I never thought that I would ever write those words. My years in junior high were some of the most miserable of my life, because I was bullied by the bus stop "hoods, " led by two mean, tough smokers called Shannon and Kayleen. They cut a hole in the back of my pantyhose, filled my hat with barkdust and put it back on my head, called me a "goody two shoes" and other names, teased me for not wearing makeup, and one Halloween egged my house.
Then there were the twice-a-week humiliating, torturous P.E. days, when we would have to run a mile. I was never very athletic, and back in the "old days," we had no supportive, encouraging P.E. teachers like my wonderful brother-in-law to help motivate and inspire those of us who were not athletically inclined. Instead, I loathed Tuesday and Thursday P.E. with a passion. In spite of the things I hated, I loved Mrs. Grenzer, my homeroom teacher, and Mr. Yeakey, the awesome social studies teacher. I liked the variety of classes and the ability to take German, orchestra, and shop (even though I was the ONLY girl in the class...all the other girls took Home Ec). However...the bullying and athletic humiliation overpower many of my other memories about junior high...not to mention the fact that I had a truly awful, life-changing, and traumatic thing happen to me in 8th grade.
I do not have fond memories of those years. We are determined to help Chris find a school in which he can thrive and blossom.
This morning, we did our first middle school visit, to Da Vinci Arts Middle School in NE Portland. Parents seeking a richer arts curriculum for their kids founded the school 12 years ago, and now it draws 450 students from across Portland, every one of whom applies to be admitted by lottery. I love the fact that all the students have chosen to be there, on the basis of their interest in the arts. The student body profile is about 63 percent girls, 37 percent boys. All of the electives are art based, and the classes are all mixed grades, depending on ability. Electives consist of theater (beginning through advanced), music (choir, African drumming, guitar, and band), dance (blending tap, jazz, ballet, modern, and ethnic styles), arts with technology (video production and digital photography), visual arts (drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, textiles, and ceramics), and literary arts (comics and cartooning and creative writing). Don't they sound like a blast????!!
Throughout the year, the school has constant performances--dance, theater, talent shows, art shows, etc. Each student paints or decorates his or her own locker and has to present a "Capstone" project in 8th grade. I was very impressed with the quality of the staff and the apparently thorough communications with parents (via school web site, newsletters, etc.).
I would love to get Chris away from some of the macho, alpha males in his current school, which I realize is really very tame compared to a lot of schools! He's a sweet, sensitive, imaginative, and quirky kid, and he's drawn to theater, music, media, and the performing arts. He does like to hang out with boys and participate in sports (even though sometimes he doesn't always fit in well with the growing need to be athletic and "cool" as he gets older), so I'm not sure how he'd feel about the predominantly female student body and lack of emphasis on sports. On the other hand, given the fact that he has two brothers, I would also love for him to be around a bit more estrogen!
We will also tour the two middle schools near our house before deciding whether we should try to apply for admission to DaVinci. If he does go to DaVinci, I will be driving him to school every morning, which means I'll have to leave the house promptly at 7:30 a.m., which will be a lifestyle change for me! (I tend to work 8:30 to 5:30 or a bit later.)
I'm a tad bit more enthusiastic about DaVinci than Mike is, but that's true to our reactions about most things. He usually takes a bit longer to come around. Part of this, he has confessed, is due to his adverse reactions to some of the parents in the Q&A session this morning. Parents seeking out schools for their kids can tend to be a bit intense and come across as a tad bit competitive and stressed! We remember having the same reaction at kindergarten roundup 6 years ago, when uptight parents were asking about how the school ensures adequate academic readiness and such.
It's clear that DaVinci draws largely middle-class kids and families, and the parents are heavily involved and invested in their kids' educations. This scenario can result in sometimes annoying parents, but the education is almost always richer as a result of the heavy parental involvement and investment.
I'm really excited about the opportunity for Chris to get to attend the type of school I would have LOVED as a kid...but now we have to take the time to tour the neighborhood schools and weigh the advantages and disadvantages as a family. I acknowledge that I might have to put my own desires aside in case he decides he would prefer to go to school closer to home, with more of his current peer group.
Can I go to DaVinci in his place, if he decides not to? :) I recall feeling this way when we started our kids in preschool. When we are children, we can't wait to grow up, and when we are adults, we want to go back to school. School is so much more fun now than it was when I was a kid!!