Friday, April 03, 2009

On Catholic Schools and sleepless nights

Well we are a little further down the path of selecting a school for the brats. I have an appointment with the principal of a nearby Catholic school on Monday and I am pretty sure which public school I'll be applying to as backup.

Yesterday I spoke with the twins preschool teacher. Her feelings were that Hannah would get lost in a mainstream kindy class - that without adequate teacher support the teacher wouldn't be able to help her enough. Having said that her main concern was the fact that Hannah prefers to play independently. She doesn't 'mix' with the other kids although she did say that she played well outside. Skillwise she commented on how well Hannah did and how some of the things she can do surprised her. Overall she seemed to think that a special needs class would be better although she also said that it was early days and kids change a lot etc. The complicating factors include that Hannah probably wouldn't be accepted into a special needs class - based on professional assessments, plus it isn't where I feel she belongs at this early stage of her educaton either. I'm not however discounting her advice.

The public school I am thinking of applying to is an infants school (yes I know that has drawbacks - for both kids not just Hannah) but at the moment they have a composite class which includes about 5 special needs littlies and some of the more independent learners - so in effect an integrated special needs class wthout the label. It is only single stream - so small with fewer resources and options than a larger 2 stream school.

Then there is the local Catholic school. I've been through it twice now - last year and this year. Its nice - lovley atmosphere. Good grounds. A good mix of technologies - smart boards in some rooms. Lego robotics for the grade 4s. 2 streams so more resources. Keyboard lessons available (not the recorder!!). They have 30 kids in each kindy class - in a large classroom with dividers that are usually left open. There are 2 teachers and a teachers aid in there all the time. It has a structured and diligent feel to it. And like all parochial catholic schools the parish priest is an essential part of the enrolment process.

I am catholic. I attended catholic primary and secondary schools and then I got my teaching diploma through what was then known as the Catholic Teachers College. I usually attend mass although I don't think I'll end up in hell if I miss a week. I have taught for more than half my career in two catholic highschools - one parochial CEO (Catholic Education Office) one and one independent one. I loved working at both - and am very positive about giving my own children the same opportunity for a catholic education. I like the values and sense of prayerful community.

We moved to this parish about 18 months ago. From a lovely parish with a great parish priest. This one - not so great. Boring, tyrannical, bullying are just a few descriptors that come to mind. For example: last week in mass 'he' is rabitting on about the parish school (CEO) open day - and makes the comment that when a family brings their child to be baptised in the parish and on the parish census they write 'nil' contribution - well he 'remembers that when they come to enrol 5 years later' at the parish school. Hmm - not what I would think of as Christian values. And then he moved off and after inexplicable comments about his love of beer and tiramisu chastised us for not attending church regularly. So all in all NOT an uplifting or spiritual experience - I came out feeling as mean spirited as he is.

The following week was the school open day and yes - the school is lovely and has an excellent reputation and I can see why. Then I ask about Hannah - the principal conveys through her office staff that it 'won't be a problem' (when Hannah's DS is mentioned) but that she would like to meet us for an interveiw to dsicuss Hannahs needs. No worries - I am happy with that and ask for an enrolment package. Get it home - open it up - standard CEO form. Usual stuff - school philosophy and Family Handbook. All good. A parish Census form - yep that 's fine - but why the request for credit card details - ah! there it is on the back - your contributions to the parish - credit card or weekly envelope - and you are asked to state a figure.

As a regular attendee I don't have a problem with contributing financially to the parish I attend. Here it is though - not just implied after the priest's comments last week - I am being bullied or blackmailed into paying to the parish in ADDITION to the school scheduled school fees - in order to be accepted into the school. I wonder how much am I meant to comit to - and what can I afford anyway? If placing Hannah is going to be difficult - and after this past few weeks and lots of sleepless nights and teary anxiety and panic attacks over that one I can't deny it is the scariest things have been since her OHS -do I want to deal with this sort of powertrip?? I know and have been advised by others that a good school can happen in spite of a crazy priest - but he still has a prescence in the school and some of his values must surely rub off - it doesn't seem very positive for inclusion to me. It makes me angry and upset.

I had sort of been told how things would be (his reputation preceds him) which is why I had also gone to another catholic school nearby - one that doesn't have any of that nonsense. The principal seems intelligent caring and well organised - lets hope that Monday's meeting goes well as I really owuld love for my children to experience a good catholic education. Oh and perhaps if we caould all send out a mean little wish that the local PP gets put out to pasture sooner rather than later...I am sure that God would understand.


simplycamille said...

Oh Shelley. Funny how an ocean apart makes no difference (priest wise). I am catholic, Carl is protestant. I have a public school litterally in my backyard. I chose a catholic school for Emma, with a 15 minute bus ride (which she loves). She is in a regular class in the morning and in a "Live and Learn" class (about 8 kids) in the afternoon. Emma's been there 4 years and I still often wonder if I made the right decision. Would she be better off in the mainstream class all day? Would she be better off in our next door public school? Emma too played mostly alone, But things do change as children grow. She still likes to play by herself but does participate along with her classmates, and, of course, enjoys grown ups' company the best...
Good luck, follow your heart, your instinct...

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