Sunday, July 5, 2009

Looking for a school

NZ is in school while we are on summer break (and they are on summer break while we are in school).

So, I am looking for a school for Jee & Aee to go to for a few weeks so I can work a bit while we are in NZ.

Finding a good school when you have a whole country to choose from helps you outline what educational atmosphere you want.

The top three things I treasure in my kid's school experience:

1. Diversity on all levels (financial, physical, intellectual, etc)

2. Acceptance verbiage rather than rejection verbiage. The school's website, usually approved by the principal is a fairly good indication of how the school is run. Ex: "We accept and appreciate..." rather than "We have a no tolerance policy towards..." While I believe strict rules are vital, schools who focus on the positive usually engender the positive, so...

3. Strong academics since my geeky little kids like studying. They get it from both sides of the family. I have such fond memories of sitting at the dinner table doing workbook pages because I liked to do schoolwork. There's something wonderful about a fresh sheet of problems and a pencil that you need to sharpen again and again. Thrill!

Why are diversity and acceptance are first on my list? As a trained teacher, you would think I would have something more concrete on my list. Instead I have the warm-fuzzies of peace, love and happiness.

Here's why... When you have kids you want them to be friends, right? You want sibling rivalry to be at a minimum, right?

Because, after all, what parent actually enjoys hearing: "She looked at me funny!" and "He touched the leaf that I was thinking of picking up!"

When the teacher at school is spending six to eight hours a day working on kindness, enlarging their hearts and minds, training them to naturally assume good intent, it makes my job easier. Haven't I heard too many times from my kids and others, "But he did it on purpose!" countered by, "It was an accident!" Let's rewrite that script.

It seems that the neural pathways need to be trained to assume good intent, at least during the playground years. I haven't heard too many kids on the playground, when bonked by an errant basketball say, "It's ok, I know you didn't mean to toss it over here." Instead you hear, "Hey!..." followed by words I would rather not record.

Anyway, my criteria is based on recognizing that I don't have enough energy or power to teach my kids this particular lesson sufficiently. I need the bolstering of a wide support network to get this message across. When supported by a wide net, my kids know that it is a societal norm, not just something their mom wants them to do.

So far, I have found nearly every NZ school has a message like the Kawakawa school has (note that the language is Maori, a lot like Hawaiin):

Motto: "Kai U Ki Te Pai:" Uphold that which is good

Aroha: Love

Awhina: Help

Atawhai: Care

Manaaki: To help, love and care for one another.

Now, doesn't that sound like something you want in your house at 6:15 every night while you're making dinner?