Last week my husband and I sat at the principal’s office at our daughters’ school. A month ago we had realized that we had made a mistake. This school which we had them join at the beginning of this year was not what we had perceived it to be. Even though this girls-only school was founded on Christian values , run by catholic nuns and apparently applies a “holistic” approach in its teaching, there seemed to be a general lack of emphasis on excellence , especially academically.
To us (my husband and I) holistic meant teaching a child to excel in all aspects (academically , socially and spiritually). And for a school whose mission is to produce a “globally competitive” person , surely academics is an important aspect of that?
We were not the only parents concerned. In a parents’ meeting weeks ago, other parents had expressed disappointment at how they thought the school was not paying much attention to academics. I mean , we understood that it is “not an academy” but who said “holistic” means “average academic perfomance”?
This was discussed in light of the last years’ KCPE results. One parent and alumni of the school had asserted , “I used to be in this school and in our day , WE USED TO PASS EXAMS! We want our girls to not only be well-rounded individuals but to also feel proud of their intellectual capacity! …….Now , I am bringing you a 400 marks child. Please DO NOT reduce her to 300!”
She had received a standing ovation from the rest of us parents. Well , almost.
As for the school administration, they had responded with seemingly rehearsed answers that were not half convincing. It was obvious; they had heard these assertions time and time again. And interestingly , some parents didn’t see why the fuss – like this lady I talked to who was an old parent of the school. She told me all her kids had gone to this school. What she had said shocked me.
“The reason why we like this school is not the academic performance. We like to bring our girls here so they are nurtured to be women of character. After they come out , since money is not a problem , we can take them to whichever school…..even abroad.“
I had nodded slowly feigning agreement. But this is what I had wanted to tell her : Forgive me but I am old fashioned. And last time I checked “holistic” did not mean complacency. I would like to take my child to whatever school they like but not because that’s the only option there is… Furthermore , this is an ACADEMIC institution – not a daycare.”
As parents to Bunny and Lil’ June , our goal is for them is to develop in character AND academically. Most importantly , we want them to develop Christian values and that is why we are biased towards Christian schools. They are intelligent kids and after their primary school , we would like them to be selected to go to one of the leading schools where they will get to interact with students from all walks of life. We don’t want to have to “look for a school for them”. They should be able to do that for themselves. And we , have always endeavored to provide a supportive and competitive environment where they can do that.
We are in this together
In spite of all we had decided, hubby and I, that because we were in this we now had to make it work somehow. “We are part of the school now”, we had psyched ourselves up. Besides, but for a few hurdles settling in, the girls loved their school – who wouldn’t when swimming is compulsory and you get to take ballet classes and have ice-cream for dessert at lunch. Bunny, my elder daughter had particularly settled quite well.
The reason we had booked an appointment with the principal was to discuss among other things, our younger daughter’s lack of chemistry with her class teacher, and would they kindly move her to the other class (being a two streamed school). She (the principal) said she was going to “talk to that teacher” and “find out what’s the problem”. We told her we were done talking because we had had at least two meetings with the same teacher and we have not seen any improvement in their relationship – my daughter, 6, always seems terrified of her, for some reason.
Eventually the principal refused. She said changing classes was too drastic. She said we just “give it some time”. And we told her that’s not what we wanted but we’d take her word.
It was then that we decided to pass by this other school we had been eyeing for some time – an even better managed school (we had come to realize) that the one my girls were in. This school also run by catholic nuns is big on character and academics as well. And as GOD would have it, they were carrying out interviews the day after Labour day – which was two days away.
They were sure lil’ June would get a place, but it was Bunny , who is in class 3 for whom they would have to “see” whether there was a place. Taking a step of faith , we decided let them do the interview and from there we’d see. We were not keen to separate them and have them at different schools.
On Labour day I spent the day preparing them for the interview. I undid their crazy colored braids , washed their hair and had their ever so kind and efficient hairdresser come and make fresh new corn rows. We revised plurals and opposites , additions and subtractions , domestic and wild animals
All the while we did not tell them it is an interview – because they would wonder why we were changing them from a school they had grown to like.
“Mum , (WHY) are we going to a new school?” they would ask.
“If you are going to another school , I will tell you.” I ‘d say.
It came to pass (now I’m sounding like The Bible) that the girls passed the interview and when we picked their results last Friday , the senior teacher’s comment for both was “Recommended to join from second term 2013” and would they come on Monday for admission. We were over the moon! o/o/o/o/
The weekend would be spent digging deep into our savings , to buy new sets of uniform and additional books and stationery that were required by this new school. It was spent explaining to the girls that we felt the environment at this new school was better for them to excel both in and out of class. It was spent re-assuring them that all would be okay.
We were more than happy to kiss the caution money we had paid in their former school goodbye because we had not given “a full terms notice” that we wanted to take the kids out. That , we can live with. It is having them stay in the school for a full year that we can’t.
A year is a long time in a child’s life.
When schools opened this week , they started the new school. Being such a drastic change for them , we’ll do all we can to ensure a smooth transition. At their request , we will even be visiting their former school during the holiday (they do hold holiday camps).
All is well for now. But I still choke when I remember lil June’s former class teacher who gave her a C in P.E. A C?! How BAD would one have to be to get a C in P.E?! I mean, what kind of a
cold blooded snake well-meaning teacher gives ANYONE a C in P.E?!
A story about snakes
One of my mentors told me a story about snakes this week : When a snake is caged in a glass cage, it tries with all its might to get out. It writhes and writhes inside the cage until it realizes that it is confined – there is no way to get out. After some time it gets frustrated and resigns itself to fate. It stops fighting (trying to get out).
Now remove the cage. The snake will not move! It remains where it was.
For all my hate for snakes , I have been thinking about this analogy a lot ever since. And I don’t seem to tire of areas in my life where I can apply it.
Here’s to slithering away from the oppressive glass cages that may have existed in our lives but still hold us back!