Yesterday, as the Parent Imperfect rode his bike down School St. toward the Rafael Hernández School, it was trash pick up day in Jamaica Plain. In the distance of 300 yards between Amory and Washington Streets, three men weaved through the traffic with large shopping carts, looking for returnable bottles and cans among the recycling. Signs of the times… The PI wondered if Connie had noticed this as she weaved through the weavers in the comfy back seat of her mother’s car. Then, he walked into the meeting and forgot to ask her.
The meeting was the annual third grade breakfast. These potluck gatherings give the teachers an early opportunity to tell the parents of each grade in the elementary school what the kids will be doing in school this year, and how the parents can help. This was the 13th such breakfast that the PI and/or his partner have attended at the school. The library is the place to have such meetings, but it always reminds the PI that the school did not replace the librarian that retired four years ago. What is a library without at least a part-time librarian?
A big group of parents and students listened to the teachers repeat familiar rules and outline the year’s curriculum. The PI couldn’t help but wonder what it meant that the English teacher in the school’s bilingual program spoke to the parents only in Spanish, her native language. Maybe it means that 89% of the students at the school come from homes where Spanish is spoken.
The RHS uses a teaching approach called “expeditionary learning” as the organizing principle of its dual language immersion curriculum. This year, the third grade will do expeditions related to “Water on the Land,” “Massachusetts History” and something about animals. Third grade was one of Vince’s best years at the Hernández, and, since one of his teachers is still there, C should also have a good year.
Fundraising was an important topic of conversation. The principal, usually gives that pitch, but, for the first time, she wasn’t at the breakfast this year. In tough budget times, this public school relies heavily on private sources of revenue. The parents, many of whom face their own budget problems, are asked to supplement public resources in many ways. We won’t be selling chocolate and wrapping paper this year, but we will be asked to donate so that the kids will be able to do some field trips.
“It will be a great day when our schools have all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.’–one of the PI’s favorite bumper stickers of all time.
The biggest confusion of the morning came around the issue of health and attendance. The teachers shared the standard perspective that they expect the students there unless they are “very sick,” but they also cautioned the parents about sending the kids to school with flu symptoms. The PI wanted to hold up his “MIXED MESSAGE” sign, but restraint prevailed.
There has been little preparation for the coming outbreak of H1N1. In the spring, they came very close to closing the school when almost one-third of the students were out sick at the same time, and the flu is likely to be much worse over the next few months.
By Friday after school, the week should be winding down, but not for Ms. Connie. She had to rush from the end of school to her piano lesson, after which she had 45 minutes to get to Ohrenberger Community School for a tryout for the gymnastic “pre-team.” Who set this schedule up?
The tryout, with 30 children competing for half that many spots, was one of the first times C has been in that sort of competitive situation. The woman who runs the program creates a pretty low-key environment for all participants, but the parents attitudes made it a pretty pressurized situation for the kids. Connie said all the right things just being happy to have that experience and do her best, but was still waiting very anxiously for the post-tryout call from the coordinator. No call came.