Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Beautiful kids

Seeing the kindergartners playing together and lining up to go into school each morning is a highlight of my day. Gather together 160 kids of all colors, nationalities, and religions, and watch them interact as if they've never heard of bigotry, bias, and racism. See the spectrum of skin colors: the dark brown kids and the medium brown kids and the light brown kids and the olive kids and the pale-skinned kids all chase each other before it's time to line up; in line, the differences they note pertain to who has Spider-Man and who has Star Wars on his backpack. Even the diversity is diverse: the Asian kids include South Asians, mainland Asians, Filipinos, Asian kids adopted into American families, and mixed kids. The "African-American" kids include just that, as well as kids whose families immigrated from assorted African nations; there are assorted mixes in this group, too. As for the kids labeled as Hispanic, some speak Spanish at home, some speak English at home, some are black, some are various mixes. Even the white kids are a diverse group, with some of the kids hailing from European-immigrant families. (There's also a dad with horn-shaped jewelry in his piercings who shaves the top of his head. His daughter? She wears as much pink as anyone.) I assume that many different religious traditions are represented, too, though they're visible only on the Muslim girls who opt to cover their hair. And the kindergartners' families cover a range of income levels. The school enrollment forms ask parents to pick a single ethnic descriptor for their kids; what do you suppose the Peruvian mom and German/Chinese dad put down for their kid? Or the parents of an Asian/African-American kid? I hate the "pick one" forms; they're so retro, so inaccurate. But I love this school.

After Ben's tryout in the gifted class last week, they pronounced his work "not quite there." Ben was pleased to return to his homeroom, because (a) the gifted class's teacher gave handouts that were "too hard," and (b) he knew the kids there already. (And I'm glad he'll get the exposure to Spanish. "Buenos dias!" he tells me each morning) They tracked the kids into language/reading groups last week, and he's in the highest group below the gifted class (together with a few kids from his homeroom). For two hours a day, he's with a different teacher for language—and the boy is already learning about sentences! (He ended his name with a period one day.) Legible printing continues to elude him, but we're working on it. Someone was telling my mom that back in the day, kindergarten was for learning the ABCs and how to play well with others. Ben mastered that in pre-K, so I'm glad he's moving on to words and sentences. After that? Crossword puzzles. I have high hopes.

The first inkling of gentle anti-atheist bias has cropped up on a worksheet page. Ben was supposed to color in all the pictures of things starting with the letter A. He was going to skip the winged, haloed girl because he though the angel was a fairy, which most certainly does not start with A. Pfft! (I passed up the chance to explain to him what an angel is.)


Mona Buonanotte said...

Couple weeks ago when I took the Girl-child to the 'Talking Doctor' for her OCD, the doc said something like, "God gave us hands to use!" When she saw my expression, she asked, "Are you religious?" I said, "No". She said, "Neither am I", and stopped the God talk. BTW, my Girl-child thinks all angels are fairies, too.

Piece of Work said...

Do you ever think there's too much emphasis on academics? I'm not suggesting there is; this is just something I'm curious about. It seems there's a few schools of thought--some want to really push the academics on the pre-k &K crowd, and others think kids should learn as they want to. I don't know where I fall. (Although since academics are not really my thing, I can see my under-valueing them. Perhaps that's why this topic interests me. Yet another thing in the parenting realm I can berate myself for.)
Anyway, sorry to go on so long. I really just wanted to say that it sounds like a fantastic school, and what a great experience for your son!

Orange said...

This school definitely pushes academics heavily--kindergarten usually gets a little recess, first grade occasionally does, and nobody after that does. There's so much pressure under No Child Left Behind to show gains on test scores, so the schools are basically forced to focus on the stuff that gets tested. One cool thing about this particular school, though, is that each grade has a 3- or 4-week period when all the kids from that grade work together on a multidisciplinary integrated arts project (one I saw in the works last year included giant posters about certain countries, and girls working on dances from various cultures) in the big arts center.

That said, this is part of the Chicago Public Schools, and there are plenty of kids from low-income families. I can't really argue that they'd be better served by less emphasis on learning from the get-go. With the number of kids who have failed to learn to read, two hours a day of language instruction can't hurt.

Anonymous said...

Your kids school population sounds shouldn't have too much contact with angels and such, I wouldn't think. Unless your area is ultra conservative??? Brace yourself though, more bizarre worksheets to come, I can promise you that.

BabyPink said...

your desription of the kids made me feel good. ah, the little lessons kids unconsciously give...:)