psychological interpretations of public questions at kindergarten information night

I went to the Kindergarden Informacion Night at the public school I'm hoping Jafta can attend in the fall. This is not our neighborhood school (and to their credit, they did spell Information correctly). This school is a fancy new magnet school that all of the greater Newport area wants their kids to attend. There were A LOT of people there. And like many public meetings, the Q&A part went on for way too long, and so I got bored and started pscyhoanalyzing the intent of the questions. And perhaps mocking them a bit, too. Psychoanalyzing . . . mocking. It's a fine line.

I quickly learned that a public Q&A can be more than just a chance to have your questions answered. It can be a way to send a subtle message to everyone in the room about just how much YOUR KIDS deserve to go to this school. For example:


When you ask:
Is there going to be some sort of aptitude testing for kids to get in?

What you are really saying is:
How can we make sure to weed out the stupid ones?



When you ask:
In what ways will the school be able to quantify the unique outcomes of this particular learning style in contrast to other schools in the district?

What you are really saying is:
How can I have concrete evidence that my kid's school is better than my friend's kids' school when I am in a group and need to brag?



When you ask:
Will you be offering a state-funded lunch program?

What you are really saying is:
Are you gonna let those kids in?



When you ask:
Will there be a gifted program?

What you are really saying is:
I know they are only five, but my kid is totally smarter than yours.



When you ask:
How will you deal with advanced learners?

What you are really saying is:
No, my kid is smarter than YOURS.



When you ask:
What doors on campus are open to the public? Are the kids allowed to use the bathroom by themselves? Where are the bathrooms? Are there individual stalls? Do adults have to check in before walking on campus? (And then, once answered, you ask the very same questions of another teacher in a different room).

What you are really saying is:
I have watched way too many Lifetime movies.



When you ask:
What happens when the kids graduate to middle school? They don't just go back into a classroom with the "general public", do they?

What you are really saying is:
I am an elitist moron.


When you ask:
Will kids who need an IEP be sent back to their home school?

What you are really saying is:
Seriously, this is just for the insanely bright and gifted children like mine, right?


And finally, when you are afraid to ask:
How are you making sure to live to the original values of a public magnet school, which is to bring a wide variety of kids from various racial and socio-economical backgrounds together? And why are there no Mexican families here when the closest neighborhoods are predominantly Mexican? And why did the parents at the elite preschools get letters about tonight's meeting, but not the parents of kids at the lower SES preschools?

What you are really saying is:
Perhaps this is not the right school for my child.



** Disclosure: Moronic nature of questions may have been exaggerated as a literary device. Just a tad. But for real, these people were taking themselves way too seriously and OMG I cannot send my kid to school with the offspring of these neurotic self-absorbed parents, can I?

***And the paranoid lady asking about the bathrooms and all the ways children will be violated in them? Multiple times? Yes, that really happened.

28 comments:

  1. Ha! Laughing hard here!...but wondering when they are going to open a brand new fancy magnet school here in Watts...hmmm... Our letter must have gotten lost in the mail :)

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  2. I love this :-) and I saw your family pictures on DrewB's blog - y'all are beautiful!!!

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  3. That's too funny-

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  4. you SHOULD have asked that last question! it would have shut some of those elitest parents up because, of course, being elitist, they can't also be politically incorrect, can they?

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  5. Love it! You should have asked that last question, I bet you would have been able to hear the gasps from those elitist in the room!

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  6. OMG! Love your interpretation, it is SO spot on! Please tell me you are going to send him to a more diverse place! I struggle with this too, as we are planning on relocating to the Thousand Oaks, Agoura Hills area and every time we visit I jokingly say, with a grain of half truth, "Honey, how come our kids are the only kids on the playground that are: 1.) Black 2.) Have two mommies 3.)Adopted
    Finding a diverse, accepting environment is going to be key for me.

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  7. I LOVE it! Brings back memories of when our children were young and we were looking at schools. Good luck!

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  8. Ha! Love it! I sat through a very similar meeting not that long ago, after having the school principal call to personally invite litte ol' me to the meeting.

    As I was sitting there, I realized: Huh, I'm a college-educated white mom with a hispanic last name and black kids. For them, I'm the DREAM way to "up" the multi-ethnic, racial diversity factor at their school, but still keep it "safe." Blech.

    I passed on taking home the enrollment applications.

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  9. Kristen,
    maybe you should try OCEAA.
    www.oceaa.org

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  10. i actually got that same bathroom question at my 1st grade curriculum night this year. the same mom also PULLED ME ASIDE (hiding her face with her handouts so other parents won't see), and this is how it went:

    Crazy Lady: "Um ... I don't really know how to ask you this."

    Me (rather impatiently): "Just ask."

    CL: "Well ... (dramatic pause) ... we're Christians ... (dramatic pause) ..."

    Me: "Uh huh."

    CL: "Well ... I was wondering ... do you guys have Goose Bump books in your library."

    Me (are you KIDDING me!?!): "Yes, we do."

    CL: "Well, how can I assure that [crazy child] doesn't check one of those out when you take the class to library? Will you be there with him to help him check out an appropriate book?"

    Me (totally annoyed at this point): "No, when the kids go to library, that is my [only] break [to pee or sit in silence]. And in 1st grade, students pick out their own books. You'll have to teach him the books you DO and DO NOT want him to read."

    At this point I was finally able to turn back to the rest of the audience and they were all looking at me like "WHO INVITED THIS CRAZY LADY!?!"

    Ah ... the joys of being a teacher!

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  11. Anonymous10:11 AM

    I have been touched, entertained, and drawn to your writing and life. Your committment to adoption is commendable. I am adopted, as well as my husband(from Germany). We,also, had four children(11-16yrs old). What is not commendable is your obvious bitterness and disdain for those with different thoughts than you. I don't think you intend this or probably even recognize it either. I'm about a decade (or more) older than you and maybe more mellow in personality...Although I have laughed with many of your stories and felt your frustrations,too, I'm struck by the fact that you have no tolerance, patience, or maturity when dealing with others and their conscience's. "Elitist morons"...really? What about involved parents with legitimate concerns that do not have anything to do with you personally? We are all bound by our own conscience and are accountable to God. I private school my four children in the deep south. I do this for many reasons. I also do this for Christ, and His glory. Many of my friends public school their children. They do this for Christ and His glory. Each, bound by their own conscience, making informed decisions. I asked questions, as did "the morons", that needed to be answered. Not so your child or another's would be excluded from my life, but so that my child would be taught as my husband(who happens to be a Presbyterian minister with degrees,i.e. hopefully not a moron) and I felt most adhered to our own ideology, theology, worldolgy, lifeolgy, childrearingololgy:). I will more than likely never meet you. But, these people that you reference just might. They also just might read your blog. They also just might know someone that you or your husband have provided counseling to and wonder if you judged these recipients of your wisdom as harshly as you judge others. They just might wonder if you write of it also. Unfortunately, you imply that you have it a little more together than the other parents because these were not YOUR questions. But I suspect you had questions and even some biases...especially against the "elite morons".

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  12. If I were to ask about the safety of the school in such a repetitive way, it might be coming from that same place where I store all the memories of two dear friends of mine, one that was kidnapped and the other continuelly molested by a trusted adult. While fears make us do or say irrational things I don't wonder if maybe that is an area compassion could be applied.

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  13. Maybe something got lost in the telling, but a lack of compassion was the very thing I was trying to skewer. There were plenty of parents here with legitimate questions about the academic standards of the school. But there was a clear subset of people whose intention was to find out how to keep the privileged kids IN while keeping the underprivileged kids OUT. Unfortunately we live in a very materialistic area, and when that level of self-absorption and competitiveness shows up in a kindergarten meeting, it does make me squirm. Especially when it comes at the expense of the underprivileged kids who are zoned at under-preforming schools and who are being squeezed out of a great public option in their very own neighborhood by a bunch of parents and administrators who want to create an entitled environment for their own kids. It's the "us vs. them", "have vs. have not" mentality that I live with every day here in Orange County, that is always coded but always present. I'm tired of how it seeps into education here, and yes, it probably makes me sound very intolerant. I don't have a ton of tolerance for it. And if one of these people reads my blog and pauses to think about it for a minute, that would be fine with me. Especially the mom who spoke so condescendingly about having her child mingle with the "general public" someday.

    Amber - I would LOVE to send my kids to OCEEA. It's been on my radar since Jafta was a toddler. Unfortunately it's quite a drive from my house, especially in the early morning traffic, so I've ruled it out. But your mention of it just sent me back to their website longingly . . .

    Katie - you might be right. I felt defensive for the teachers who answered her questions with clear safety measures and who she ignored and continued to question as if they didn't give any thought to the kids' safety. But yeah, obviously coming from a place of fear.

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  14. I just wanted to de-lurk and tell you how much I enjoy your blog! I often find myself laughing out loud at your sarcasm! LOVE IT!!!

    I'm giving you an 'award' tomorrow at 1 p.m. MST

    www.tealandlimegreen.blogspot.com

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  15. As a Kindergarten teacher, I must say: I LOVE THIS POST. And obviously "anonymous" Lord, I seriously despise folks who don't have the courage to disclose themselves and yet still feel completely comfortable BASHING....anyway....clearly "anonymous" doesn't have the same (brilliant) sense of humor. Keep on keepin' on. I love your blog!

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  16. THIS IS REALLY MEANT FOR ANONYMOUS, WHO NEEDS TO CUT OUT THE DISINGENUOUS ACT AND ADMIT THERE IS A CODE. I MEAN, REALLY, WHAT ELSE DOES IT MEAN WHEN PEOPLE SAY, "WE MOVED HERE BECAUSE WE HEARD THE SCHOOLS ARE GOOD."???!!! That translates to "It's okay that THEY clean our houses, cut our lawns, and coon for us in hip-hop videos, but my god, darken the hallowed doors of our learning institutions?. We think not."

    I am a Black woman married to a Belizean man. We have two adult kids and a five-year old son adopted from Haiti. And we live in an very affluent area in eastern Ventura County. This is long--it's an excerpt from a very recent email to our adoption facilitator updating her on our boy's adventures.

    "Most of the parents of boys and girls in Peanut's kindergarten class held their children back at least one year before putting them in school so they would be advanced. Peanut was the only five-year old in his class--some of his mates would turn seven before June!!! BUT HERE IS THE THING THAT MADE US REMOVE HIM FROM THE SCHOOL LAST MONTH:
    At the first trimester Parent-Teacher conference, we all sat down to discuss Peanut's progress. He had had no real problems up until that moment. We had to get on him about being a little sloppy with coloring (and chatting a little too much), but those are minor and typical for little ones--especially boys. We know he's right on target for all the skills expected of his age group. His teacher opened with[GET READY],'I understand ---- is adopted, so I did some research on drug-addicted and fetal-alcohol syndrome babies. Is there alcoholism in his family? Because he is behind the other kids...' [WTF!?] I had to grip my husband's leg with all my strength to keep him from flying out of his chair at the teacher. We shouldn't have been surprised...

    Earlier, at the New Parents Coffee Klatsch in late summer, parents were asked why they chose St. ---'s Day School. My husband piped up, "We want our son to be in a small school and have some religious training." Every other parent there replied that they chose St. --'s because it is a big feeder school to Oaks Christian High School, which in turn, sends most of its students to Ivy League or tier one schools (Stanford, UCLA...). Oaks is a big powerhouse school near here. It is close to Malibu, and many celebrities send their teens there. Will Smith, Joe Montana, and Wayne Gretzky all have children at Oaks (which is Christian in name only). I can't imagine Jesus sending HIS kids there--tuition alone is $25,000 per year. [And to add insult to injury, St.---'s doesn't want to refund our YEAR's worth of tuition because 'We didn't ask him to leave--you chose to remove him.' It ain't over.]"

    There ARE codes, people ARE elitist morons, and ANONYMOUS is a self-righteous apologist, who lacks character and conviction, but is willing to defend a provincial illusion. And I'm NOT afraid to leave my name.
    Hope we get to meet one day, Kristen. My boy would love to meet yours.
    Signed,
    Candis G.

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  17. Exactly, Candis. THE CODE. That's what so many of the questions felt like. And of course these are coming from the very people who hire the Mexican women in our town to nanny their children, but God forbid their kids go to school together.

    And if some teacher ever threw the "adopted = drug exposed = slow" stuff at me, I don't think I would show as much restraint as you did!

    Yes, we need to get together. :)

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  18. LOVING CANDIS right now! Well said! :) I'll have to meet you two with my two adopted African American kids when I move to Thousand Oaks...we can take them all by storm!

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  19. Yes. THE CODE. I've sat in on many a school meeting where exactly the same nonsense was going on. A subset of parents do put forth an air of exclusion and entitlement. It's just gross.

    Oh. And that adopted/FAS/drug exposed bit? I would have had that teacher for lunch :)

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  20. hey kristen? i am the PTF person for our preschool...can you fly to indiana and use your interpretation skills when we place the kids this summer?

    awesome post.

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  21. As a parent, pastor's wife and teacher, I've learned that my definition of "good school" is very different from the definitions of the masses. I want my kids to be cared for by their teachers and principals. I want a safe loving environment that encourages their creativity and individual gifts to grow. I DO NOT want homogeneous groups of like-minded, like-skin-colored, like-parented, like-privileged groups dictating who my children must be in order to BE one of them. Your post doesn't unfairly judge any one person- it merely points out the elitism and fear-driven tendencies we can all find ourselves a part of if we're not diligent and mindful. And, you made me laugh at the same time. :)
    Erin in Kentucky

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  22. Irene1:41 PM

    Wow this is so well said! I laughed - but then I realized that it is really so, so sad the prejudices and entitlements that people feel. I hope you find a good, inclusive, warm, fun and diverse school for your kids!

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  23. This is my post for tomorrow. I went to info night last week for my son. I've gotta type up the post tonight.

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  24. As the momma of a kindergartner who just lived through school redistricting, I *get* your post. I understand that many might only see the surface meaning of the questions, but those many probably have yet to experience first-hand microaggressions and assorted racist acts that aren't "obviously" racist. Attending school redistricting meetings? When many of the parent attendees did not realize that I am the mother of a non-white child? Well, it opened my eyes in a huge way. And that's all I can say about that.

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  25. I typed and hit "delete." Better to keep my mouth shut on this one. As always, great post Kristen! Why is it that neither you nor your cool readers live near me??

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  26. Such a great post. I feel like my kids' public school is the school no one wants to go attend b/c of our demographic makeup. When I say where my kids go, I feel like I get the "oh I'm sorry" pity look. It's not a bad school. We are working with the administration to acknowledge that certain schools with more challenges require more resources - these are not charter or magnet schools...just public schools. It's not said out loud at meetings but you hear things like "we have diversity...our school has red bmw's and blue bmw's." Some don't realize how elitist they sound.

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  27. I just found your blog and I don't know where you've been my whole life! Thanks for the laugh. You just won a top spot on my favorite blogs. :)

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  28. I THINK I LOVE YOU and we have never met. I taught at a Magnet school and my kids attended a Montessori. . . . the hyper parenting is so bad you have to laugh to keep from crying.

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talk to me.

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