Back to School…Finally

At last, my Jewish mother’s dilemma has been resolved.

My first grader started school on Monday, not at all peeved that it was a week later than everyone else. Sure, there were tears, but I managed to pull myself together.

So what choice did we make? You may recall that we were deciding between our district school and the private Jewish day school — only because our first choice, the public Montessori academy, was full. (Yes, I did mull over the option of homeschooling — for like five minutes. I admire those who do, but it would put a major cramp in my blog style and sanity.)

Sadly, here in Savannah, the public school system is seriously broken, with the a few exceptions in the magnet program like the Montessori. This warrants a whole other post on poverty, socio-economics and race that I don’t feel qualified to write; I’m still new to the South and I can’t comprehend things like bussing students many miles away from home instead of fixing the inner city schools. Public education is a huge, frighteningly important subject, but here what counts is that sending our kid to the closest district school wasn’t making us jump for joy.

I strongly considered the Jewish day school, even with its hefty price tag — until I paid it a visit. The building itself is a horrid 70’s architectural nightmare painted the hue of old meat. Though the first grade class size was enviably small — just seven students — the room itself was windowless and sterile. While I spoke to the teacher, who was very kind and friendly, the children faced forward, not speaking or looking up. None of them smiled or even looked at my son. While some might find this kind of disciplined classroom environment ideal, it reminded me of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” and gave me the serious creeps. My impression was that while my son might learn more about Talmud and Torah here than at Sunday school, he would be extremely unhappy spending seven hours a day in a shoebox with a bunch of humorless overachievers. Even the offer of a scholarship for his tuition didn’t dissolve the image of those seven tiny yarmulkes bent over those little desks, scratching at their papers with pencils like it was an alphabet factory rather than the first day of school.

And then Friday afternoon, a miracle: The data clerk from the Montessori called with the news that there was a space in Ms. Betsy’s class and he could start on Monday. Well, it was a miracle perhaps aided by my thrice-daily phone calls and personal visits to the school, and maybe the box of Krispy Kremes. It’s good to know begging and bribery still have a place in this world.

Though the commute is heinous — a good 25 miles — when I brought him to school in his crisp new uniform and saw the stately brick building, the multiracial faces, the wooden blocks, the bright and clean classroom with the gerbil and newt cages, I knew I had been right to stick to my guns on this one. He is where he belongs, in a place where learning is valued — and full of joy.

That’s one dilemma down, and only the matters of my daughter’s potty training, my mother-in-law’s dementia and world peace to tackle next.

5 thoughts on “Back to School…Finally

  1. Great story! I don’t have any lil ones of my own yet but I like your style. Meeting with the teachers and checking out the joint before your kid gets sentenced to years of hard time is the way to go. I bet you have wonderful kids, seeing as you got so involved in their education. Congrats and keep kickin ass for us Jews in the South!

  2. Congratulations on your persistance. We can now sleep at night. Not many parents would put in the effort and suffer the angst of caring that much.

    Hopefully the Jewish community of Savannah is ready to hear your message. It sounds like they need it. If not, keep trying (Question authority but raise your hand first.)They probably don’t yet know what a valuable asset they have acquired.

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