over the top for me. Especially the way she kept emphasizing that the children being exposed to words or the act of writing was stressful to them, potentially stunting their ability to ‘blossom’. I also had issues with how she assumed that all children exist at a certain level of consciousness and are only capable of processing things one way – a way that SHE as the teacher was here to enlighten US the parents about. Including the ‘not using verbal discipline’ rule. Dan and I talk to Sol about everything, Sol expresses his feeling, his motives, and the consequences in a way we are proud of…as my professor said today, “It is demeaning to children of that age to not believe they are capable of communicating and having their behavior and its consequences discussed.”

      So yeah, it was all a bit fruit loop for me and the woman represented the ‘control freak’ end of the spectrum. I would have run for the hills screaming if I hadn’t experienced this type of education myself.

      That is amazing that your child was reading at 5! You must have been one proud Papa!

      Hey are you entering the Flash40?

  4. OMG this is so hilarious! It is so funny because I have always just assumed I would want to send my kids to “this kind of school” and In recent years Leo and I have been talking it over and now I’m not as sure. I haven’t ruled it out but there are definitely some things that are questionable to me. Your description of the woman you talked to pretty much sums up my hesitancy- it made me laugh out loud, cause you know, I have some familiarity with this community and it’s as if she were a parody of herself. I just find it so dogmatic. Everyone should be able to laugh at themselves now and then…..anyway, I would love to talk more about it when we get the chance. May you find just what is right for your family, who knows, it could end up being a dreaded public school! Or you might come round full circle and choose this school after all, it does have a lot of really great things to offer. The good parts are really good , and the rest, well you just have to decide if it is worth it.

    • I would LOVE to talk to you more about this. I have some friends up in Auckland, very similiar people to Dan and I, who have their two daughters at a school like this in Auckland. I am going to phone them and have a chat. I am certain they wouldn’t have enrolled their kids in a place that had the sort of controlling fanaticism this woman projected (of course in her non-aggressive airy-fairy sort of aggressive way). I was really disappointed to have to encounter that on a first approach but as I looked around most of the other teachers/adults looked like a real great mix of people. I have no problem with the more alternative approaches to things as long as those people are just as accepting of the fact that Dan and I are more middle of the road and that there is an allowance for the reality of having to live IN the world as best as we are able. And, I was totally prepared for the challenges/potential compromises that any school situation might bring, and willing to take the positive with the ‘challenging’ aspects but I am not going to put my kid in a classroom with a woman like that…just too far extreme, and I was being nice about it in the blog because it would take too long to really give the full picture (but you know firsthand what I am talking about!)

      But like I said, I loved the principal and we are not settled either way, going to explore our options more. I told my professor about the experience and she told me that NZ actually has an excellent school system for the primary system, it is more the highschool years you need to worry about.

      When Dan came home and told me his nightmare, it really struck me how on track our instincts were about the situation and with kids, no matter how great it mights ‘sound’ in theory, I have to go back on my gut reaction to things.

  5. Oh thats a good one. That teacher sounds like some one who needs a reality check… sounds like she belongs here in the bay area, not in NZ. Well you can’t judge the whole school by your impression of her. I went to a school like that when I was sols age and really like it. But I think I might have had the urge to get into it with her… I say if you do send the kids there, make sure you do your best to irritate that lady. I WOULD, and you know how much I love to bug people.
    Still no passport and I am having really hard time quiting smoking. I have cut way back and am trying to ween myself off them, but let me tell you that the with drawls SUCK!!!!!!! I should have never taken up smoking. I will keep you updated.
    Hugs and love, non

    • Oh believe me, I was biting my tongue while sitting there and if I hadn’t been nauseated I probably would have gotten into it with her. Even Dan was getting ready to challenge a few things but he didn’t want to end up in a debate, he had just made up his mind that it wasn’t worth it and he wanted to get out of there and be done with the whole thing.

      Luckily the principal came in with her good humor and down to earth black-wearing self…we have not given up on the idea but I will definitely not be sticking my children into a classroom with that woman and we are going to explore our options more.

      QUIT SMOKING NONERS!!!!

  6. Oh my, this teacher is over the top. I am sending my son to a school like this and he loves it. The teacher is great and even though some of the rules you described do apply (there are words in their books, and they never mentioned the writing in front of them, or the reincarnation thing) it is not a big deal. They are very understanding about the real world, and people who are middle of the road. The good definitely out weights the bad. If I did not know people who went through the education, and see how wonderful these people are now; then I probably would have been running for the hills after an interview like that.

    • I loved the principal…she was outstanding, had her feet on the ground, good sense of humor, a real passion for the children but this other other woman represented my deepest fears about going this route. I can’t deal with fanatics and both Dan and I walked away with that quiet, still voice in our heads screaming, “CONTROL FREAK! ALERT! CONTROL FREAK!”

      But I am not willing to give up totally because I know firsthand the benifits of the school – as do you. Having said this, I will not put my children in a classroom where the teacher is going to be in an oppositional stance towards the parents if the parents don’t fit her worldview. Dan was expressing how he felt as though she was very condescending to us but with a ‘nice’ face and i totally agree, my backbone was tingling the whole time I sat in the classroom with her. I know that this type of person is the extreme end of the spectrum, I am just disappointed we had to encounter that example at all!

  7. I think that Teachers should be susceptible to malpractice. Some people (as nice as their intentions may be) just aren’t meant for an authoritative role. Instead of helping a child discover who they really are, these teachers lead them towards a place where their own inner child wishes they could go. It’s selfish.

    Of course, I’m the same guy who believes that children should learn according to their learning capacity versus their age. To put it in stick terms: I believe that for some kids a stick is a stick and for others the same stick is a magic wand.

    • I totally agree. We have decided we definitely won’t be sending our kids there at the kindergarten level, maybe later on when they started into a regular curriculum but beyond this woman being a total whack-job control freak (yes, my gloves are off now, i was trying to be semi-diplomatic for the blog) I don’t believe in the no-education curriculum. Sol is already used to a curriculum that involves education and the thrives. I think he would get bored out of his skull in this kind of environment…and the woman was, let me repeat, a control freak. I can’t stand fanaticism.

      I had a discussion with my professor and she said that the NZ primary school system is actually supposed to be excellent and since we live in a desirable area (not our neighborhood but the Bay of Plenty in general) I think the teachers should be cream of the crop…

      …ah, just you wait until you have to contemplate these things with Little Rebel P.J. junior ;o)

  8. Sticks? Reincarnation? No words in the books?

    Can someone say Jim Jones Rainbow School of Cro-Magnon learning.

    Thank you, you’ve given me much to ponder about future parenting while I go do my dishes. 😀

    Oh, you asked about an update, and yes, you girls are a weird, stange lot; so what does it mean, “I’m not interested in being with someone till I graduate,” and during the same conversation: “we should go camping together, and movies, and the beach…” just me and her?

    I’m just left to decipher I suppose, sort of ponder the riddle. I guess I’ll know soon enough. It’s going to be a long summer. :\

    • Amen to that!

      Oh, you poor soul…if I could courier you a decoder ring I would! Knowing the female mind as well as I do I won’t even attempt to hazard a guess at her intentions – instead I will say ‘Go forth with caution and may the force be on your side! oh, and be sure to tell me all about it ;o)’

  9. This was absolutely hillarious. I loved it, I can picture this woman perfectly and if I had been there and she mentioned the ‘no books before 7’ thing to me, I would NOT have been able to hold my tongue. My nephew is 5 and is already starting to read and he LOVES being read to and him and my sister are making their way through Roald Dahl at the moment! And I had a reading level of an adult when I was seven!!!!!!! I DEVOURED books and I still do!! (Shelley worries that she’s not going to be able to keep me in books as we get older). Are you sending your babies to a Kohanga, I’m pretty sure there is a very good Kohanga just down the road from where you live. (like, three or four doors down).
    Anyway, my best of luck to you in your search for the perfect school. As someone who has been exposed to the education system of another country, believe me when I say Primary school in NZ is wonderful! Education is probably the most important thing so I truly hope you can find the best school for your babies and you!
    Loves and hugs!!

    • I remember being about 5 or 6 and being obsessed with wanting to read. I used to grab my parents’ paperback novels and sit in my room pretending that I understood what I was looking at!

      I had a good talk with one of my professors whose husband works in education here and she confirmed that the NZ primary school system is excellent – that he had no problem sending his daughter to public school during the primary years. It was more during the older years that he felt the system begins to fail its students – but highschool (or do you call it college?) is a tricky time as it is. We are going to search around the public schools here and see what we come up with and then play it by ear as the children grow and develop.

  10. “None of our books have words in them,”

    I tried to figure out how many ways that thought is full of fail, but I lost track at some point.

    Regardless, though, wish you all the best with finding the right fit school for your child!

    • Add to your massive ‘fail list’ the whole concept that witnessing the act of writing will essentially cause a child so much stress that their consciousness will begin to shut down. In my mind that basically translates as a big buzzer screaming WRONG with such a mighty voice that it can be heard all through heaven. The angels of literature and poetry are squirming.


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