Friday, September 5, 2014

Beauty in the eye of the beholder

The kids have been back in school a solid three weeks now.  Olivia is in third grade and at our Public Montessori school, that makes her top dog in her classroom.  (Montessori is an educational philosophy that among many other things, includes the integration of multi-grades per classroom.)  For example instead of 1st grade classrooms, 2nd grade class rooms etc.  we have levels.  The 6-9 level means that ages 6-9 years of age are in a classroom together.  (*Normal people* would say 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders are grouped together in the same classrooms.)  In turn, that means kids will have the same teacher (and some classmates) for three years.

Since Olivia is in 3rd grade, she has been in the same room, with the same teachers and most of the same kids going on three years .  The 3rd graders serve as "mentors" to the younger students.  I love most things about this philosophy.  Along with all philosophies, however, there are some very big downsides.  For now, it is working and I am very happy with what we have experienced.  The boys are both 1st graders (6 year olds) which makes them both little fish in the big pond.  Again, a good thing for them to experience.

Perhaps even more than the Montessori aspect of our school, I LOVE the cultural diversity my kids are gaining.  (Honestly, the multi-cultural atmosphere of our school and the Montessori nature go hand in hand.  As does the heart of Jesus... therefore, its a win/win/win in my mind.)

Here is a snapshot of my kids' day that has me nearly overwhelmed.  I can almost feel my head and heart ready to explode.

I volunteered for two hours in Turner's class this morning and I interacted with kids who are: from Nepal, Iraq, Turkey, Congo, adopted, poor, middle class, white and African-American.  I thought about the way that Turner will see the world differently because of his friends; for better and for worse.  I'm jealous of his education.  Not a traditional education in any sense of the word.

When I picked the kids up from school the first thing Olivia told me about was the new boy who joined her class today.  She gushed.  She exploded with excitement as she told me about him.  "He's from Somalia and he's only been in the United States for two weeks.  He doesn't speak any English and he's never been to school before.  By the end of the day he learned to say my name!"

I've been processing this for the past several hours.  There is a lot here for me.  So many emotions.  Most of them overwhelmingly positive.  Perhaps at the top of the list, privilege.  Both the positive and negative kind.  What a privilege to welcome this family to the U.S., Dayton and our school.  I can't think of a better place for him to be as a newcomer to Dayton, OH  than at our school and in Mrs. Taylor's classroom.  With my sweet and caring daughter as a friend.  I am overwhelmed with the reminder of the privilege it is to live in America.  People flee their countries every day to come here.  For a chance.  For a million other reasons I will never comprehend.  I was born here.  Two of my three kids were born here.  No choice, just grace.  Its not perfect...but man oh man...

Dayton Public Schools get a bad rap.  I hear a lot of "We used to live in Dayton but we moved out because of the schools" or "Wow.  Your kids go to Dayton Public?  Do you think you'll move?"  Maybe someday.  You never know.  Never say never.  Not this year.  It's a mixed bag.

So, people may think we are crazy.  They may judge us, maybe even think we are robbing our children of a better future- a better education.  In my opinion, our school is beautiful.  My kids are getting an opportunity of a lifetime. 

And so am I. 


Deborah Shirley said...

Thank you for saying this. Thank you for reminding us that what we do matters! Thank you Olivia for being such a kind loving generous young lady Yes an international experience few will have the privilege of receiving. It comes with its challenges and blessings. But, you are correct! Jesus smiles along with us!

Lisa said...

Wow, E! What an amazing story! I wish we could move to Dayton and be neighbors! I got chills reading your blog post. Such a wonderful school!!!!