The 40 Year Old Bat Mitzvah

Soulfish: Middle School (Part One)

Posted in soulfish by Juliet on March 25, 2011

I never in a million years thought I’d be in the position I am now, seriously anticipating sending my child to a school program next year with a HOMESCHOOLING component.  Me!  Homeschooling!

I am a huge proponent of public schools.  I always envisioned my kids at our local neighborhood schools from the first days of lacing up (or velcro-ing on) Dora sneakers in kindergarten to slouching off with purple hair to high school.

The good public school district is a big part of why we chose to settle in Temecula, too.  When Eva was born, we knew we needed to move out of our small Canyon Crest apartment, so we pulled out the map and looked for areas within commuting distance of Scott’s Riverside office with clean air and water, affordable real estate, and good public schools.  We narrowed our choices to Redlands and the Temecula/Murrieta area, but quickly eliminated Redlands because of their poor air quality.  Turns out Temecula was a great choice and we have been very happy here.

I love that our kids have many school friends in the neighborhood and can walk or ride bikes to the school.  I love that I can see the school from my house.  I love that the school has been very helpful and flexible with us and the teachers Eva has had since she first enrolled as a kindergartner in 2007 have been wonderful.

Bottom line:  I don’t see any reason to deviate from the default of neighborhood school, unless there IS an actual reason.

What makes this a difficult decision is the fact that “the reason” is hard to pinpoint.

It started out as a vague, uneasy feeling about our local district’s middle schools.  I started hearing rumblings from parents a few years ahead of me about their kids, who were well-adjusted, high-achieving, well-rounded elementary schoolers, having a horrible time at the local middles.  I heard stories about run-ins with teachers that went unaddressed by administration.  I kept hearing about a sink-or-swim attitude that maybe just marks middle school as a holding pen between the nurturing of elementary school and the independence of high school.

I started asking kids themselves.  I don’t know tons of middle schoolers but whenever I’d come across one, I’d ask them about it.  I kept hearing over and over again, whether from carpool kids or Hebrew school kids or gymnastics kids, that the other kids in middle school are mean.  There is a lot of bullying, swearing, teasing, and crudeness.  “The whole day is like a bad game of truth or dare,” one 9th grader told me.

Maybe it’s the age.  Middle school is a horrible time in many kids’ lives.  Maybe it’s the type of teachers and administrators who tend to go into middle school.  It seems like in general, teachers have a preference either for young kids (i.e. elementary school) or older kids (i.e. high school.)  Do you ever hear people say, “I’ve always really, really wanted to be a middle school social studies teacher?” or “All my life ever since I was little I’ve wanted to teach 8th grade math?”

I’m sure there are some who are drawn to it but in general it seems like middle school winds up being something people fall into by accident, perhaps through there being no jobs available at their preferred grade level.

(If I’m completely off base, let me know!  Please!  And please know that I love teachers.  My own mom was a public school teacher and even briefly taught junior high PE – including sex ed with anonymous suggestion box! – and I come from a family of teachers….none of whom teach junior high.  My mom’s cousin was a junior high vice principal in Washington State which seems like a really unrewarding and hard job.  I picture an endless Groundhog Day loop of confiscating baggies of pot from backpacks and breaking up scuffles in the cafeteria.)

So middle school….middle school.  It’s a tough time.  Coinciding with my starting to do some preliminary worrying (since I began thinking about this at the beginning of this school year, and Eva is only in fourth grade), a new campus of a local charter school opened within walking distance of home, and we decided to go to their “we’re in the neighborhood!” open house.

Eva was intrigued from the moment she saw the sign announcing their middle school program for grades 5-8.  (Middle school in our district is generally 6th to 8th grade.)  As we were led around campus by an incredibly poised, well-spoken high schooler, Eva’s eyes gleamed.  She took it all in:  the sparkling new campus, with its inspirational murals and rows of unsullied textbooks; the shiny new computers and science lab equipment; rows of instruments and theater sets in the orchestra room.

We added our name to the interest list…never to be contacted again.  I had so many questions, and my phone calls went unanswered.  I got a bunch of information from the website and from asking people I know whose kids go or have gone to the school, but I still wanted to talk to someone official from the school.

Was it me, or were they flaky?

One common thread seemed to emerge:  “We love the school/my child is thriving….but they are a little bit flaky.”

Uh oh.  If there’s one thing that drives me nuts, it’s….

Next time:  Middle School (Part Two) – Slackers

2 Responses

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  1. Mom said, on March 26, 2011 at 4:51 PM

    Believe me- it’s the age! And yes, I’ve known teachers/administrators that love working with that age group. Marilyn is one of them. And Cousin Barbara, and how about Ms. Wilson at Capitola Jr High? (among others).

    I’m actually starting to prefer that age as well- there’s a lot of stuff going on with them, but it can be really rewarding.

  2. […] Soulfish: Middle School (Part Two) Posted in soulfish by Juliet on March 28, 2011 (If you missed Part One, click here.) […]

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