School the way school should be. This is a clip from a GLBT discussion forum that I follow from a woman about her daughter:
A new phase - Middle School (with a short addendum about "That's so gay")
Our daughter Grace (who will be 11 in two weeks) started Middle School yesterday. We made the decision last fall to look at private schools for her. She had been the object of a lot of teasing and bullying (some of which I have documented here in this [discussion forum]) throughout elementary school -- for having lesbian moms, for looking "like a boy," for being athletic, you name it. My initial thought was to send her to an all-girl school, but there aren't that many around here, and she didn't connect with the ones we looked at. Her first choice all along was to stay with her friends and go to the public middle school in our town, Watertown Middle School. Our middle daughter, Laura, went through that school, and we were horrified at how with each passing year she dumbed herself down to fit in. Plus, Grace is a very kinetic learner, and the public middle school is an exercise in crowd control, with little-to-no thought given to the fact that different kids have different learning styles. The public middle school, like so many schools in the US, is almost exclusively focused these days on preparing kids to get good scores on the state standardized test.
Of the five private schools we looked at, Grace's top choice was Cambridge Friends School, a Quaker school one town over from us. As a bonus, they gave us a very generous scholarship that covers half the tuition, which is the only way we could afford to send her there. Besides its Quaker-ness, which I love for all kinds of reasons (including its incorporation of antiracism and antihomophobia programs and curricula), it's also a K-8 school, which I think, ideally, humanizes middle school kids more by putting them in a context where they are allowed to mentor and lead the younger kids. It's also a much smaller school than the town middle school. In the nine grades, there are about 250 kids, which is fewer kids than are in the entire town middle school. The 6th grade has two classes for a total of 19 students. Grace's class has 10 kids in it.
When the English teacher sent out the summer reading list with the accompanying homework, we went to the library to check out some of the books. One of the books Grace picked was "The Misfits," by James Howe. She also read "Totally Joe" by the same author. When I saw that "Totally Joe" is about a 7th grade boy who comes out of the closet, I was intrigued to see what Grace thought of the book. She devoured it and insisted that I read it, but only after I first read "The Misfits," which introduces the main character of "Totally Joe." I pointed out to her that probably neither of those books would have been on any reading list in the Watertown Public Schools, she asked me why. I said that the fact that there are gay kids in the books would make them too controversial, and some families probably would object. She said, "That's stupid. This is a good book. So somebody doesn't want to read it just because there is a gay kid in it? That's crazy."
When I dropped her off yesterday morning, we went and poked our heads into the sixth grade classrooms. She said, "Look, Mom! Our classroom has 'Totally Joe' in it!"
When I picked her up yesterday, she was beaming. I asked her what she liked about the school. She exclaimed, "EVERYTHING!" She told me about some get-to-know-you games they played, and raved about the cheese quesadilla she made for herself at lunch. She was talking a mile a minute, waving her arms around about this and that and how much FUN recess was, and then she interrupted herself to say, "Oh, Mom, Mom, guess what else! There are NO BULLIES at this school!"
I realize it was only the first day and all, but for her to have the experience of a day at school without being bullied, well, it was really great. Today she'll have her first experience of Quaker Meeting, which they do every Tuesday morning in their classrooms, and a few times a year they have a school-wide Quaker Meeting in the auditorium. I'd love to see how they pull that one off. Grace is one of the noisiest people I know, so I'm also looking forward to her learning about the value of silence!
I'll keep you all posted. In November, there's a school-wide Gay Pride assembly. Parents are invited. I can't wait.
Addendum: The "That's so gay" thread [currently going on in the discussion forum from which I clipped this posting] just reminded me of a story the admissions director of the school told us when we were first looking at the Cambridge Friends school. Last year, a 7th grade girl transferred into Cambridge Friends after spending a year at the Watertown Middle School. Right off the bat, she frequently used the comment "That's so gay," as so many kids do these days. Apparently, some of her classmates (not teachers, mind you, but classmates) got really upset and went to the Anti-Bigotry Program Coordinator and basically said, "We want this new girl to feel included, but we also want her to understand that we just don't say stuff like that around here." So the program coordinator asked if any of the students would volunteer to sit down with her, and the girl, and talk about the situation. Several kids volunteered, and they had their meeting, and the girl was first embarrassed and then relieved that even though she'd been offending them, they still wanted to be her friend. When I saw the admissions director last spring, I asked how that girl was doing and was told she had been having a great year, getting involved in all kinds of activities and feeling really happy to be there.
I went into the office at IBM today, where I: completed Joe's edit, did an edit for Christie, attended an hour-long education session on what makes good editing comments, completed a "skills assessment," and documented my time for this week's status report.
I attended our STC Faculty Meet & Greet at Brueggers on Hillsborough Street from 5:00-6:00. It was hard to get mad about only one of the three faculty who committed to be there showing up, since no one but our advisor and four of our officers showed up to meet or get greeted.
Oh well. Those of us who were there had some great discussion—some technical communication-related and some not.
I collected STC materials (mostly our awards) from Sarah to display on the table we'll be staffing at the NC State Student Organization Fair tomorrow on the Brickyard from 11-2.
Verbal Data Analysis class was interesting tonight. I enjoyed hearing the doctoral candidates articulating their research questions, while Jason gave them feedback on the acceptability (or not) of the specificity (or granularity) of their questions.
We finished up (Amen!) our discussion of Austin, hopefully never to open the book again the remainder of the semester.
In my mailbox this evening, there was a card from Robert, and as soon as I saw the return address, I thought, "There is some money in this card." Sure enough. That thoughtful man was just making what I said here come true! His thoughtfulness is one of the things I most love about him.
I read all night and posted to three of the four discussion topics for tomorrow night's Rhetoric of Science and Technology class. I finished that at 1:30AM. I still have the one topic to post on tomorrow (after I read another 14-page article with the tiniest of print), as well as devising an e-mail describing a technical article that I'm going to "accommodate" to a different, non-technical audience, which is at least 1.5-2 hours worth of work.
Not sure when I'm supposed to do that tomorrow, as I'll be at the Brickyard from 10-2, then at CECE from 2:30-5:30, and class starts at 6PM. Did I mention I already can't wait for this semester to be over with?